Kirk Maltby looked out of place standing with Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland yesterday. Not only was he in a suit, but the (now former) NHL pest broke into tears as he said his goodbye to his professional hockey career.
Maltby was famous for his participation in Detroit’s grind line: a third line of players who embodied what is Detroit blue-collar hockey. Maltby, with his line mates Darren McCarty and Kris Draper, tormented other teams’ top scoring lines. The three were physical, had no fear while they were on the ice, and had the ability to knock an opponent into the boards while scoring a goal. The line played a key role in three of the Wings’ championships.
Maltby continued to thrive in Detroit even after McCarty left the Wings organization. Despite not being known as a scorer, Maltby is +18 in his career and totaled 260 total points. He played total in 1,072 games, most of them with Detroit, and totaled 867 penalty minutes. He would also go on to win one more cup, in 2008, when Detroit defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins.
His style of play is something that is under-represented in today’s game. Maltby showed that hockey was about more than just scoring, or dropping the gloves. While he did bring a lot of toughness to the Detroit roster, he also played with a drive and a desire like no one else. He simply wanted to be a part of a winning team and strove help his teammates. While that may have been with a thundering hip-check, it was help none the less.
Maltby was one of the guys who helped get the Wings over the hump in the ’90s. Another player in his vein—to complement players like Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks, and Matt Bradley—could be just what the Caps need to get themselves over the hump.
Maltby was certainly no point-getter, nor a dominating enforcer; but he loved the game, and it showed every shift. He enjoyed every second he was on the ice . . . and his efforts were vital to the Detroit dynasty.