MR. PERPETUAL MOTION
By Paul Harris
It wasn't a big goal, but it was typical of the way Kris Draper plays.
The Red Wings already led the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 in an early-season contest at Joe Louis Arena and there were less than eight minutes left in the third period.
But Draper was still making things happen.
He hustled to keep the puck in along the right-wing boards, getting his stick on it to pass it deeper into the zone to Darren McCarty when the puck was right on the blue line. McCarty's ensuing shot was deflected behind the net. Draper, still hustling, chased it around the net, got to it and passed the puck to Nicklas Lidstrom, who ripped a one-time slapshot from the top of the left circle into the net. Detroit's two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman got the goal, but it wouldn't have happened if not for Draper's hustle. But his teammates have become accustomed to that hustle from The Grind Line's center, who is in his 10th season as a Red Wing.
"Mr. Perpetual Motion," said McCarty, when asked about his long-time linemate and one of Draper's best friends. "He's always moving and he's always been so fast."
Superstars like Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan and former coach Scotty Bowman, have gotten much of the credit for Detroit's three Stanley Cup championships over the past six seasons. But the silver chalice would not have spent as much time in Hockeytown as it has, if not for Draper.
"He brings energy and passion to the game," said Red Wings' head coach Dave Lewis, who was a Detroit associate coach for Draper's first nine seasons. "He works hard every shift. He does the little things well. He hustles, blocks shots and does everything."
Draper, 31, has centered The Grind Line since it was put together during the 1996-97 season. The unit, with either McCarty or Joe Kocur (now a Red Wing associate coach) on right wing, and Kirk Maltby on left wing, was a huge factor in Detroit winning the 1997, 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cups. Not only did the fourth line - it would likely be the second line on many other NHL teams - do its expected job defensively and keep play in the opposing zone with tenacious forechecking, but it has also chipped in with key goals.
Draper has been the key to its success.
"He's really the catalyst," said McCarty. "Malts (Maltby) and I read off of him because he makes so many things happen."
Detroit backup goaltender, Manny Legace played against Draper in the Major Junior Ontario Hockey League when Draper played with the Ottawa 67s in 1990-91. "I remember seeing him in Junior - he was the same way," said Legace. "You see him, he's flying around and working hard."
That has led to a few key goals at important times. In the first round of the 1997 Stanley Cup playoffs, after the Red Wings had dropped the opening game to the St. Louis Blues, it was a Draper goal that got the team going in the third period of Game 2.
In the 1998 Stanley Cup finals against Washington, Draper capped a Red Wing comeback from a three-goal deficit in Game 2, with the overtime winner. And in Game 2 of last season's Stanley Cup finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, Draper scored the clinching goal only seconds after Lidstrom had broken a 1-1 tie late in the third period.
Draper is a three-time Stanley Cup winner and a key player on a superstar-laden team. Not bad for a guy the Red Wings purchased from the then-Winnipeg Jets for the $1 waiver price in June of 1993.
"From where I was coming from, I would have had to look at them, shake my head and say, 'They're crazy,'" said Draper, when asked his reaction if someone would have told him his future, back when he first came to the Red Wings' organization.
That summer was a turning point for Draper in more ways than one. Then only 22 years old and with his second organization, Draper (who had been drafted in the third round by Winnipeg - 62nd overall - in the 1989 NHL Draft) figured he needed something to get noticed by the key people in his new organization. So he decided to make sure he was in the best physical condition possible.
He had already began working with personal trainer John Renzetti in Draper's native Toronto the previous summer, but he began to work at it even harder. "You have fitness tests (in training camp) and if you do well, you can plant a seed," said Draper. "They have ten tests and, if you do well on all of them, you can plant a seed."
Although Draper was still sent to Adirondack of the American Hockey League, he was called up to the Red Wings at midseason. When he arrived, Bowman - then in his first season as the team's coach - told Draper what his role would be.
"It was kind of a no-brainer when I got called up," he said. "You had Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Keith Primeau at center. He (Bowman) said, 'You're going to be used in a checking role.'"
And he was in that role until 2001-02.
Last season, he spent most of the regular season as right wing on a line with Fedorov and Shanahan. Not surprisingly, Draper had career highs in goals (15) and points (30).
But when the playoffs began, he was back between McCarty and Maltby; the line accounted for nine goals as the Red Wings won the 10th Stanley Cup in the franchise's history.
Draper has continued his dedication to fitness throughout his career and has the reputation as one of the most physically fit players in the NHL.
"He's sick," said McCarty. "He's one of those players that feels sick if he doesn't work out."
Draper chuckled about the comment. "Days off are always important," he said. "But sometimes, I feel better if I get a (bike) ride in or something like that." He said his usual off-season regimen is six days a week, with five of those days concentrating on track work. On certain days, Draper will concentrate on 20-, 30- and 60-meter sprints, and do 100- and 200-meter sprints on other days. The most demanding day is when he does ten 400-meter sprints with a target time of 75 seconds with a 75-second rest between sprints.
Red Wing teammate Sean Avery, NHL veteran Rob Dimaio and Detroit prospect Ryan Barnes, are among those who work out with Draper. He was also one of the first NHL players to train with in-line skates, which he used for a couple of years.
Every couple of years, Draper likes to change up the type of aerobic workout he does, to keep things fresh. He currently favors mountain biking. He also spends a lot of time in the weight room, particularly during the season, which is evident by his rock-solid appearance. Draper is listed at 5-11 and 190 pounds.
"I think being tired is mental," he said. "The conditioning level that I experience allows me to maintain a lot of energy. And that's my role, to provide a lot of energy."
Draper doesn't only provide that energy on the ice. "He's a very positive person," said Lewis. "He's a good player to have in the locker room."
Draper has grown up as a Red Wing. He has gone from one of the "young guys" on the team - who was once most famous for the picture with his arm around a slumped and weeping Chris Osgood in the Detroit dressing room following Game 7 of the 1994 first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, in which the Red Wings were eliminated - to one of the Wings' heart-and-soul veterans. Draper has been married for four years to wife Julie and has two children, 21/2-year-old daughter Kennedi and eight-month-old son Kienan.
"He works as hard as anybody and he's as dedicated as anybody," said McCarty.
That same effort always continues, no matter the score and situation of a game.