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June 3, 1997 - Grind Line delivers against Flyers
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Tuesday, June 3, 1997

Grind Line delivers against Flyers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Joey Kocur didn't keep the puck after scoring on a breakaway in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

To tell the truth, the noted tough guy on the Detroit's Red Wings' GRIND LINE forgot to get it.

So after the game, Kocur settled for a copy of the game statistics. Not only did it show his first goal of the playoffs and third of the season, it also listed him as the third star of the game.

"It doesn't happen very often. You have to keep something. It's probably only the second time it's happened in my career," Kocur said Sunday with a bright smile across his face. Then he laughed.

Life has been good for Kocur this year. He started the season playing hockey at midnight on Sundays in a recreation league in Detroit, played five games in the International Hockey League in December and then got a call from Scotty Bowman to join the Red Wings around Christmas when the team decided it needed an enforcer.

Now he's three wins away from his second Stanley Cup and the Red Wings' first in 42 years.

"It's a big change, what my plans were a few months ago and what they are now," Kocur said in a locker room at the CoreStates Center after the Red Wings opted not to skate after their 4-2 win Saturday night. "It's been a lot of fun. I could not have written a better script."

The role Kocur is playing is a lot bigger than the occasional shift he took when the New York Rangers won the Cup in 1994. He's skating on a fourth line with Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby, and it is doing the dirty work in the playoffs, checking and playing tough.

"The biggest reason we are playing them so much is that they have been really good defensively throughout most of the playoffs," Bowman said. "They know if they don't work extra hard, they could not be playing again."

Against the Flyers, the line showed another dimension, scoring twice. Kocur's goal came after Maltby scored on a short-handed 2-on-0 breakaway. Draper got the assist.

"It's a big bonus any time your third and four liners can chip in with some goals," Draper said. "In a series like this, your superstars are going to get goals, but it's great when your third- and fourth-liners chip in."

The line is getting to be quite well known heading into Tuesday's Game 2. Maltby was recently pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as part of an action shot and Kocur's outstanding move on Ron Hextall was seen across North America.

"I've got my left wing on the cover of S-I and my right wing is scoring a roofed backhand shot. I've really got some pressure on me," Draper said after the game.

Draper is only kidding about the pressure he feels.

However, he says the Red Wings feel more pressure to win the Cup this year. They got this far in 1995 and were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the final round.

"You play all your lives to get to the Stanley Cup," Draper said of the '95 experience. "I don't think we handled it well. Before we knew it, the series was over. We absolutely got embarrassed.

"Maybe the fire is still burning. There is a lingering effect of what New Jersey did to us, and we want to make sure that it doesn't happen again."