I still find it hard to believe that it’s been over three years now since I last saw Steve Yzerman lace up his skates for the Red Wings. Known as ‘Stevie Y,’ or ‘The Captain,’ Yzerman’s long and storied career is full of awards and accolades, but this coming Monday, November 9, 2009, may outrank them all.
That’s the night Yzerman takes his rightful place amongst hockey’s greatest all-time players. It’s the night of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The group of four inductees, including Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull and the aforementioned Yzerman, are among the finest induction classes in Hall of Fame history. But the crowning jewel of the quartet is Steve Yzerman.
So I thought it’d be only fitting to list what I feel are the 10 greatest Steve Yzerman moments, both to honor one of my favorite players growing up, and to get my feet wet here at The Hockey Writers.
10. The 2000 Frank J. Selke Trophy
This trophy, while not as glamorous as the Hart, Art Ross, etc., was a testament to Yzerman’s work ethic and desire to be a better all-around player, than anything else. Early in his career, Yzerman seemed destined to be a one-way player, until Scotty Bowman took over as Red Wings coach. It was under Bowman’s direction that Yzerman became more of a two-way player, and winning the Selke Trophy confirmed it.
9. Scoring His 1000th Point
On February 24, 1993, Yzerman registered an assist against the Buffalo Sabres. It was his 1000th point, in what was his 737th game. At the time he became just the 37th player in league history to score 1000 points, and only the third Red Wing player, along with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio, to accomplish the feat.
8. Yzerman’s First Career Goal
It didn’t take long for ‘Stevie Y’ to nab his first career goal. Try his first career game. On October 5, 1983, at the tender age of 18, Yzerman potted his first goal in a game against the Winnipeg Jets. The goalie? Doug Soetart.
7. Being Named Red Wings Captain
Prior to the 1986-87 season, Jacques Demers made a bold move, naming Yzerman team captain, at the ripe old age of 21. It turned out to be a pretty damn good move too–Yzerman remained captain of Detroit until his retirement, some two decades later.
6. The 1983 NHL Entry Draft
The Red Wings held the fourth overall draft pick, and had their sights set on Pat Lafontaine, until the New York Islanders scooped him up with the No.3 pick. GM Jim Devellano took a chance on Yzerman, and the rest, as they say, is history.
5. Winning His Second Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy
In 1998, the Red Wings faced the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup finals. After sweeping the Caps for their second straight Stanley Cup, the Wings dedicated their win to fallen defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, who had been seriously injured in a car accident after the previous year’s finals. Yzerman won the Conn Smythe trophy, after scoring 24 points.
4. Yzerman’s No.19 Jersey is Retired
On January 2, 2007, before a game against the Anaheim Ducks, Yzerman’s No.19 jersey is raised to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena, taking it’s proper place alongside the jersey’s of Howe, Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk and Sid
Abel. In a touching gesture, the Red Wings had the captain’s ‘C’ affixed to his banner, signifying that Yzerman was indeed, the team’s greatest captain.
3. Winning the Olympic Gold Medal
The Salt Lake Olympics in 2002 was Team Canada’s chance at redemption. And they delivered, thanks in large part to the steady two-way play of Yzerman. Canada defeated the U.S. 5-2 in the championship game to end a 50-year gold medal drought for Canada. By winning the gold medal, and the Stanley Cup in the same year, Yzerman joined Ken Morrow and Brendan Shanahan as the only players to accomplish that feat in hockey history.
2. The 1988-89 Lester B. Pearson Trophy
The 1988-89 season was arguably Yzerman’s finest. He netted 65 goals to go along with 90 assists, good for 155 points, the most for his career. Of course, playing in the shadow of two guys named Gretzky and Lemieux, Yzerman’s point total was good for third overall in league scoring. Speaking of third, it’s also where he finished in Hart Trophy voting behind Gretzky and Lemieux. But as a consolation prize, Yzerman was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Trophy, which is the league MVP as voted on by the NHLPA. Yet another testament to Yzerman’s league-wide respect among his peers.
1. The 1997 Stanley Cup
The first championship is always the sweetest, and the 1997 sweep over the Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t have been any sweeter. After a 42-year drought, “The Captain” had finally delivered to the city of Detroit the first of three Stanley Cups under Yz.