Though the Red Wings had not won a STANLEY CUP in over 30 years, new, aggressive management and upcoming young stars sparked fan interest in the team. Yzerman, with his showy puck-handling abilities, quickly became a fan favourite. In 1986, at age 21, he was named caption, the youngest in Red Wings history. In the 6 years that followed, Yzerman consistently maintained an average of over 100 points per season and, for most of those seasons, scored over 50 goals per year. For his efforts he was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Trophy in 1989 as the league's most outstanding regular season player.
In 1995, for the first time in several decades, Detroit made the Stanley Cup finals, but was defeated by the New Jersey Devils. Rumours of a trade involving Yzerman surfaced soon after, but his personal success at the 1996 World Cup endeared him to Red Wing officials once again. Finally, in 1997, the Red Wings ended their Stanley Cup losing streak when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers. As team captain, Yzerman was the first Red Wing to hoist the trophy since 1955. He followed the win with another personal award, the CONN SMYTHE TROPHY as his team's most valuable player, another Stanley Cup victory with the Red Wings, and an OLYMPIC GAMES appearance at Nagano in 1998. He would secure another honour, the Frank J. Selke Trophy for his defensive-forward skills, in 2000, and status as one of only 11 NHL players to break the 600-goal barrier, before injuries began to hamper his career.
In 2000 Yzerman seriously aggravated an existing knee condition and was unable to play much of the season. He did, however, manage to take part in the Stanley Cup playoffs that season before undergoing knee-realignment surgery in the off-season. Though he played only 16 games the following season, he was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication to his sport, and he was a member of the gold medal OLYMPIC HOCKEY TEAM at Salt Lake in 2002. He managed to make it back to the Red Wings for the 2003-04 season, helping them secure the Presidents' Trophy as the top regular season team, and he also surpassed the 1700-point barrier that season. After the 2005-06 lockout Yzerman began to entertain thoughts of retirement, making it official in July 2006.
Throughout his career, Steve Yzerman had the rare distinction of being the longest-serving captain in NHL history and, equally rare, he only played for one NHL team, the Red Wings. In all, he amassed a career total of 1755 points and was named to 10 All-Star teams. In 2006 Yzerman transitioned from player to administrator, becoming the Red Wings Vice President. To honour one of their longest-serving members, the Red Wings retired Yzerman's jersey (#19) in 2007. Yzerman was also named to CANADA'S SPORTS HALL OF FAME in 2008, and in 2009 he was inducted into the HOCKEY HALL OF FAME. Yzerman continues his management role in the Red Wings administration, and in both 2007 and 2008 he managed Team Canada at the World Championships. In 2009 he was chosen to manage Team Canada at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Author LORRAINE SNYDER
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