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The last post was a cliff-hanger; but a misleading one about the Iditarod sled dog race. The only reason I mention it is that the event brings to mind Uwe Krupp (pronounced OO-vah KROOP), who, due to nebulous circumstances, played only 30 games for the Detroit Red Wings.

He didn’t race in the Iditarod. So forget I mentioned it. He did (does) dog sled as a hobby, and he says every other team he’d been on acknowledged this hobby. Which is truly badass, even if animal rights activists disagree. However, he went dog sledding while he was on the mend for a herniated disc, which he sustained in his 22nd game of the ’98-’99 season.

He had signed with the Red Wings shortly after their 1998 Stanley Cup win. It was a four year contract in excess of $16 million. And apparently, dog sledding while injured violated said contract (though I doubt it was explicitly written as such). Consequently, the Wings’ lawyers brought their whole hammer down on Mr. Krupp, depriving him of $12.3 million of his contract. 

As soon as the press got ahold of the news that he was dog sledding while hurt, rumors snowballed. People said he was holding out, or that he had quit the Wings to race in the Iditarod. Others said he was like a lemon car, always breaking down and needing repairs. One of my teammates even said he was an Eskimo (I guess the name threw him off.). Whatever it was, it was clear to Detroit fans that he had no desire to play for the Red Wings. 

Of course, little of that was ever true.

All this makes me wonder. Why did the Wings suspend him without pay for 722 days? Was what he did that unpardonable? He was a great defenseman, a giant (as far as hockey players go) at 6’6″ and 240 lbs. He could have added size, strength and experience to the Red Wings.

Perhaps there was still enmity between Krupp and the Wings. After all, Krupp was a key defenseman for Colorado during their ’96 cup run, in which the Av’s shut down the Wings in six games. Many still remember his triple overtime, Cup-winning goal that year.

The German-born Krupp did try to break into the Red Wing’s line-up again during the 2001-02 season. Unfortunately, the Red Wings were one of the most loaded teams in NHL history, with Nick Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Steve Duchesne, Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robataille, Igor Larionov, and a young Pavel Datsyuk. So it was no surprise that such short shrift was given to the aging Krupp. He only played eight games that season, and little was heard from him again.

But goddammit, Uwe! You were supposed to be this colossus, this legendary thing! And yet you had to go dog sledding with a bum back. I remember how disappointed I was. I was disappointed because I was excited to watch you play for the Wings. And I’m sure a lot of other Detroit fans would say the same thing. We wanted to like you, man!

But all this is proverbial water under the bridge. Today, Uwe, I salute you, as a great hockey player and a true badass.

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