Drafted in 1983 by the Detroit Red Wings when it was a moribund franchise that had only made the playoffs once in the previous 13 seasons, Yzerman was the first player taken by the team’s then new owners, Mike and Marian Ilitch.
They had bought the Red Wings in 1982 and their first hire, general manager Jimmy Devellano – now Detroit’s senior vice-president – took Yzerman with the fourth overall pick of the NHL draft.
Yzerman, also now a Red Wing vice-president, went on to become the face of the team during a 23-season career. He announced his retirement this past July.
He led Detroit to Stanley Cup championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002, and his 20-season stint as the team’s captain is the longest tenure in league history.
Yzerman’s 1,063 assists are the most in Red Wings history, his 692 goals and 1,755 points are second only to Gordie Howe, and his 1,514 games are third behind Howe and Alex Delvecchio.
The centre won numerous awards, including the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1998, the 1989 Lester B. Pearson Award as that season’s most outstanding player as voted by the players and the 2000 Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward.
He also won the 2002-03 Bill Masterton Trophy, which goes to the player who most exhibits “perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
Yzerman will be the sixth jersey retired by the Red Wings. His No. 19 will be hung from the Joe Louis Arena rafters alongside Howe’s No. 9, Terry Sawchuk’s No. 1, Ted Lindsay’s No. 7, Delvecchio’s No. 10 and Sid Abel’s No. 12.
“It’s going to be a good time with all the old friends and former players coming back for it,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, who replaced Yzerman as Detroit’s captain this season. “Just a great accomplishment for the organization. He’s one of the greatest players ever in the league.
“He just retired last year and already they’re retiring his jersey. That shows you how much the organization thinks of him.”
Lidstrom, who has won four Norris Trophies as the league’s top defenceman, was Yzerman’s teammate for 15 seasons.
Another former Yzerman teammate, Red Wings’ defenceman Chris Chelios, had a two-and-a-half story banner saluting Yzerman placed on the side of his “Cheli’s Chili” restaurant and bar in downtown Detroit.