[Editor's Note: Bumped from Fanposts for putting this thought to words so eloquently]
A dollar can buy you a lot of things.
For some, dollars are disposable. They are spent recklessly. They exist to buy material objects, to improve one's quality of life. For some, anything that costs merely a dollar is just that: a worthless item, made in China, a dime a dozen.
For many, dollars are cherished. They are used sparingly. While something that costs a dollar may be worthless to some, for others, that dollar can buy them something essential. Something as useful as it is new.
For many residents of the Metro Detroit area, a dollar is hard to come by. Dollars are sometimes like water; impossible to grab, impossible to hold on to. So it's only fitting, then, that perhaps one of the greatest folk heroes of professional sports was purchased for no more than one dollar.
In 1993, I was only three years old with absolutely no concept of money. But, as I watched hockey in my basement with my father, and a new Red Wings acquisition skated around the ice surface of Joe Louis Arena, I had no idea I was witnessing the birth of the career of Kris Draper. And now, eighteen years later, I have now seen his time in a Red Wings jersey end. But instead of concentrating on end of an era, let's instead look at what Draper meant to Hockeytown.
Before Draper arrived with the Red Wings, he was largely anonymous. He wasn't the best goal scorer, nor was he the biggest player. He didn't hit especially hard, but he wasn't entirely undersized either. In short, Kris Draper was the epitome of the Faceless Everyman in the NHL. A player with adequate skills, but lacking something to really separate himself from the rest. All of that changed that fateful day he was purchased from the Winnipeg Jets.
He arrived, and got to work. Tireless training. Hours, days, weeks dedicated to making the team, to keeping his spot. He got his wish, when that fire caught the eyes of Scotty Bowman. As a reward, he was trotted out with fellow warriors Kirk Maltby and Joey Kocur. Together, they were the Grind Line. With Draper firmly entrenched as it's beating heart.
As the years went on, and my passion for the Red Wings grew, Draper remained one of the core players that I idolized. His tenacity in the corners, his ability to win clutch face-offs after clutch face-off, his grinding, never ending work ethic, and his ability to get under the skin of just about everyone set him apart from other fourth liners, fourth liners who seemed all too pleased to play their three to four minutes a night, maybe start a fight, and rinse an repeat.
He was one of the league's greatest penalty killers, a Selke winner in 2004, but beyond all the stats and all the accolades, it was his heart and soul style that separated him from the rest of the pack.
And so, today ends the career of yet another of my childhood heroes. Stricken from the roster, but never from the very fabric of the Detroit Red Wings I lived and died with during the nineties and 2000's. Sure, he moves to a front office position, but even if he weren't, Draper would remain yet other adopted Detroit Son.
It's amazing how a city, so downtrodden in the papers, has inherited so many legendary heroes. So many who were foreign upon arrival, and who chose to never leave, despite all the offers of more glamorous locales. And for one thousand, three hundred and thirty seven times, those of us who represent Hockeytown were gifted with one of the most unlikely of hockey heroes.
So here's to you Kris Draper.
To your ability to win any must-win face off. Your ability to frustrate an opponent beyond belief. For being the glue that held together the possible dis-functional family of Kirk Maltby, Joey Kocur and later, Darren McCarty. For scoring clutch goals, for hoisting Stanley four times, and for loving the fans as much as they love you. And while there will be no long winded debates regarding your Hall of Fame candidacy, or your jersey number retirement, your place in Detroit Sports Lore will long be talked about by me, and my fellow fans to the next generation of Red Wings fans who will, unfortunately, never see you play.
Yes, there's a lot of things a dollar can buy.
But the legacy you leave behind is truly priceless.