Practice (Ice) Makes Perfect
Date: May 23, 2016
New role for Dad: Hockey coach
Kienan Draper doesn't worry anymore about his father missing many of his hockey games.
Kris Draper, who helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups, is in his first season as Kienan's youth hockey coach.
Kienan wears No. 33, his father's old number, as a forward for the 2002 Little Caesars squirt team.
"It's really cool," Kienan, 10, said of having his father as coach. "We get to talk about things that just stay between us."
Those talks happen on car rides to and from local hockey rinks and are similar to discussions Kris Draper once had as a boy with his father
For a few years, when Draper was playing for the Wings, it was up to his wife, Julie, to drive Kienan to practices and games.
"I kind of felt that I missed a lot, not just Kienan, a lot of the kids," said Draper, who won the Selke Trophy in 2003-04 as the NHL's top defensive forward.
He tries to make up for that lost time these days he also drives his two daughters to gymnastics and dance classes.
Bonding with his son over hockey is special to Draper, who said his father was always devoted to being at Kris' youth games.
"To me, those are moments I'll never forget," Draper said. "I kind of wanted to have the same relationship with Kienan. The opportunity was there. To do it with Little Caesars obviously makes it pretty special."
Draper said his father worked in the medical supply business. Kris would get a ride to games from a teammate's father if his dad wasn't home from work. But his father always took him home after games.
"He was committing to being home for my hockey games," Draper said. "I always remember him being there."
Talking about the game with his dad helped make Draper develop a passion and love for hockey.
"The talks that we had were always constructive," Draper said. "He played minor pro, and I always looked up to him. If I had a good game, you'd kind of want reassurance. If you had a bad game, he'd point some things out. Those things, I always felt were good.
"It was just talks. He wasn't a yeller. He wasn't mad at me. We just kind of talked hockey, and that's the same approach that I take with Kienan. After a game, I'll throw it out there and ask him, 'What do you think you did well tonight? What do you think you could have done better tonight?' "
Kienan is the one now cherishing the drives home with dad.
"My dad just compliments me that I played a good game," he said. "I know that I've definitely improved. It's fun having him around more."
Did Kienan expect his father to be at more of his games after retiring from the NHL?
"Not really, actually," Kienan said. "I thought he would go to more (college) games, scout more games."
Draper broke into a big grin listening to his son's words, then said: "Don't say that. Kenny's going to read this." (Draper was hired as a special assistant to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland after retiring in 2011.)
Draper said he balances scouting college and junior hockey games for the Wings with coaching his son's team.
Last weekend, he saw four of Kienan's five hockey games, missing one to scout an Ontario Hockey League game in Saginaw for the Wings.
Draper has used his relationships with current and former Wings to create some special memories for the other boys on the team. Some met former Wings captain Steve Yzerman at the recent Great Lakes Invitational tournament at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall surprised the team by coming to a practice.
And then there's the time Draper spends on the ice alongside the boys going through practice drills.
"I really enjoy going to the rink with these kids," Draper said. "We've created a great relationship, great kids and great families.
"There are some times you have to hammer down on these kids. If they're going to skate, I'll skate with them, doing the drills with them. I want them to max out. I want these kids to improve."
More Details: They said it
What his players are saying about youth hockey coach Kris Draper:
Garret Szydlowski, 10, Brighton: “He always teaches us to never give up and respect your opponents.”
Dominic James, 10, Plymouth: “I learned to be a better defensive player from him and to be more disciplined on the ice. I didn’t think he would be so social, talking. I thought he’d be more quiet like (Nicklas) Lidstrom. He’s great. It would be like talking to a friend.”
Nick O’Hanisain, 10, Troy: “He is a former NHL player, so you have to listen to him a lot because he knows what he’s talking about. He gives you lots of confidence. I was kind of expecting him to be calm, but I thought he’d maybe get on you a little more, like (Mike) Babcock.”
To see more pictures from artilce please use the following link: