Lightning hire Steve Yzerman as new GM
Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s new
general manager, taking on the task to rebuilding a franchise
that’s fallen on hard times since winning its only Stanley Cup
championship six years ago.
The former Detroit Red Wings captain and executive was
introduced Tuesday as Brian Lawton’s replacement during a press
conference at St. Pete Times Forum. Lawton and coach Rick Tocchet
were fired April 12.
“This is a long-term project for me. I believe building a
Stanley Cup caliber team takes time and there will be many
decisions, some lengthy, that will be made over the course of
time,” Yzerman said.
“There is no easy fix. I don’t sit up here with the notion that
there is a magic wand I can wave and make changes and we’re a
Stanley Cup contender. I plan on making the Lightning better for
the upcoming season, but the long-term goal is to make this team a
Since retiring in 2006, Yzerman has worked as a vice president
for the Red Wings, the only team he played for during a 22-year
career in which he scored 692 goals, amassed 1,755 points and was
part of three Stanley Cup winners.
The 45-year-old recently led Canada to men’s Olympic hockey gold
as Hockey Canada executive director at the Vancouver Games.
Tampa Bay’s new owner, Jeff Vinik, fired Lawton and Tocchet
after the struggling franchise missed the playoffs for the third
straight season. The Lightning went 34-36-12 this season and were
53-69-26 in just under two seasons under Tocchet.
Detroit owners Mike and Marian Ilitch congratulated Yzerman but
said his departure was hard on them, the team and the city.
“Steve Yzerman … has been synonymous with the Red Wings and
Hockeytown for as long as most of us can remember,” they said in a
statement. “We drafted him as a young and shy 18 year old – just a
year after we bought the team – and he has been part of it all: the
ups and downs, highs and lows, the (Stanley) Cups, the
celebrations, really everything Red Wings over the last 27
Yzerman was not going to get a chance to be Detroit’s GM soon
because two executives above him, Ken Holland and Jim Nill, are
expected to sign long-term deals.
“After talking to many people throughout the league, I came to
the conclusion that Steve was the person to bring a winning culture
back to this team,” Vinik said.
“Steve is in charge of all hockey-related decisions,” the
owner added. “He does answer to me, but I trust his judgment and
Many felt Yzerman would be reluctant to leave the only club he
had worked for, however he relished a chance to be a GM and had
conceded he might have to leave Detroit to get that
“I have mixed emotions, both good and sad,” said Red Wings
senior vice president Jim Devellano, who drafted Yzerman fourth
overall in 1983 and watched him lead the franchise’s turnaround on
“He’s been such an integral part of the Red Wings for 27 years,
first as a player and then as a front-office person,” Devellano
added. “I’m sad for us, but happy for him to get this wonderful
Yzerman was born in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and he became
one of the best two-way players in NHL history. He was a Red Wings
captain for two decades and won a fourth Stanley Cup title as part
of Detroit’s front office in 2008.
Yzerman experienced the high of helping Canada win gold in 2002
and the disappointment of a fourth-place finish at the 1998 Nagano
Games in two of his eight international competitions as a
As GM, Yzerman led Canada to gold at the 2007 world championship
and silver the next year before focusing on the Olympics.
Yzerman was chosen to lead Canada’s quest for gold again after
his predecessor, Wayne Gretzky, failed to help the team repeat four
years ago. He made all the right moves at the Olympics, assembling
a perfectly blended roster that gave the hockey-crazed country what
In Tampa Bay, Yzerman’s inherits a team that’s made three
coaching changes in two years but is not devoid of talent.
The roster includes two stars from the Stanley cup winner,
Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, as well as Victor Hedman
and Stephen Stamkos, the top pick in the 2008 NHL draft who scored
51 goals this season to tie Sidney Crosby for the league lead.
“Stevie will work for a singular owner – similar to the setup
we have in Detroit – and he’s got a handful of players to work with
right away,” Devellano said. “Stamkos and Hedman are promising
young players while St. Louis and Lecavalier are good
There’s been lots of speculation of about Lecavalier’s future.
The team’s highest-paid player has a no-trade clause in his
contract but has said he’d like to help the club get back to the
In addition to hiring a coach, preparing for next month’s NHL
draft will be a priority in coming weeks.
Yzerman welcomes the challenge.
“It was very difficult to leave the Red Wings. I’ve been there
my whole career and I was very safe there, surrounded by people I
knew and looked out for me,” Yzerman said. “That’s my home and
where my children were born. So this is a major decision, and one
I’ve thought about for a long time.”
AP Sports Writers Larry Lage in Detroit and Fred Goodall in St.
Petersburg, Fla.; AP reporter David N. Goodman in Detroit; and AP
freelance writer Mike Camunas in Tampa contributed to this