Kris Draper has retired. Chris Osgood has also hung up his skates. BAM! JUST LIKE THAT, an Era has transition to near completion. This is nearly all of the core from back in the original Championship days, save for two. The mighty C Niklas Lidstrom and the fine Agitator, Tomas Holmstrom.
You remember those days, eh? When the Wings were starting to get really good. The days right after the Wizard Scotty Bowman came to coach the Winged Wheels. Then we went to a Cup Final, but lost to the Devils. The next year we soared back with one of the greatest regular seasons, but were bested by our new arch rival, Colorado. We finally hoisted Lord Stanley’s prize in 1997, only to have the community spirit absolutely crushed with the tragic limo accident that occurred just six short days after ending a 42 year drought of the Cup. The next year we proved to be like steel as we repeated as Cup champs to honor our fallen teammates. The Early Yzerman years. The Russian Five. The Grind Line. The Wizard of Oz. YES! Do you remember THOSE times?
Well, those times are nearly ended, now, with the sad retirement of two truly great community assets. No longer will we see the blazing red of Draper’s beard come playoff time. No longer will we feel his passion seething out of the tv screen. We won’t see any classic Ozzie saves or even hear a classic Ozzie media blurb anymore. After Lidstom and Holmstrom retire, that is it. There will be no more remaining players from that roster. Their faces slowly faded from the Red Wings over the years. We lost Federov, as you all can remember that, I’m sure. Larionov called it quits after a while. The Great Captain Stevie Y retired. McCarty, Kocur, Shanny, Maltby, Murphy, Ward and the rest have all ended their time as Red Wing players.
This really saddens me because it feels like the End of an Era. I started getting into the Wings in 1987. I was 10. I remember Yzerman at a young age. I remember our coach Jacques Demers. He used to do the Ford commercials with all the other pro coaches in town like Sparky, Fontes, and Chuck Daly. As my interest in hockey and the Red Wings progressed, so did the team. They retooled every year and kept fighting until they won Back to Back Cups. That era was special to us Red Wings fans. Those were the gentlemen that vindicated 42 years of frustrations. Those were the players that won Mr Ilitch his first hockey title. MAny of us got to see our team march down Woodward in a Victory Parade for the first time.
I think about it further, and cheer up a bit. My thoughts wander and I realize that the Era hasn’t Ended, but rather the torches are being passed to the new generation of motor city bloodline. The Red Wings brass has always done this transition masterfully. This is a positive testament to the bossman, Mike Ilitch and Jimmy D’s running of this franchise. Bowman and Holland should be included here, too. They killed the Dead Things Era and brought back to life, like a phoenix, the greatest American hockey franchise in the NHL. But, as I was saying previously, the Red Wings brass has done transitions masterfully. the Captaincy transitioned well between Yzerman and Lidstrom. This was a seamless transition. Elder statesmen of the Wings have always passed down the stories, the legacy, the winning culture. Hull mentored Dats and Z on the Two Kids and an Old Goat line. Draper has mentored Helm, Ozzie mentored Jimmy Howard. In this way, the Legacy of the Originals will continue as those mentored players will in return pass down their Legacy once more, when they retire into the shadows and pass on the stories of glory.