Regner: As always, Yzerman put his team first

As much as he's embedded in Detroit sports folklore, Steve Yzerman's team now resides in Tampa.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It never even dawned on me that some Red Wings fans would be miffed at Steve Yzerman for not showing up at the ceremony retiring Nicklas Lidstrom’s No. 5 last Thursday.

But that’s the case, and the angry fans were front and center, loud and determined to vent on sports radio, even as late as Monday afternoon.

To which I say, get over it. There’s no way Yzerman would simply snub Lidstrom.

If you don’t know, Yzerman has a real job. And as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he sent his captain, Martin St. Louis, to the New York Rangers just before the trade deadline expired last Wednesday.

Even though the move wasn’t totally unexpected — St. Louis had voiced his desire to play for the Rangers — he had been with Tampa since 2000 and was the face of the franchise. The fan reaction to the trade was, at best, mixed in Tampa, where there was a home game against Buffalo on the same night Lidstrom was honored at Joe Louis Arena.

It was the first game for Tampa’s new captain, Steven Stamkos, who was handpicked by Yzerman to replace St. Louis. No doubt, Stamkos is a superstar, but he’s just 24 years old, and if anybody knows about being a young NHL captain, it’s Yzerman.

The ultimate high-five

Under those circumstances, do you really think Yzerman should have been in Detroit last Thursday?

If St. Louis wasn’t moved, Yzerman definitely would have been there for Lidstrom. But Yzerman, like Lidstrom,  always puts his team first, and as much as he’s embedded in Detroit sports folklore, Yzerman’s team now resides in Tampa.

Lidstrom understands this, and after all these years, I thought the rest of us understood that, too.

When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2002, I interviewed Yzerman for the Wings radio network and asked him about Lidstrom winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, as the MVP of the playoffs.

A jubilant Wings captain looked at me and said, "You know as well as anybody that he’s been our best player the last 10 years. Without Nick, we win nothing."

That wasn’t the only time Yzerman mentioned Lidstrom as being the catalyst for what could be dubbed the Golden Era of Red Wings hockey, On several occasions, he’s told me that once Lidstrom came to Detroit, the Wings reached the next level and were able to compete with the elite NHL teams.

Yzerman has never been one to talk about individual teammates. He considered himself to be part of a collection of very good players that were fortunate enough to win multiple Stanley Cups.

If you asked him about a teammate, he would offer an honest assessment. But there was only one teammate that Yzerman would bring up himself — Nick Lidstrom.

During his speech on Thursday, Lidstrom mentioned Yzerman several times. You could tell that Yzerman’s impact on Lidstrom’s career was considerable.

They truly have a mutual respect and admiration for one another — making the idea of an unexcused absence by Yzerman last Thursday totally ridiculous.