Sunday, May 9, 2010
Steve Yzerman, born on this date in 1965, first joined the Red Wings in 1983 after being drafted fourth overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, the "Dead Wings" were lost in the hockey wilderness, having missed the playoffs 15 of the previous 17 seasons, dating back to the 1966-67 season. After the arrival of Yzerman, the Red Wings qualified for the playoffs in 20 of Yzerman's 22 seasons in the NHL.
His arrival coincided with a change in ownership for the Red Wings, as Mike and Marian Illitch had purchased the franchise in the summer of 1982.
Yzerman scored 39 goals and 87 points in his rookie season, played in his first of 10 NHL All-Star Games and got his first taste of playoff experience as the Red Wings were eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in the first round 3 games to 1.
Prior to the 1986-87 season, Detroit coach Jacques Demers named Yzerman captain of the Red Wings, making him the youngest captain in team history. Yzerman would respond with his third 30 goal season and the Red Wings would reach the third round of the playoffs that season, their deepest run into the playoffs since reaching the finals back in 1966.
His offensive production began to take off during this time period when Yzerman hit the 50 goal mark, as well as topping the 100 points, for the first time in 1987-88. It would be the first of six consecutive seasons with 45 goals or more for Yzerman. The playoffs would see another deep run by the Red Wings, as they once again reached the conference finals for the second year in a row.
The 1988-89 season would see Yzerman reach the pinnacle of his offensive numbers, with 65 goals and 90 assists for 155 points, all career highs and still Red Wings records, as well as being named the winner of the Lester Pearson Award.
The following seasons would see goal totals of 62, 51, 45 and 58 in 1992-93 when he also had 79 assists for 137 points, the second highest season point total of his career. His 65, 62 and 58 goal seasons are the top three in franchise history. Despite the personal success, the Red Wings would fail to advance past the second round of the playoffs from 1989 to 1993.
All that changed with the arrival of new Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman in 1993, who had already won five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and one with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He pushed Yzerman to be more responsible defensively and is credited for turning Yzerman into one of the best two-way players in the game, as proven by Yzerman winning the Selke Trophy in 2000.
After trips to both the Finals in 1995 and the Conference Finals in 1996, the Red Wings would capture the Stanley Cup in both 1997 and again emotionally in 1998, their first titles since 1955. Yzerman would be named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy following the 1998 playoffs.
The Red Wings would return to the finals again in 2002, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes for the third championship of Yzerman's career.
Three more seasons followed before Yzerman retired following the 2005-06 season with 1514 games played, 692 goals and 1063 assists for 1755 points. In addition, he played in 196 playoff games and is Detroit's all-time leader in goals (70), assists (115) and points (185) and won three Stanley Cups.
Internationally, Yzerman played in the 1983 World Junior Tournament, the 1984 Canada Cup, earning a gold medal, the World Championships in 1985 (silver), 1989 (silver) and 1990 when not busy with the NHL playoffs. He also skated for Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey (silver) and the Olympics in 1998 and 2002, where Canada won the gold medal in Salt Lake City, their first since 1952.
His number #19 was retired by the Canadian National Team in 2005 and on this date by the Detroit Red Wings in 2007, joining Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe as the only players in Red Wings history with their numbers hanging from the rafters and the first one retired since 1995. During his career Yzerman was also named the winner of the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2003 and the Lester Patrick Award in 2006 and was the longest serving team captain in Red Wings history with 20 seasons of having the "C" adorn his sweater. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Today's featured jersey is a Nike 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings Steve Yzerman jersey as worn during the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals.
Following the Red Wings 1997 Stanley Cup championship, teammate Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov were seriously injured in a limousine accident, which ended Konstantinov's career. For the 1997-98 season, the Red Wings would wear the "Believe" patch on the right chest of their jerseys in support of the pair. Once the Red Wings reached the Stanley Cup Finals, the "Believe" patch was relocated to the left shoulder and the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals patch was put in it's traditional location on the right chest.
The Red Wings, inspired by Konstantinov, would defend their title and capture their second consecutive Stanley Cup, the last team to date to win two consecutive championships.
To this day Konstantinov still needs a walker to assist him in getting around, but he has made remarkable progress from where he once was. His number 16, while not officially retired by the Red Wings, has not been worn since.