Monday, July 10, 2006

God Bless Stevie Y

In the span of about a week, the City of Detroit lost 3 of my favorite all time athletes in Ben Wallace, Brendan Shanahan, and Steve Yzerman. While Shanahan, and to a lesser extent Wallace (still the heart and soul of the team, even if he was only there for 7 years or so), can be replaced, hockey in Detroit will never be the same without #19 out there.

My first memory of Steve Yzerman that I hold to this day was of him crashing into the goalpost against Buffalo back in 1987. I was 5 at the time, and I remember it to this day. I may not have understood how great Stevie Y was at that point, but based on my dad's reaction, I knew he was someone important.

In the following 18 or 19 years, that man has provided me with some of the happiest moments of my life and has been the type of leader that we'll be lucky if we ever see again in Detroit. And through it all, there hasn't been a more humble sports figure. We have been extremely lucky to have Stevie Y for as long as he's been here. And frankly, if it were possible, I wish the Red Wings would just retire the "C", because no one else is worthy of wearing it in his absence.

In terms of writing about Yzerman, I can't come close to the piece that Chris from Western College Hockey and The Sports Writer's Journal wrote awhile back, so here's a link to it.

The time was probably right for Yzerman to go. And despite that, I wish he would've announced he was coming back for one last season. All year, I knew it could be the last season we'd have him, but I wouldn't let myself believe it and as such, I probably didn't savor every second of him being out there the way I should have. I had the same problem with Brett Favre this year. It only occurred to me in the last couple minutes of the season finale that it really could be it. And even though I had been half rooting against the Packers that game, in a futile effort to have them land Reggie Bush, for the last couple minutes, I just wanted to see one last bit of Favre magic. And as he walked off the field, I was tearing up. Partially because I thought that might be it, but partially because I was so worried about getting Reggie Bush, that I wasn't enjoying every great play he made.

A complete list of great Yzerman moments would be impossible to make, but here are the ones that stand out in my mind, with a video montage at the end that does a great job.

--As Chris mentioned in that article, the absolute defining moment of what Yzerman meant to this city came when he was rumored to be traded to Ottawa. The 4-5 minute long standing ovation Yzerman received when he came out for player intros was a thing to behold. And the fact that it obviously embarassed Yzerman spoke to how great of a human being he is. My guess is after that night, they never discussed trading #19 again.

--The double OT game winner against St. Louis: Not so much the goal itself, because let's face it, it was a terrible goal to give up, but more for the reaction afterward. That was a guy that hadn't won a Cup yet, he didn't know how many more chances he was going to get, and that shot kept the dream alive.

--After the first Probert/Domi fight, Domi skated off the ice making a motion like he was putting on a championship belt. After the second Probert/Domi fight, where Probert kicked his ass, there was Yzerman in the background, mocking Domi by making the same motion with his hands.

--The goal against Vancouver in the playoffs in 2002, where he put it in and then could barely stand up afterward. Hell, the whole playoff run in 2002. The guy was incredible.

--The goal against Chicago (the 2nd video clip in the montage at the end of this post has the tail end of it...just add on the fact that he skated around the entire perimeter twice before he cut up the middle) that had to been seen to be believed.

--The strength with which he dealt with the Vladimir Konstantinov situation.

--Hoisting the Cup for the first time, after all those years.

There are so, so many more. This video does a great job of capturing a lot of them. Enjoy. And hopefully your house is less dusty than mine....

Thank you for everything Stevie Yzerman. Watching the Red Wings is honestly never going to be the same.....


Tom said...

For my money the clip in that montage that best sums up Yzerman was the hit on Pronger in the 02 playoffs. At that point he was basically playing on one leg, gritting it out because he was the Captain and the team needed him. Yet somehow he was able to suck it up and flip Pronger hard enough to injure him and knock him out of the playoffs. I'm not saying that Yzerman glorified in injuring players, rather that he was absolutely fearless on the ice (what is Pronger, 6'6"?).

Yzerman was drafted by Detroit exactly 44 days before I was born. It's hard not to think that the golden era of the Detroit sports of my youth has come to an end. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on Yzerman's tremendous career.

PS In the 1983 NHL Draft Detroit also took Bob Probert, Joe Kocur and Stu Grimson. Did they think Yzerman needed protection or something?

Anonymous said...

That Pronger hit was beautiful. Steve with his phenomenal hockey sense saw Pronger coming and ducked to avoid him at the last second, while Pronger was charging so hard with the single thought of destroying Yzerman he couldn't change direction. And Pronger ends up tearing his ACL on the play. That's probably a popular clip with Edmonton fans too right now.