SAN JOSE – Leave it to Jimmy Howard to describe the staying power of the ‘One Dollar Man.’
“Kris Draper is a competitor and he loves being out there, even for practice,” Howard said. “I think that’s one of the reasons he’s been able to stay with one organization like he has, because he is such a great guy and he’s such a team guy.”
And as winter turns to spring and the dog days transform into playoff beauties, nobody has more fun on the ice than the 39-year-old Draper.
“I was reading the quotes from Nathan Horton of the Bruins, who said it was his dream come true to play in the playoffs,” Draper said. “We’ve been so lucky to do it as many years as we’ve had.”
“I’ve been on both sides, winning the Stanley Cup and getting bounced in the first round. Those are the things that stand out the most, working so hard and spending so much time on it and then maybe that quickly, it’s over.”
His face lights up at this time of year, and his teammates are the first to notice, including longtime veteran, and seemingly polar opposite from a personality standpoint, Todd Bertuzzi, no stranger to playoff battles himself.
“He’s obviously done a lot for Detroit and this team,” Bertuzzi said. “The guy always shows up to play and always fits into any role that he’s been given.”
Including this season, as Draper was rotated as a healthy scratch with the younger Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves. Though as he would tell you, experience, even by some of its youngest players is this team’s biggest attributes.
“These guys over the last three or four years have been a part of long successful playoff runs and that’s experience you just can’t teach,” Draper. “Look at guy like Darren Helm. He’s young. Yet he’s been there on that stage before and you can’t teach a young player what that’s going to be like. They have to experience it for themselves.”
Still, it is hard, even for those younger guys to match the energy of Chuck Norris/Draper this time of year. Even from afar, it’s impossible not to notice a veteran leader soaking up each and every moment of a new day of hockey life can bring.
“He’s like a little kid for sure,” Tomas Holmstrom said. “He’s good to have. He makes everyone else relaxed, talking about, joking around.”
“He’s probably the only guy that celebrates Christmas twice a year.”
Or as he’d probably put it, he’s one of 23 guys who just want to be ‘duh, winning’ and having fun doing it.