This is a really sad day for me because Steve Yzerman is my hockey hero.
I had been a hockey fan in the 1970s when the games were on NBC. I still remember Bobby Orr almost single-handedly beating Bernie Parent and the Flyers with slap shots off the faceoff on a power play.
But I had fallen away from the game after that. Sure, I read everything Bud Gallmeier ever wrote about the Komets, but hockey was my fourth or fifth favorite sport. Then I got my first full-time job in college in 1986 in Sturgis, Michigan. Great people, absolutely lousy job. One of the benefits was that I got to see almost every Red Wings game. I had no money so I'd stay home all the time and watch the games.
That was the year, if I remember correctly, that the Red Wings went Worst to First, behind the line of Yzerman, Gerard Gallant and Bob Probert. Man, that was a fun time. They lost to the Oilers in the playoffs, but the next year came back and faced them again. Yzerman had missed half the season with a knee injury but came back to play in the playoffs. Edmonton won the series, but Yzerman won everything else by coming back. From that time on, everyone rooted for Yzerman.
He was the ultimate team player who changed his game to fit what Scotty Bowman wanted. He led by example unless something absolutely had to be said. He simply had class. He was the most respected and classiest player in the game. When he got the cup the first time, I had tears in my eyes.
A few years ago Kent Hormann, Arnie Ball and I drove up to Detroit to see the Red Wings play the Blues. Arnie knew the Blues' trainer and got us down to the locker rooms after the game. Hull came out and Hormann of course marches right up to get an autography, only momentarily distracting Hull from the two dolls on his arms. Yzerman came out and I froze. Here I am 35 years old or so, a sportswriter who deals with people of fame every day, and I froze.
God, I loved watching that man play. I'm going to miss that. The NHL may not be the same for me for a while. Thank you, Stevie Y.