Red Wings 'Grind Line' legend Kris Draper recalls 1997 Hockeytown Brawl

Draper writes about brawl on Players' Tribune

Photo does not have a caption

DETROIT – It's been almost 20 years since the Brawl in Hockeytown.

Now, the player involved in the hit that started it all, Kris Draper, former Red Wings "Grindline" member, wrote on The Players' Tribune about the brawl.

Draper recalled the moment Claude Lemieux drove his face into the ice.

I knew it wasn’t good from the sound my cheek had made when it hit the dasher above the boards. I knew it wasn’t good because the referee had blown his whistle so quickly. I knew it wasn’t good because our trainer, John Wharton, had jumped over the boards right away to check on me.

I saw the blood on the ice, but I didn’t know the right side of my face was caved in.

My only thought was, O.K., this is a bad one. How many stitches?

Draper talked about the team, leading up to the brawl on March 26.

A lot of people don’t remember this now, but at the time, we were getting a tremendous amount of heat for not being tough enough to win a Cup. The media was questioning the leadership of guys like Yzerman and Fedorov, if you can believe that. They were questioning the way our whole team was built. The implication was that we were skilled but soft.

So we came out in ’95–96 with a gigantic collective chip on our shoulders. The first two months of the season, we were on fire. With our speed and skill, we overwhelmed teams. Then, on December 2, 1995, we went into the old Montreal Forum to play Patrick Roy and the Canadiens. That night, something happened that changed hockey forever.

Draper recalls the big brawl in detail here. He ended by saying he was happy his team stood up for him

Exactly 301 days after I had my face caved in, my teammates stood up for me. We settled it. But this is what a lot of people don’t remember: For the players on the ice, that night wasn’t just about the fight. That night was about proving that we could beat Colorado on the scoreboard.


About the Author: