Monday, July 03, 2006

Hockeytown Hails its departing hero

Twenty two years seemed enough, the player who joined a moribund Red Wings (or Dead Wings) franchise as they were called in the day back in 1984, held a news conference today to explain that he would not be pulling on the skates in September.

Steve Yzerman, one of the leagues true greats will take a collection of records and achievements with him, but more importantly he takes the respect and admiration from many of those that played the game with him. From his Red Wing team mates and management on through the league it seems that nobody has a bad thing to say about the guy simply known as Stevie Y.

His presence went beyond the NHL, a long time fixture with Team Canada, he was one of the great leaders who understood the honour of pulling on a jersey with a Maple Leaf on the front and playing for his country. Part of the magical squad of Salt Lake City that brought home the Gold for a hockey mad nation.

Picked fourth in the 1983 draft, Yzerman joined a Red Wing team in dire straits, they had crashed to the bottom of the NHL standings, their attendance woes were legendary, with more than a half empty building greeting the once proud franchise night after night.

Yzerman was not the brash loud athlete of the era, instead he took a much different track as he simply let his playing do the talking. Yzerman was the definition of the word class. He provided a display of leadership that brought the Red Wings back from the dead and onto NHL greatness, the model franchise for those looking at how to run and win with a hockey club.

He benefited from generous ownership with the Ilitch’s and a steady hand in upper management with Jimmy Devellano and Ken Holland. But it was Yzerman’s magic on the ice that truly turned a franchise around. His numbers speak for themselves, 1,514 regular season games, 1,755 points over those twenty two years. Statistics that placed him sixth in all time NHL history.

He was a ten time all league star and multiple award winner. Named captain two years after joining the Red Wings he held the position until today, one of the rare breed of players who stayed with the team that drafted him, providing for the most stable of franchises in the league.

But it was his presence in the Stanley Cup playoffs that made him the toast of the Motor City. Yzerman’s leadership led to three Stanley Cup championships and a constant presence in the Stanley Cup chase year after year. For a city that longed for a return to the NHL heights, his name would soon be mentioned in the same breath as Sawchuk, Howe and Lindsay.

In fact Yzerman received the ultimate compliment from Lindsay, who described Yzerman as great Red Wing, one who while a humble Red Wing, was a leader by example.

That seems like a pretty good way to put a wrap on a most amazing career. Somebody call the Hall of Fame, there's a bust to be made and some space to create, a first ballot arrival is on the way!

Below the tributes flow for one of the greats of the game!

Stevie Y says Goodbye
Stevie Y showed why success, stardom rarely co-exist
Emotional Yzerman steps away
Classy Yzerman helped turn Detroit into Hockeytown
Yzerman belongs on Detroit's Mount Rushmre
Yzerman retires!
Yzerman synonymous with captain title
The Captain's new course
We'll always remember the Captain
Steve Yzerman retires!

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