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Honoring a Great Man January 2, 2007

Posted by reddlissa in Hockey.
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DETROIT — When Steve Yzerman has his No. 19 uniform retired tonight at Joe Louis Arena, it will be the culmination of a process that began almost 25 years ago.

Drafted in 1983 by the Detroit Red Wings when it was a moribund franchise that had only made the playoffs once in the previous 13 seasons, Yzerman was the first player taken by the team’s then new owners, Mike and Marian Ilitch.

He led Detroit to Stanley Cup championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002, and his 20-season stint as the team’s captain is the longest tenure in league history.

Yzerman’s 1,063 assists are the most in Red Wings’ history, his 692 goals and 1,755 points are second only to Gordie Howe, and his 1,514 games are third behind Howe and Alex Delvecchio.

The center won numerous awards, including the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP in 1998, the 1989 Lester B. Pearson Award as that season’s most outstanding player as voted by the players and the 2000 Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward. He also won the 2002-03 Bill Masterton Trophy, which goes to the player who most exhibits “perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

Yzerman will be the sixth jersey retired by the Red Wings. His No. 19 will be hung from the Joe Louis Arena rafters alongside Howe’s No. 9, Terry Sawchuk’s No. 1, Ted Lindsay’s No. 7, Delvecchio’s No. 10 and Sid Abel’s No. 12.     [from Detroit Red Wings website]

Steve Yzerman is obviously a Red Wings legend.  According to my boyfriend, tonight’s ceremony was “the biggest Red Wings event in 20 years.”  The influence and legacy of Stevie are indescribable.  He lead his team to 3 Stanley Cups, helped to mold many young hockey players during his 20 year tenure as team captain, and according to former head coach Scotty Bowman helped put out many fires before they even got started in the locker room.  Other hockey legends (like Brett Hull and Gordie Howe) interviewed throughout tonight’s game have commented on Yzerman’s passion, discipline, dedication, and never-ending love for the game of hockey.

Because Yzerman retired last year, I didn’t get to see him play very much.  He was battling injuries during the 2005-2006 season and although he was still on the team his time on the ice was minimal.  Watching the ceremony tonight and the subsequent interviews basically formed my opinion of him.  I was more impressed than I thought possible.  I have never seen a “superstar” act with such a sense of humility.  He deflected all the praise heaped on him and instead credited his teammates and coaches for making him appear to be such a marvelous player.  He seemed to be overwhelmed by the spotlight and wanted to focus the media and fan attention on the people he felt propelled him to his current position.  In a time when many sport stars crave media attention and want more..more..MORE it was refreshing to see a sports hero with such genuine love for the game and his teammates.    

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