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Grind Line

The Grind Line refers to a former forward line for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. Head coach Scotty Bowman modeled it after the Crash Line of the 1995 Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.

Originally, during the Red Wings’ heyday in the late-1990s, the Grind Line in Detroit consisted of three players, Kris Draper, Joe Kocur, and Kirk Maltby. Draper played the centre position and was known for his speed and ability to win faceoffs. Maltby played left wing and served as a checking forward and agitator in the Wings’ left wing lock defensive scheme. Finally, Kocur played right wing and served as a physical presence and team enforcer.

During the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals, the line was effective against the Philadelphia Flyers‘ famous “Legion of Doom” line that featured Eric Lindros, John LeClair, and Mikael Renberg. After the 1998-99 season, Darren McCarty replaced Kocur as the third linemate. The trio was effective at “grinding” and wearing down the opposition’s top scoring line by providing an enforcing presence, helping the team win four Stanley Cups.

Kirk Maltby, Left Wing

Initially selected 65th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1992 NHL Draft, Maltby ended up only spending parts of three seasons in Edmonton before he was traded to the Red Wings in 1996 for defenceman Dan McGillis. The rest, as they say, is history.

Kirk Maltby Detroit Red Wings
Kirk Maltby, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/NHLI)

Maltby finished his tenure in Detroit with 107 goals and 222 points in 908 games. He also added 16 goals and 31 points in 169 playoff games before retiring at the age of 37. His last game in the Winged Wheel came on Feb. 13, 2010, against the Ottawa Senators, where he scored his last tally in the NHL on goaltender Brian Elliott in what was a 4-1 victory.

As for what Maltby is doing now, he is currently a scout with none other than the Red Wings, a position he has held since the 2010-11 season.

Kris Draper, Center

Widely known as one of the best two-way shutdown centers of the 1990s and early 2000s, Draper not only could erase the opposition offensively but score goals as well. Of the three members of the “Grind Line”, he is the only one that has a 20-goal season under his belt and six campaigns where he hit double-digits. He is also the only one to have won a Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL.

Kris Draper Detroit Red Wings
Kris Draper, Detroit Red Wings, Apr. 15, 2007 (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Draper did not start his career in Detroit. In fact, the Winnipeg Jets – who selected him 62nd overall in 1989 – thought he was practically worthless as they dealt him to the Red Wings for a measly $1 US in 1993. Again, after that, the rest is history, as he went on to play 17 seasons with the Wings, scoring 158 goals and 361 points in 1,137 games. He also made hay in the playoffs with 24 goals and 46 points in 220 games.

Draper retired from hockey at the age of 39 after playing his last game against the San Jose Sharks on May 12, 2011. Like Maltby, he also scored his last goal against the Senators, this time almost a year later on Feb. 2, 2011. Again, like his former linemate, he is also with the Red Wings front office as he is the director of amateur scouting, a position he has held since 2019-20. Before that, he was a special assistant to the GM from 2011-2019.

Joey Kocur, Right Wing

One of the original members of the “Grind Line”, Kocur and McCarty were the only players who joined the Red Wings via the NHL Draft. Selected 88th overall in 1983, he finished his career playing parts of 10 seasons in Detroit with stops in New York (Rangers – six seasons) and Vancouver (seven games in 1995-96). He retired on Oct. 10, 2000, after 15 seasons in the NHL where he accumulated 80 goals and 162 points in 820 games (66 goals and 132 points in 535 games with the Red Wings).

Darren McCarty, Right Wing

Originally drafted 46th overall by the Red Wings in 1992, McCarty may not have started his tenure on the “Grind Line”, but he definitely made his presence known once he joined it after the 1998-99 season. With 21 goals and 47 points in 167 playoff games, he was a key cog in the dynasty that was the Red Wings of the 90s and early 2000s.

Darren McCarty 25
Darren McCarty, Detroit Red Wings (Mandatory Credit: Tom Pidgeon /Allsport)

McCarty was close to joining Draper in the one-team club, but thanks to two seasons with the Calgary Flames, he fell just a little bit short. He did retire as a Red Wing, though when he returned to the team for the 2007-08 season and played his final two campaigns there. He ended up retiring a champion too as he was part of the Wings’ last Stanley Cup-winning squad in 2008.

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