Spartan Nation's Eric Fish writes a great story on what Stevie Y means!

Hondo S. Carpenter

By Eric Fish

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           There are some memories you take with yourself for a lifetime.

           I’ll always remember the pet dog that I grew up with and my first day of high school. I’ll always remember where I was when I first heard the horrifying news on September 11, 2001. I’ll always remember my high school graduation and my first day of college at Michigan State. And I’ll always remember what I was doing and where I was when Steve Yzerman announced his retirement from hockey.

           July 3, 2006 was an infamous day for Detroit sports fans. By no means were we disappointed or angry, but we were sad to see arguably the greatest athlete in Detroit sports history call it quits after an outstanding 22-year career, all with the same team.

           People will be quick to remember the three Stanley Cups he led the Wings to and the gold medal he won representing Team Canada at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, but there’s so much more makeup to the captain that has gone unnoticed and so many more little things that were responsible for success.

           After Scotty Bowman took over as head coach of the Red Wings in 1993, Yzerman became a complete two-way player. He still scored goals and had the smarts to go along with it, but he killed penalties, sacrificed his body to block shots, and back checked with a newfound authority that was absent from his younger playing days. He was awarded for his change of game, finally, in 2000 when he snagged the Selke Award for best defensive forward.

Stevie was a true team player. After critical losses in the playoffs, he was the one to stand up and speak first. He took all responsibility for it. In the 1997 Stanley Cup run, the Red Wings were struggling in the first round of the playoffs against the Blues. Yzerman stood up to speak to the team, and his first words were, “I’ve got to be better.”

People often forget how Yzerman was almost traded twice. Rumors swirled about a possible deal to Buffalo in 1992-93 and again arose in 1995 with Ottawa. But all trade scenarios were dismissed when a sold out Joe Louis Arena crowd gave No. 19 a thunderous ovation following the rumors. After that, all deals were off. Yzerman was right to thank the fans in his retirement press conference – they snapped at management with outrageous support for their leader during times of question.

           There are hundreds of great Steve Yzerman memories. You might remember when he was drafted fourth overall in 1983 behind Brian Lawton, Pat Lafontaine, and Sylvia Turgeon. Then general manger Jim Devellano said following the draft that he would have preferred Lafontaine or Turgeon. Lafontaine had a concussion-plagued career which forced him into early retirement and Turgeon never amounted to much – Yzerman gave the same franchise over 20 years of great hockey.

           You might remember Yzerman’s double overtime slapshot to score against St. Louis in game seven of the 1996 Western Conference Quarterfinals. You might remember stories of how he had to get his bum knee drained prior to every game in the 2002 Stanley Cup run, yet came back to put up all-star numbers and win a third Stanley Cup.

           But there seems to be one memory forever etched in the minds of Detroit Sports fans – 1997. Yzerman led the Wings to their first Stanley Cup in 42 years and accepted the coveted trophy with a toothless grin. Yzerman took a long, emotional victory lap with the holy grail of hockey and ESPN announcer Gary Thorne, who called the game, said that ESPN cameramen had to take the cameras off the tripods to shoot the footage because Joe Louis Arena was “literally vibrating.”

           Yzerman is undoubtedly one of the finest athletes to grace Detroit sports. Fans will take a moment to appreciate Yzerman in years to come when they glance up at the Joe Louis Arena rafters and proudly catch a glimpse of the number 19 banner hanging from the ceiling. It’s a bittersweet time right now for fans, but think back at all the great memories Stevie Y has given us. I could go on and on, but there’s simply not enough time in the day to share all of mine.

           What are some of your favorite Yzerman memories?

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           Please feel free to share your favorite Steve Yzerman moments by e-mailing Hondo at Spartannation.com.

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