Draper dominates alumni game with goal, near-fight

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
An irritated Kris Draper exhanges unpleasantries with Gary Roberts in the third period. The two nearly fought after coming together in the Detroit end, then hacking at each other to mid-ice.

Toronto — Kris Draper organized and recruited the team, almost got into a fight (in an alumni game!), and played the role of captain to perfection.

So, why not score the winning goal, too?

Draper did just that, with 65 seconds left, as the Red Wings defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in the alumni game at BMO Field.

“It’s fitting he gets a goal,” Chris Chelios said. “It’s been three (alumni) games and he hasn’t scored a goal and he’s in the best shape of anybody.”

Draper’s dedication to these games is almost legendary, from the workouts at Joe Louis Arena to the active recruiting of alumni to come and play.

“He takes it seriously,” Chelios said. “Just getting it together, skating at the Joe, and preparing for it. It’s almost comical. I wish I had the competitiveness. I just can’t do it.”

Draper put back a rebound of Dino Ciccarelli’s slap shot — we’ll get to that later — past former teammate Curtis Joseph.

“Textbook, just kick it out to Dino and you know he’s going to shoot the puck,” Draper said. “Just go to the net. I had a big smile on my face. It was fun.”

Now, about Ciccarelli’s slap shot. There’s usually a gentleman’s agreement that no slap shots are allowed in alumni games. The Maple Leafs bench certainly felt the goal should have been waved off.

But Draper felt otherwise.

“What do you mean, no slap shot? I never heard of that,” Draper said. “Who brought that in? If you look at Dino, he’s a half-slapper guy. Sorry it’s in the books. Sorry, guys.”

And how about that little slashing contest with Gary Roberts, where teammates had to intervene in the third period when the two nearly came chest-to-chest?

“It wasn’t fake, I can tell you,” Draper said. “We just had an exchange. It’s kind of who we are. I know it’s who he is. You have that intensity and that kind of competitiveness, and we don’t get enough of that when you walk away from the game.

“You just don’t have that fire and passion and it kicks in a little bit. Those guys (Toronto), they came back and were flying in the third period. You want to respond well.”

Said Draper’s longtime teammate Nicklas Lidstrom: “Those are two real competitive guys. Even in a game like this, they want to win. It was for real.”

Brendan Shanahan, Igor Larionov and Lidstrom added the other Red Wings goals.

Two set of teams

For Shanahan, the current president of the Maple Leafs, this was a unique opportunity.

“To be with my old Red Wings teammates, and I was in the Toronto locker room 45 minutes before the game making sure our Toronto alumni were being taken care of, and they were getting to meet our current Toronto players, I’ve gotten very close to a lot of them,” Shanahan said. “I felt like I had two sets of teams and teammates and friends on the ice.

“I was luckiest guy on the ice today.”

Shanahan marveled at the chemistry he had with his linemates Larionov and Martin LaPointe.

“We get to be on the ice together maybe once or twice every 20 years now, and yet somehow we all know we’re a little slower but we know where each other is going to be,” Shanahan said. “One guy says a word, or gives you a look or a nod, and you know exactly what he’s talking about.”

Special memory

Chris Osgood started in net for the Red Wings despite battling flu-like symptoms that began Thursday when he broadcast the game in Ottawa.

Mainly, Osgood wanted to play for his son Max, 6, who’d never seen him play.

“I just took some 5-hour energies and got through it,” Osgood said. “Pumped myself with fluids. I only played 12 minutes in running time so it’s not that hard.

“Not to play wasn’t an option.”

Said Draper: “Probably the happiest guy was (Osgood’s son) Max. He never saw his dad play. For him, hanging out in the locker room, he was hanging all over his dad the whole time, that’s what these things are all about.”

Ice chips

There’s always talk of how Nicklas Lidstrom could play even today but Lidstrom quickly dismisses that notion.

“I’m not sure about that,” Lidstrom said. “I know the work you have to put in, and with the young guys now and the speed in the game, I'd have a hard time keeping up with them.

“I’m coaching my son’s team so I’m on the ice, but not putting on the full gear. Going up and down the ice, standing on the ice anyway.”

… Chris Chelios said the Red Wings alumni group is one of the tightest in the NHL.

“Philadelphia is known for having one of the tightest alumni but I find Detroit is second to none when it comes to events,” Chelios said. “It’s great to get together and guys love skating, it’s just that no one has enough time to do it enough.”

… Tomas Holmstrom was stopped on a penalty shot by Toronto goalie Mike Palmateer — who is age 62 and left the game shortly after: “It was a good save. I tip my hat to him. Too bad he got hurt.”

What was Holmstrom feeling at that point?

“It’s almost like maybe I should retire from this, too,” Holmstrom said.


Twitter.com: @tkulfan