Treated Like A Dog The Red Wings are happy to have Uwe Krupp back, but he still has a bone to pick with them

August 26, 2001

Defenseman Uwe Krupp has spent the last couple of years in the
Red Wings' doghouse, suspended without pay because he raced his
dogsled while rehabbing a herniated disk. Dogsledding might not
be the best way to speed up one's recovery from a back injury,
but let's put his suspension in perspective: Former Bruins
defenseman Marty McSorley earned a one-year ban from the NHL for
nearly performing a Sher-Wood lobotomy on Canucks enforcer
Donald Brashear in February 2000. For taking part in five
dogsledding events--20- or 30-minute affairs on groomed trails
in a state park in Michigan--Krupp received a penalty twice that
long, since he was suspended pending medical clearance.

Now the 36-year-old Krupp, a longtime musher who has gained more
attention for his hobby than he did for scoring the Stanley
Cup-winning goal for the Avalanche in 1996, is finally fit and
plans to be at the opening of Detroit's training camp on Sept.
11. The Red Wings, after jettisoning three of last season's
regular defensemen, need high quality blueliners and are willing
to put aside their hard feelings toward Krupp--who has filed a
grievance against the team to recover the $8.2 million in salary
he lost while suspended--to increase their chances of winning
another Stanley Cup.

The acrimony between Krupp and the Wings began after he felt back
spasms during warmups for a game against the Coyotes in December
1998 and could not play. Krupp, who underwent back surgery in
1997 for a herniated disk before signing with Detroit, was not in
lie-on-the-floor-and-scream pain, but he said he had suffered a
severe loss of motor function in his left foot and a 50% loss of
mobility in his ankle. Although he couldn't start or stop quickly
on skates, he could walk, work out on a stair climber and even
race his dogs--as a number of Detroit fans were only too eager to
report when they spotted the 6'6", 233-pound Krupp sledding in
the Michigan snow that winter. Krupp, who was only 22 games into
a four-year, $16.4 million free-agent contract when he was
injured, resumed skating for six days in March '99 in an effort
to return for the playoffs, but the attempt left him in agony.
The Red Wings, who had not insured his contract, suspended him
six months later, contending that dogsledding had compromised his

"People think I was doing the Iditarod," says Krupp. In fact, he
says his participation in the five dogsled races was "a very
social thing. You'd hang out with other people whose first
question wasn't about how the Wings did last night against
Toronto. It was a chance to be a normal person."

Krupp loved dogs long before he was an NHL defenseman. He bought
his first Siberian husky when he was playing in his native
Cologne, Germany, in the 1980s. He started racing there and
continued after he came to play in the NHL, in the 1986-87
season. "Every team I was on knew I did this," says Krupp, who in
13 NHL seasons has played for the Sabres, the Islanders, the
Avalanche and the Red Wings, "and many pushed it as a human
interest story."

After Krupp scored that Cup-winner in triple overtime against the
Panthers, he and some of his canines appeared in DogWorld
magazine. Uwe and his wife, Valerie, also a dogsledder, have 25
dogs, plus a full-time kennel manager, at their home outside
Missoula, Mont. He has split his rehabilitation between Montana
and Michigan, and he started a new skating regimen on June 20 at
a Wings-owned facility in Troy, Mich. Under the supervision of
physician Jeff Pierce and therapist John Czarnecki, what Krupp
calls the "doughy" feeling in his ankle has improved, and his
timing is coming back. He's on the ice for an hour in the
morning, then does three hours of rehab, six days a week.

Krupp spent last week at a hockey camp run by a Michigan State
assistant coach, intent on being in top shape when he returns to
a rebuilt Detroit defense that released or traded Larry Murphy,
Todd Gill and Aaron Ward after last season. With the acquisition
of star goalie Dominik Hasek in July and the unexpected return of
a healthy Krupp, the Wings, who have stumbled in the playoffs
three years in a row, hope that this season will be easier


COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE BENNETT STUDIOS Krupp was suspended for two years for dogsledding while out with a herniated disk.