Steve Yzerman - Hockey Legends
Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is not your average NHL GM. Yzerman began his NHL career as a player, playing twenty two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Steve Yzerman was the Captain of the Red Wings for nineteen of those seasons, the longest tenure of any captain of any North American Sports franchise. Wearing jersey number #19, Yzerman won the respect of teammates and fans alike, through his determination, dedication and hard work. He was often referred to as simply "The Captain", or "Stevie Y". As a player, Steve Yzerman was a legend in Detroit and throughout the National Hockey League.
Having grown up about an hour South of Detroit, I was lucky enough to have watched Steve Yzerman through his entire NHL career. Beginning with his rookie season in 1983-84, right on through until his retirement in July, 2006, I watched Yzerman grow into a superstar right before my eyes. Every game, Yzerman gave one hundred percent. His determined effort inspired teammates, fans and opponents alike. Yzerman was a true leader on and off the ice.
Stephen Gregory Yzerman was born May 9, 1965 in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada. After showing a flare for offense with his Junior team, the Peterborough Petes, Yzerman was selected by the Detroit Red Wings with the 4th overall pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut against the Winnipeg Jets on October 5th of the same year, recording a goal and assist in the game.
Yzerman would go on to score 39 goals and 48 assists in his rookie season. The 39 goals and 87 points are both Red Wing's rookie records. With Yzerman's offensive production the Red Wings were able to qualify for the play-offs for the first time in 6 seasons. Steve Yzerman was named Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News and was runner-up to Tom Barrasso in the Calder Trophy voting.
A Hall of Fame Career
Steve Yzerman's playing career spanned twenty two seasons, including twenty as the Detroit captain. Under his leadership, the Red Wings won three Stanley Cups, in 1996-97, 1997-98 and in 2001-02. In 1997-98, Yzerman won the Conn Smythe trophy as Playoff MVP.
Yzerman played in 1,514 regular season games and 196 Playoff games for the Detroit Red Wings. In that stretch he scored 692 goals, enough to land him in 8th on the all time NHL goal scoring list and second only to Gordie Howe on the Red Wings all time list. He finished 7th on the NHL all time list for Assists with 1063, enough for 1st on the Red Wings all time list.
During his career, Yzerman reached the 50 goal mark five times, including the 1988-89 season, in which he scored a career high 66 goals.
Steve Yzerman played in nine All-Star games during his playing career, representing the Western/Campbell Conference. He retired following the 2005-06 season and the Detroit Red Wings retired his jersey #19 in a ceremony at Joe Louis Arena on January 2, 2007. Steve Yzerman was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Steve Yzerman was no stranger to international hockey competition. As a player, he was a member of Team Canada at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
After retiring from playing, Yzerman served as General Manager of Team Canada at the 2007 IIHF World Championships, a tournament won by team Canada. The following year, in October 2008, Yzerman was named as Executive Director of Team Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Canada defeated the USA in the Gold Medal game.
The Front Office
In September of 2006, Steve Yzerman was named as Vice President of the Detroit Red Wings. He won his fourth Stanley Cup, his first as a non-player, in the 2007-08 season. He stayed in the Red Wing's front office until May of 2010, when he was hired as the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It is a position that he still holds.
It was an easy decision for me to lead off my series on hockey legends with Steve Yzerman. As a fan, I watched his stellar career unfold before my eyes. I remember the highs and the lows. Like all Red Wings fans, I can still vividly remember seeing Steve Yzerman hoist the Stanley Cup above his head as he skated around Joe Louis Arena in June of 1997. Stevie Y was a leader on and off the ice, a great player and a class act.
© 2012 Christopher J Wood