Friday, July 21, 2006

Last Thoughts On Stevie Y

(For the sake of adding some content here, while this blog is in its infancy, I will from time to time toss in one of my published newspaper articles to fill up space. Here's one from two weeks back that's close to my heart. I'll skip my recent review of the Alannah Myles concert at Lift Off/Baloonfest for now, barring such a particular request for the rocking stuff. -Rob)


In what appreared to be the most agonizing of decisions, the heart and soul of the Red Wings, Steve Yzerman has called it a career after 22 seasons. The Captain of 19 years tells that his decision went back and forth on a seemingly daily basis. It couldn't have been easy. Yzerman became the King of Hockeytown in Detroit after leading the Wings to consecutive Stanley Cups in 1997-98. The battle worn leader has left the game he loves so much, sratching and clawing to hold on. Father time always has the final say.
Drafted 4th overall by Detroit in 1983, the offensive dynamo immediatly made an impact in Motor City, notching 87 pts and establishing rookie records that stand to this day. In his third season, coach Jacques Demers named the 22yr old Captain. His numbers peaked in the early 90's when he surpasses the 60 goal plateau in successive years. For all the regular season glory Yzerman experienced, holes existed in the playoff resume.
As Yzerman helped build the Wings into a perenial contender, 1st place finishes turned into bitter playoff disappointments. With coach Scotty Bowman at the helm beginning in 1993, the team became favoured to win the Stanley Cup, but came up emptyhanded three years running. Promoted to Director of Player Personnel, Bowman sought drastic changes to put an end to the teams ill fortunes. Bowman was on the phone with Ottawa in the midst of including Yzerman in a multi-player blockbuster deal that would have seen Alexei Yashin become a Red Wing, when the Captain happened into the coaches office. Seeing what was going down, Yzerman stopped Bowman in his tracks and requested that they speak. He did not want to give up on his dream of bringing a championship to Detroit.
The men discussed at lenghth about what it took to win. Bowman ( who named a son Stanley! ) talked, and Yzerman listened. The coach spoke of what kind of complete player a captain needs to be in order to guide a team all the way. Bowman theorized about sacrificing offense and making Yzerman a player he could put on the ice in any game situation. Yzerman listened intently and offered that he would do whatever it took to remain in Detroit and win the Cup. Bowman called off the deal with Ottawa.
In the second half of his career, the player changed his game. He killed penalties, blocked shots, and played injured - often. In certain years, he took pay cuts to enable the team to stack the roster with stars such as Brett Hull and Dominik Hasek. The numbers were still up there, but became irrelevant, and were ably replaced by Stanley Cups. Yzerman came to finally be included on Team Canada, after years of frustration, from being one offensive center too many. He won a Gold medal in the 2002 Olympics, and a third cup that fall, playing one on good leg.
It is likely that lasting image of the man that will remain with hockey fans worldwide.
Asked how he would best like to be remembered in light of the supreme stats, career longetivity, and silverware, Yzerman shrugged, without false modesty. "I guess it's for everone else to determine', he said. He stated that he was simply a player who came to the rink each day and tried to give his best. No doubt. Simply the best!

2 comments:

benhip said...

Well put,
Stevie Y certainly was a treat to watch and his impact in the "D" was immense. Wow, how different things would be if Yashin had become a Wing.

reality check said...

He would not have been a Wing too long. Almost sounds surreal even thinking about it!