This has been kind of a rough summer for Wings fans. Sure we all breathed a huge sigh of relief when Lidstrom announced that he'll be returning for another season, but we've now dealt with three retirement announcements. At this point, I'm just wondering which of my childhood icons will be hanging up his skates next week.
I never quite got around to writing about Ozzie last week. His announcement came in the middle of a crazy work week that was followed by a long weekend visiting home. I did at least crack open a Pepsi in his honor as I sat at my desk reading the text updates from his conference call. I'm going to miss that guy. He's never gotten the respect he deserves, and that's a shame. If things go as they should, though, he'll end up with his name in the Hall of Fame at some point.
Draper's retirement hit me the hardest of the three we've seen this summer. I'm not really okay with the fact that the entire Grind Line is now retired. I really got into hockey during what I like to call the Glory Years, and those guys were a huge part of that. Obviously I don't know what it's like to be a fan of another team, but I can't imagine another town that loves its blue collar guys like we do here in Hockeytown. Draper never had the kind of stats that his teammates did over the years, but he'll go down as one of the Wings' legends anyway. He was always one of those players who was just so “Detroit” that fans couldn't help but love him. How can you not like a guy who works as hard as he did every single game? He never had those shifts where it looked like he was just going through the motions like you see from some other players around the league. Every time he hopped over the boards, he was going full speed ahead, doing the dirty work, driving opponents crazy, and kicking the Wings into gear when they needed it. And he was almost always grinning. You can't put a value on that, but I promise you that it's more than a dollar.