Kris Draper loved nothing more than pulling on his Red Wings ‘Draper 33’ jersey and playing hockey.
But the 40-year-old announced his retirement on Tuesday after 20 seasons in the NHL, the last 17 with the Red Wings.
“I loved everything about the game and everything about the Red Wings,” Draper said at a press conference at Joe Louis Arena’s Olympia Room. “And that’s why I’m going to miss it so much”
Draper helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups and is one of five players to be a part of those most recent Detroit Stanley Cup winners (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008). The others are Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty).
“I played with some great players and because of that, I got my name on four Stanley Cups,” Draper said.
Draper developed into one of the NHL’s top checking forwards, penalty killers and face-off men after the organization acquired him from the Winnipeg Jets on June 30, 1993, for the then waiver price of $1.
“I never thought that I would get a player at the cost of a smoothie at McDonald’s. But it happened,” Red Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch said.
Draper’s 1,137 games played with the Red Wings is fifth in franchise history behind only Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Alex Delvecchio and Lidstrom.
His 222 playoff games is second behind Lidstrom.
His career totals are 161 goals and 203 assists for 364 points in 1,157 games (he played in 20 contests for Winnipeg from 1990-91 to 1992-93). Draper had 24 goals and 46 points in the playoffs.
Draper won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward in 2003-04, when he posted career highs of 24 goals and 40 points, despite missing 15 games due to a late-season shoulder injury.
Draper was known for his work ethic and tremendous conditioning and was an alternate captain for the past few seasons.
“He was a role model for all of our young players and a leader in the locker room,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said.
Draper also centered the “Grind Line” for many seasons with Maltby and McCarty as his wingers. Joe Kocur also played on the line, in McCarty’s place, for the first couple of years. The unit was considered the NHL’s best checking line in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
“(Former Red Wings’ coach) Scotty Bowman trusted us. He trusted us in a lot of situations,” Draper said. “I certainly enjoyed playing with those guys.”
McCarty, Maltby – now a Red Wings’ scout – and Kocur were among several of Draper’s former teammates to attend the press conference. Also on hand were Danny Cleary, Brian Rafalski, Justin Abdelkader. Jakub Kindl and current Red Wings’ Television analyst Larry Murphy.
Draper will remain in the organization in a still undefined front-office capacity.
He hoped to play another season in Detroit, but the club does not have an available roster spot, already having 23 players under contract. Draper was not interested in signing a two-way deal, coming to training camp on a tryout or playing with another team.
Draper was also always willing to be a part of any Red Wings’ public or community event.
“Kris has been a big an asset for the Detroit Red Wings as any players who ever played here,” Ilitch said. “Not just by being a great player. But by also being a great person who wants to help everybody.”