It's off to camp -- even for Brown
September 12, 2002
BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
One by one, the players boarded the buses Wednesday morning at Joe Louis Arena. There was Brett Hull, dragging a Team USA bag. There was Curtis Joseph, looking relaxed, sipping a Starbucks. There was Kris Draper, sounding a little strange, with 35 stitches or so in his fat lower lip.
There was even Doug Brown, hoping to become a Red Wing again after a year out of professional hockey, spurred by watching Steve Yzerman celebrate with the Stanley Cup.
A little after 10:30 they were off to Traverse City and training camp. They have physicals today, followed by their annual golf outing to benefit Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakanov. They skate Friday though Wednesday, then play an intrasquad game next Thursday night in Grand Rapids and their first exhibition next Friday night in Dallas.
"Everyone's kind of getting excited again," Draper said. "Here we go on another season."
Yzerman didn't board a bus, as expected. Asked how his right knee was responding after his off-season surgery, he said, "Very well, actually." For weeks he was waiting for it to heal. But now he has been cleared to do more rehabilitation exercises.
"I'm very pleased," he said.
Restricted free agent Darren McCarty remains unsigned as he seeks a long-term deal, but he reported, as expected. General manager Ken Holland said McCarty would sign at least a one-year contract for $1.95 million, the Wings' qualifying offer, before the Wings' first skate. McCarty did not speak to the media.
Brown was a surprise. The Wings didn't offer him a contract after the 2000-01 season. He said at the time "half a dozen" teams showed interest in him, but he didn't want to sign anywhere but Detroit because he didn't want to "make the family move to play for another year or couple of years." He never uttered the R-word -- retirement -- but he appeared to be done at 37, working in sales at Diversified Wire and Cable and filling in as a Wings TV analyst. In fact, as he stood next to one of the buses, Brown joked his teammates were "still trying to figure out if I'm coming as a member of the media or what's going on."
Last winter, Brown played twice a week with his buddies and was on the ice three, four or five times a week coaching his kids on two teams. Just after Christmas, he felt great mentally and physically. Broadcasting gave him a different perspective on the game, but it wasn't the same.
"I enjoyed it, but I didn't give it all my time, and they didn't give all of it to me," Brown said. "This is what I love to do."
Eventually, he started to work himself back into shape.
"I saw Stevie with the Cup a couple times in the last couple weeks," Brown said. "It kind of puts that fire back in your belly. I've been thinking about it for a while, and I said, 'You know what? Why not?' "
Brown spoke to Holland over the past week, Holland invited him to give it a shot, and so here the forward was climbing on a bus, at 38, with his wife's blessing. He still has a job at Diversified Wire and Cable if this doesn't work out.
"Maureen just shook her head and said, 'Good luck,' a little smile on her face," Brown said. "She's supporting me. For her, this is coming out of leftfield, too. She didn't know it was coming."
Brown said he should know if he still had it within a week or two. He sounded confident, saying he felt as if he had missed time because of injury or something. Hey, he never was drafted, and he played 15 years and scored 160 goals.
As for the others, Joseph seemed comfortable entering his first Wings camp. "The guys tell me Traverse City's beautiful," he said. "They seem to enjoy their camps as far as the golf and fishing, so I'm looking forward to that."
"How's your golf game?" a reporter asked.
"It's about as good as my fishing game," Joseph said, "which is not very good."
Draper joked about how he had gotten his fat lip. While he was skating with some teammates, a puck deflected off a stick and struck him.
"I was standing in front of the net," he said, "a place I shouldn't be."
Pavel Datsyuk, the Russian who did few interviews as a rookie because he spoke little English, walked past reporters and showed he had done some studying.
"Good morning," he said.
Yes, a new season has dawned.
NOTEBOOK: The Wings traded forward Ladislav Kohn to Calgary for future considerations. After spending most of last season in Finland, Kohn played four games as the Wings rested their stars down the stretch. He had no points and didn't appear in the playoffs.