I was not around to be a fan during the era of the “Dead Things.” I was born after Yzerman was already on the team. I was 15 days shy of 1 year old when he was named captain. I was in Africa when he brought the Cup back in 1997, and had just returned when he handed it to Konstantinov.
I’m embarrassed to say that I grew to love hockey after watching The Mighty Ducks. I played by myself in my concrete front yard in Nairobi, Kenya on roller skates with a broom and a tennis ball. I have no stories of Yzerman’s early years, or him bringing pride back to the Wings.
I started following the Wings during the 2001-02 season. I was a hockey fan looking for a team, and my best friend was a born and bred Wings fan. So, naturally, I picked them up. I didn’t get to enjoy the full glory of that team because I was in high school and did not have cable. I watched very few playoff games. I did not see the Statue of Liberty, or the wonderful Game 7 against Colorado. I did watch the Stanley Cup Finals. I watched Stevie lift that Cup, with his daughter next to him, and I was hooked. It wasn’t just the team that drew me, it was Stevie. It was watching him hand the Cup to Bowman, then the parade of veterans.
Like I said, I didn’t see a lot of the playoffs. But I got the DVD afterwards. And I heard the stories. Vancouver. Stevie’s knee. And from then on, he became my Captain. He’s been put on an untouchable pedestal in my mind. When people ask me who my favorite Wing is or was, I never say Yzerman. He’s above that. It’s just a given, in my mind, that he is the ultimate in the minds of every true Red Wings fan. Our favorite players could be proceeded by, “aside from Steve Yzerman.”
So why do I love Steve Yzerman? He is the best leader professional sports has ever seen. He is always a professional, regardless of the situation. He does not enjoy the spotlight, but tries to deflect it to his teammates and the organization. He is genuinely grateful to the Ilitch family and Jimmy D for giving him a chance. He can motivate an entire team without even saying a word. When the team was struggling, he did not call anyone out but pointed to himself. He never played the media game. He didn’t cry to the reporters when there were trade rumors, he just went out and showed Bowman why he had to keep him. He has the strongest, most intense stare I’ve ever seen.He exudes confidence to this day, but is still so down to earth.Â And, oh yeah, he’s one of the greatest all-around players to ever play the game.
And I love him for all the stuff he did before I even knew the Red Wings played hockey. I wasn’t here for his high-flying years, or for the return to glory, but I love him for it. Thanks to Steve Yzerman, and many others, I have never had to suffer the way I do as a Lions fan. Whenever the team is struggling, I still wish The Captain was there to set them straight with one of his short, concise, but powerful speeches.
That’s all I can say. There’re more reasons why I love him, but I cannot put them into words. He has a quality. If you are a Wings fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And you cannot put it into words either.
He’s Steve Yzerman, and he’s my captain. He’s The Captain.