Claude Lemieux—who is 43 and hasn't played an NHL game is six years—will suit up for the San Jose Sharks tonight. Ahh, the memories.
Lemieux retired after the 2003 season, but decided last fall that it was time for him to get back in the game. His comeback started in China (seriously) before signing on with the Sharks Worcester affiliate in November. Then yesterday he got the call every young player dreams of. He was going to The Show.
Interesting, isn't it that he joins the Sharks as they suddenly find themselves in the midst of a budding rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings. The teams are separated by three points in the conference standings, but will play only one more regular season game (at Detroit on February 25th.) It's hard to imagine what skills Lemieux has left, besides his ability to agitate and annoy, but does that ever really go away?
So will he stick with the club through February, or better yet, the playoffs? And will the Wings remember—specifically Kris Draper, who got his face rearranged by Claude all the way back in 1996 and Darren McCarty who took his revenge a year later? Both are still on the Wings roster. (McCarty is on IR.)
"I don't blame the guy for trying to make a comeback," Detroit's Kris Draper said Monday. "You're gonna play this game as long as you can. The older you get, the more you realize you just try to stay in as long as you can. He's back. I wish him luck.
"I understand. It was big. The whole city rallied around it. I know as soon as the game gets close, there's going to be a lot of people who want to talk about it again. I guess I'll get my cliches ready for that one as well."
Kirk Maltby was equally unimpressed.
"I think a lot of fans in general hold on to things a lot longer than the players do."
Yes. Yes, we do. But certainly someone on the team must be aggrieved after all this time....
It was a long time ago," Draper said. "I've played a lot of hockey since then."
Drat. You guys are no fun.
Claude Lemieux joins Sharks' lineup [Mercury News]
Draper remains a class-act in discussing Lemieux's comeback [Snap Shots]