Kris Draper Retires: Memory of Brutal Hit by Claude Lemieux Remains

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Kris Draper Retires: Memory of Brutal Hit by Claude Lemieux Remains
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Kris Draper, a Selke Trophy winner and four-time Stanley Cup Champion, announced his retirement on July 26, 2011.

Draper was a member of Detroit's "Grind Line" which consisted of himself, Joey Kocur and Kirk Maltby in the late 1990s. Darren McCarty would fill the spot left vacant when Kocur retired in 1999.

Despite the championships, trophies and fame as part a legendary Red Wings line, Draper will also be remembered for being the victim of a hit that sparked one of hockey's greatest rivalries.

The NHL's 1996 Western Conference Finals put the Red Wings against another NHL powerhouse, the Colorado Avalanche.

During the final game of the series, Draper approached a loose puck along the sideboards at center ice by the team benches.

After Draper poked the puck forward, he was facing up ice while drifting backwards. Claude Lemieux skated from behind, pushed and caused Draper to slam his face on the dasher.

Draper suffered a broken jaw, nose and cheekbone in addition to sustaining a concussion and nerve damage. Draper was out of action for the rest of the season and took several months to return to playing shape.

After the game's post-series handshakes, Detroit's Dino Ciccarelli said of Lemieux, "I can't believe I shook this guy's friggin' hand after the game. That pisses me right off."

The next season, on March 26th 1997, a game between these two teams would result in one of hockey's most iconic brawls.

The game began with two fights in the first 11 minutes, one between Brent Severyn and Jamie Pushor, another between Rene Corbet and Kirk Maltby.

Towards the end of the first period, it happened.

Colorado's Peter Forsberg checked Igor Larionov, and the two players came together in a wrestling match. After the two fell to the ice, Colorado's Valeri Kamensky and Alexei Gusarov gathered around the scene along with Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov.

As this occurred, one referee was attempting to control McCarty, Detroit's Brendan Shanahan and Colorado's Adam Foote. McCarty broke free of the grip and found Lemieux.

McCarty first landed a hard right-handed gloved punch that knocked Lemieux down. McCarty then attempted four lefts as Lemieux turtled on the ice. McCarty dragged him along the ice and drew blood by slamming him into the boards.

Colorado's goaltender Patrick Roy was the first to skate to the scene before being intercepted by Detroit's Brendan Shanahan. As Colorado's Adam Foote grabbed Shanahan, Detroit's goalie Mike Vernon arrived.

It wasn't long before Roy and Vernon began one of the most famous goalie fights in NHL history. Another four fights happened by the end of the game.

During the next season, the rivalry continued. At the opening face-off in a game on November 11, 1997 McCarty and Lemieux would fight, this time without Lemieux turtling.

Later that season on April 1, 1998 the two teams would produce another incredible brawl.

Colorado's Warren Rychel and Detroit's Bob Rouse became engulfed in a shoving match after play had been whistled.

Both teams came to the area, eventually the scrum developed into a situation where Detroit's Aaron Ward ended up in a position above Colorado's Tom Fitzgerald, who was down on the ice.

As this occurred, Roy decided he wanted to fight Detroit's goalie Chris Osgood. Having already removed his helmet and gloves, Roy skated to the area of the scrum while glancing down at Osgood.

Roy didn't do anything more than grab a player's sweater in the scrum and clearly never intended to do anything more than draw Osgood out. Osgood came out to center ice, removed his helmet and gloves before accepting the challenge.

All of this stemmed from that one hit nearly two years earlier.

In an interview with Jim Ramsey featured in Stan Fischler's 1999 book The Ultimate Bad Boys, Draper said, "That entire issue did not have to happen. I've never met Lemieux, and I don't ever want to meet him. The way he handled it just shows the kind of person that he is."

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