How would you imagine encountering Dallas Drake in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs? Would it have been a nice stroll? Would it have included mild small talk? Do you think you'd go so far as to develop a friendship with this Dallas Drake, who is old enough to be your dad?
Yes. Papa Drake would take you for a stroll—a frosty stroll that would end with you on your ass feeling like a biker who has just hit a gaping suicide door, gasping the word f—k.
Well Dallas "Dali (as in Dali Lama)" Drake officially retired today. Which is a good thing, if you don't like the Detroit Red Wings.
Almost twenty years ago, he came with little fanfare to Detroit, during the Wings' best draft year in recent past, featuring stars Sergei Fedorov, Niklas Lidstrom, and Vladimir Konstantinov. He wasn't actually in Detroit, however. He was drafted his freshman year at Northern Michigan University and spent the next four years playing hockey in the ass-death cold of Marquette, Michigan.
After he finished, he played a good rookie season and a half with Detroit. Unfortunately, Drake had to break into a lineup that contained Sergei Fedorov (who played in the NHL while Drake was finishing up at college), Ray Sheppard and Steve Yzerman, who had a combined 132 goals and 295 points that season. So it came as little surprise that Drake was traded to the Winnipeg Jets with his partner in pink slip, Tim Cheveldae. I don't know what Dallas Drake thought about leaving Detroit at the time. But I would imagine he at least thought, "Well, at least I'm still used to this godawful cold."
I'm not a psychologist, but once I took a class on it to fulfill a college requirement. So proceed with a grain of salt. In that class, I read somewhere that weather affects personalities. Winnipeg's average January temperature is -20, which requires thick blood indeed.
Against previous plans to retire, Dallas Drake reconsidered and came back to Detroit for one last crack at the Stanley Cup. Again, he arrived with little fanfare—but I wouldn't imagine it mattered much for someone who was staring down the barrel of his fortieth birthday.
By this year's playoffs, he filled the physical role on an unlikely brute squad, featuring Nicklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk (who won the Lady Byng, ironically). Drake didn't so much knock into players as he knocked through them. I noticed him every time he was out on the ice, relentlessly dogging and out-skating much younger and more talented opponents. He played some of the best hard-as-nails hockey I've seen in years.
So while Sid the Kid has a stack of publicity stunts on his to-do list this summer, Dallas Drake can retire with the Stanley Cup, at home, content that he finally won it all.
Thanks, Dali, for a great season.
(Here's to old-time hockey.)