During the past 10 years that I’ve been working at FOX Sports Detroit and covering the Red Wings, I got to know Steve Yzerman just a little bit.
He’s a private man and I’m not sure anyone outside of his inner circle ever really gets to know the full scope of a man who plays it so close to the vest. However, one thing I do know about him is that he is quietly and supremely confident in his abilities. He also has a passion and willful determination that is second to none.
As a player and leader he showed these qualities for 22 seasons in a Red Wings uniform, leading the team to three Stanley Cups.
As an executive he showed these qualities in assembling gold-medal winning teams for Canada at the 2007 World Championships and the 2010 Olympics.
There are other ingredients that made Yzerman successful in each of these roles. He’s a man full of hunger, pride and an insatiable desire to win and prove himself — to others and, most of all, to himself.
You would think that being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this past November would have satisfied those types of desires. But when you’re wired like Steve Yzerman is wired, it only fuels your quest to find new challenges to conquer, new mountains to climb.
Running his own team provides such that challenge. This is his Mount Everest.
While some may be surprised he took the job as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, I don’t think anyone was surprised Steve Yzerman got a job running his own NHL team. At first blush, Tampa Bay and Steve Yzerman don’t seem to be a match made in hockey heaven. But if you look a little deeper, you see why this will work.
Tampa Bay is a team with new ownership which, merely by their dogged pursuit of Yzerman alone, has shown they are committed to winning … so is Yzerman.
They have 20-year-old Steven Stamkos, a rising superstar and future captain in the making … just as Yzerman once was.
They also have some very talented veterans in Martin St.Louis and Vinny Lecavalier, who have proven they know how to lead by winning a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. In other words, they have some winners, guys willing to pay the price … just like Yzerman.
He will build a team that will reflect his passion and tenacity, proving to himself and the hockey world yet again that you cannot underestimate the heart of a champion. He will bring a new, higher level of credibility to the Lightning franchise by his mere presence and the respect that accompanies his name.
He will succeed in Tampa Bay.
But, for all those reasons just mentioned, he will be missed here in Detroit.