That was a nice little ceremony last night, as Stevie and the rest of his group were inducted into the Hall before the Wings-Leafs game in Toronto. Many of the old-timers were there, also HOF'ers, most of them looking really old, except Scotty Bowman who always looks the same.
Yzerman sat down with a local hockey-beat writer and reminisced a bit. As usual, he's just a humble, normal-seeming guy. Unless you recall what a superstar he was from the time he first showed up in Detroit and rescued the franchise, and then everything he did up to his retirement. His numbers are fantastic, but they don't begin to tell his story.
For instance, in 2002, without his heroics on that destroyed-knee, the great collection of talent on the Canadian Olympic team doesn't win the gold, and the loaded (but well-aged) Wings don't win the Cup. In both cases, he picked the team up when they were down, scored huge goals, and got them rolling towards the final victory. He gave what was left of his knee that year, but still opted for that bizarre surgery to try and squeeze some more playing-life out of it.
November 8, 2009
Detroit Free Press
Hall-bound Yzerman talks about life after the ice
By HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
Steve Yzerman was drafted by the Red Wings fourth overall in 1983, debuted for them that autumn, and 22 seasons later finished his playing career as an icon.
Last weekend, during the Wings long trip out West, he sat down for breakfast with Free Press sports writer Helene St. James and talked about his career which included Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002 and an Olympic gold medal in 2002 and discussed his pending induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, his job as a Wings vice president and his future.
Q: What does it mean to you to be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
A: Its hard to describe I keep saying its a neat thing, but thats not really the right way to describe it. I just feel really good about it. I was lucky to have my jersey retired by the Wings, and this is kind of the final accomplishment as a player.
Q: When Michael Jordan was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, he said it wasnt fun for him because it meant his career was completely over. Have you felt anything similar?
A: No, I feel old for other reasons, not for this. Ive really enjoyed retirement. I look back now and I have really great feelings about playing and I retired very happy as far as I was able to participate in virtually everything and I accomplished virtually everything that I wanted to. Theres no bitterness or disappointment looking back on my career.
Q: Have you ever had a moment when you wish you hadnt retired?
A: Oh no, god no. I should have done it earlier, actually thats my second guessing. I think if I did it all over again Id have retired after 02, just because with the condition of my knee, I should have just hung it up after 02. My last year, it was a real struggle just to stay healthy. I was relieved to retire. I knew I couldnt keep up anymore. I was falling apart. So no, Ive not once regretted retiring. I like watching games; I enjoy being a fan of the game, but not once have I thought, Id love to be back out there. I dont know that theres a right or a wrong time to retire, but I think its important players when they do retire know theyre done. If that means a player plays an extra season after you think, oh, he should have retired, I think its better to do that than too early. Youre retired for the rest of your life. So play until youre absolutely certain youre done.
Q: Do your three daughters appreciate it?
A: Theyre 15, 11, and 10, and they have their own interests. But one of the best things about my last year is they were older and understood that I played hockey and came to games and enjoyed it. But much like your dad or my dad, what I did was a job and they just perceived thats what I did for a living and it wasnt that big of a deal.
Q: Is it even more special because youre going in with a couple of former teammates in Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille?
A: Yes, very. I sat beside Luc in the locker room for two years. Id played against him and with him on some of those national teams, and Brett, I played on a line with him. When we were all really bad, Scotty would put us together on a line and wed go out there and bum around and have a lot of fun. It was a special year, 02, with all those guys. We all had a lot of fun, day-to-day, in the locker room, and then to be able to finish with the Stanley Cup that year and now go into the Hall of Fame together its very special.
Q: What was the most challenging time you went through as a player?
A: I think that whole period from 93 to 97, trying to get over the hump and questioning yourself and questioning your confidence, questioning if youre good enough, if the team is good enough. Wed get close and then not win the Cup, and it became hard to come back in training camp the next year and go through all those steps just to get back to the playoffs again. It was a real challenge to remain confident.
Q: When did you realize youd be a Wing for your entire NHL career?
A: When we won the Cup in 97, but then I thought I was only going to play maybe three or four more years after that and then retire. I felt once wed won the Cup, wed gotten over the hump and we were going to be a good team for the next few years, and thats when I felt like I was a Wing for life.
Q: What was your most memorable goal?
A: The overtime goal against St. Louis in the 1996 playoffs was maybe the most exciting, but for me, the most memorable, the most important goal I scored was in Colorado in the 97 playoffs in Game 2. It was late in the game and it was kind of a fluky goal, I just banked it in off Patrick Roys leg and it went in. We ended up winning the game and winning that series, and to me that goal, I thought, was important.
Q: What about your most memorable NHL moment?
