DETROIT - Steve Yzerman knew it. Mike Ilitch knew it. Every Red Wings’ fan knew it. One day, the “Captain” would come home to the team he loved and the city that loved him back.
After Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman is the most beloved and admired Red Wing. He was the Wings’ captain for nineteen seasons, the longest serving captain of a single team in NHL history. He retired in 2006, and spent four seasons in the Wings’ front office, but not as General Manager. That job belonged to Ken Holland who signed a long term extension making it clear that Yzerman would have to go elsewhere for his chance to run an NHL team, something he was destined to do. The Tampa Bay Lightning gave him that chance, and he turned an average franchise into one the NHL’s elite teams.
But in his heart, Steve Yzerman was a Red Wing. Now, finally, the time is right for the captain to come home.
As a long time Red Wings’ fan, it’s hard not to get a little nostalgic this week. How is it possible that the Red Wings’ most magical season happened more than two decades ago? I feel bad for the many fans (age thirty and under) who have fuzzy or no recollection at all of 1997: Draper, McCarty, Kocur, Lidstrom, Shanahan, Osgood -- Steve Yzerman as captain -- and, of course, the Russian Five.
There are many great moments in sports that, even if you’re lucky enough to see, you appreciate only in the rear-view mirror with time to reflect. But, in 1997, we all knew we were watching what many consider the NHL’s greatest team ever assembled. What a thrill it was, and Steve Yzerman was at the heart of it.
Make no mistake, the man affectionately known as Stevie Y brings no magic formula to the job. He has cautioned everyone that a new direction for the franchise will take time. But he offers fans good reason for patience. He is the face of a glorious past in Hockeytown. And, now, can be the architect of a glorious future. Stevie Y -- welcome home.
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