Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Motown sings a song of Stevie Y

One thing is for certain, they know how to throw a party in Detroit. They retired Steve Yzerman’s number 19 on Tuesday night, with a ninety minute spectacular that doubled as a walk down Red Wing Memory lane.

From the greats like Howe, Lindsay and Delvecchio, to the players that delivered three Stanley Cups to Detroit last decade all were there to show their appreciation for the many years that Yzerman spent with the winged wheel on his chest.

With Yzerman’s best friend Darren Pang serving as the Master of Ceremonies, the owner, the manager and the coach delivered their accolades.

Mike Illitch, reminisced about the young Yzerman joining a then struggling team and helping to take them to the top.

Jimmy Devellano as well, went back into the time machine saluting the fourth pick of the 1983 draft and his contribution to the great years of the Detroit dynasty. Devellano stressed the importance that Yzerman played in those Motor City Glory years.

But it was the coach, Scotty Bowman, who provided some of the keenest insight into what Yzerman brought to Detroit, a willingness to change, to adapt and to lead. He described a young man who knew that the team was more important than any personal stats, and by example he helped to create the change in attitude in Detroit that was needed to claim Lord Stanley’s Cup not once, not twice but three times.

A nice touch by the Wings, was the salute to Yzerman’s formative years in the Ontario Hockey League, and his triumphs on behalf of his nation. Red Wing players donned Peterborough Petes Uniforms, Team Canada uniforms, All Star uniforms and Red Wing uniforms to salute Yzermans numerous achievements in the game.

And while ninety minutes did seem a little long and perhaps a little unfair to the visiting Anaheim Ducks, few probably would begrudge number 19 his long deserved time in the spotlight. In fact the Ducks played the perfect guests, as Detroit ended up with a 2-1 win on Yzerman's big night.

His was a remarkable run, one player with one team for his entire career. Somehow in the new NHL you just don’t think that kind of commitment will ever be in place again, either by player or team.
To the end, Yzerman was unassuming as always, he credited his family, his team mates, his coaches, the managers and the owners as the key to the Red Wings success and his career achievements, always the one not wanting to hog the spotlight, even on the one night where he should have just basked in the adulation. As a closing gesture, he thanked the fans of Detroit, bringing them into the circle of those that propelled him on to greatness.

Hockeytown raised his jersey to the rafters Tuesday, it joins the other stars in the Red Wing galaxy, Howe, Abel, Lindsay, Dellvecchio and Sawchuk. He won’t be out of place there at all, he indeed is the equal of the greats that ever pulled on that winged wheel jersey.

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