A: Raising the Cup the first time, probably. Its between 97 and 98. In 97, as exciting and fun as it was, it was really nerve wracking. We were up 3-0 in the finals and before that Game 4, you could hear a pin drop in the locker room. We were in total control but we were so nervous. In 98, we were able to enjoy it more, we were much confident. But that first one, it was very emotional for everyone.
Q: With general manager Ken Holland well entrenched in Detroit, do you see yourself leaving the area to get the opportunity to run an NHL team?
A: Im not just going to run out and jump at an opportunity. Ive been in Detroit a long time and Ive been with the organization a long time, and I like being a part of what were doing. But do I want to run an NHL team one day? Yes, in the right circumstances. And Im not sitting waiting for Kenny to leave. So thats the reality of it, is that if I want to run an NHL team, I have to move. I understand that. Its do I want to stay and be a part of this, which I really enjoy, or do I want to take a bigger role and go somewhere else? Thats a decision at some point I have to make. Right now, I really enjoy being a part of this. And I have a daughter who is a sophomore in high school you dont just pack up and move your family without taking all that into your decision.
Q: What was the most eye-opening part of joining the front office?
A: How difficult it is to improve your team. Its a slow, I think very methodical process. Youre trying to accumulate picks, accumulate prospects, bringing them into the organization, and develop them very slowly. You think you can go into an organization, sign a couple of players, make a couple of trades, and youve got a contender no. Its done very slowly. Every day I sit with Kenny and Jim (Nill) and Ryan (Martin) and we talk about everything and we analyze every move thats made around the league. Its tough to find good players, and then keep them. So thats been the most eye-opening thing, is how long a road it is to build a good team.
Q: Do you have any interest in coaching?
A: I think coaching is very intriguing, but in order to get into that, Id have to go somewhere and start coaching. Itd be a career move. So Ill say coaching is very interesting, but right now, I like the management side of things, and thats what I lean towards.
Q: What was your favorite line as a Wing?
A: Playing with Paul MacLean and Gerard Gallant was a lot of fun. We had success on the ice, but they were both really witty guys. Darren McCarty and Bob Errey and I were a line, and we had zero chemistry like, we couldnt make a pass, we just fumbled around out there, but we used to have a lot of fun laughing on the bench about our ineptitudes. It was a lot of fun. In 02 playing with Brett and then Sergei (Fedorov) in the playoffs was really memorable.
Q: How about internationally?
A: Going way back to the 84 Canada Cup, early in the tournament I played a few games, I got to play with Glenn Anderson and Mark Messier on a line. I had just been invited late to camp because someone was injured and they ended up keeping me. Then I got to play on a line with Wayne Gretzky in 98 in Nagano and then in 02 with Mario (Lemieux). I was worried I was going to be the 13th forward in 02 because I was kind of struggling, my knee was sore, and then when I saw my name on the board, I thought, I better readjust my thinking and get ready for this game, because I was with Mario and Paul (Kariya). That was a lot of fun.
Q: You became a U.S. citizen in 1999. Being enormously popular locally, do you ever see yourself running for political office?
A: No. I like being in hockey. Im not well-educated, and I think whatever you do, you have to have a real passion for it to do it well, and I like being in sports.
Q: Whats the best piece of advice you ever got?
A: When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me just keep your mouth shut and go out and play hard. Thats what I tried to do for the most part.
Q: If hockey hadnt worked out, what would you have done?
A: There wasnt a Plan B. Its all I wanted to be. I never thought about anything else. I probably would have ended up being a policeman or fireman, something like that, where you have to work hard and its physical labor.
Q: If you could come back as another player today, who would it be?
A: The obvious one would be Sidney (Crosby) or Alex (Ovechkin), but I really like the way Zach Parise in New Jersey plays. I think hes an exciting and talented player and he plays hard. Hes one guy I really enjoy watching. But, itd nice to be a Chris Pronger or somebody like that for a day Id like to be a big, tough guy for one day in my life.
Q: Some people get lets put it this way wider after retirement. You still look the same as your playing weight. How do you stay in shape?
A: I do the elliptical machines 99% of the time. Once in a while Ill ride the bike, but Ive kind of really gotten tired of doing that after all those years of riding it while playing. I do a little bit of weightlifting, but Im kind of disappointed lately when I work out. Ill wake up and my plan is to work out but Ill turn a soccer game on and watch that instead and think Ill get to it later. Theres been a lot of that, lately.
Q: So not much skating any more?
A: No. Ive had skates on a couple of times for clinics, but thats it. I just gave them to the Hall of Fame, because they asked for some stuff. So actually, I dont even own a pair of skates anymore.