Last night, the man responsible for leading the Red Wings out of the 25 year old “Dead Wings” era was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Steve Yzerman’s leadership and outstanding play for 22 seasons will forever be memorialized by generations of Detroit fans, and especially by those lucky enough to have seen Number 19 skate down the ice at Joe Louis Arena.
Four Detroit sports legends, all of whom could have their images carved into Detroit’s own version of Mt. Rushmore ironically began their hall of fame careers at age 18 and played 20 plus years. They are, Ty Cobb, Gordie Howe, Al Kaline, and Steve Yzerman. Yet only Kaline and Yzerman played their whole career in the Motor City.
With today’s free agency, one wonders if we will ever see another hall of fame player play in Detroit for over 20 years during their whole career. ( Nik Lidstrom is a future hall of famer and closing in on 20 years, and perhaps Alan Trammell, who played his entire career in Detroit for 20 years hopefully will make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame one day.)
In his rookie season of 1983-84, 18 year old Steve Yzerman put the hockey world on notice when he set Detroit records for goals by a rookie with 39 to go along with 87 points. By age 21, he was named Red Wings captain, the youngest player ever to earn that title.
Between 1987 and 1993, “Stevie Y” never failed to top 100 points and five times scored 50 goals or more.
But not until Red Wing coach Scotty Bowman demanded that “The Captain” and his teammates become better two way players would the Wings finally hoist the Stanley Cup.
In 1997, Yzerman become the first Red Wing in 42 years to lift the Holy Grail of hockey over his head when Detroit defeated the Flyers in a four game sweep. Yzerman would also lead the Red Wings to Stanley Cup championships the following year and in 2002, the last with the help of fellow 2009 Hall of Fame inductees Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille.
Yzerman’s number 19 has already been retired, he is now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and I am sure we will soon see a bronzed image of him adorning the concourse of Joe Louis Arena. Certainly, no one is more well deserving.
Although Gordie Howe was the true founder of Hockeytown, Steve Yzerman was the 22-year Mayor responsible for its resurgence and impressive growth.