“I have no regret at all,” Yzerman said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “The last couple of years was a struggle just to get out there. I put a lot of effort in getting ready to play. To me, I’ve almost found it a relief to not have to physically try and keep up because it was becoming very difficult for me to do that. “I’m very happy with my decision.”
So happy that when he watches his team play these days, in his new front-office role as team vice-president, it feels right.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching hockey games, moreso than maybe I expected,” Yzerman said.
Day-to-day life has changed dramatically for the 41-year-old, but he says he’s really enjoying his new job.
“I’m free to make my own schedule,” he says. “I don’t necessarily have to go down to Joe Louis Arena every day. I watch our team play quite a bit. I watch some of our prospects play on a regular basis, try to get to at least one game a week. And I spend some time around the office in a lot of the departments to get a feel for what they’re doing.”
He spends a lot of time with GM Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill and director of hockey administration Ryan Martin, “just observing and asking a lot of questions.”
Yzerman is currently joining Holland and Wings senior vice-president Jim Devellano at his first Board of Governors meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.
The main thing he is trying to find out is what his future holds. Will he be a GM one day?
“I’m really not sure about that. I guess that’s something that interests me but for now my intention over the next year or two is just to have some positive input into our organization but really just learning how the business is run with the idea at some point in the future of taking on a more a bigger role on the staff somewhere along the way.”
Holland chuckled when asked whether he was worried for his job. He’s tremendously enjoyed having Yzerman around the office.
“Every day we have internal conversations, we being Jim Nill, myself, sometimes Ryan Martin,” says Holland. “And Steve loves to sit in and start talking about the draft, our team, our farm team, the draft, how we can make our team better, and I think it’s been great for Steve but also for me because he’s bringing in a unique perspective.”
Holland points to the recent US$15-million, five-year contract extension he gave to defenceman Niklas Kronwall as an example of Yzerman’s input.
“When we talked about the Niklas Kronwall signing, well, he played with Niklas Kronwall,” said Holland. “He’s got a perspective where he was right in that locker-room. Me getting Steve’s thoughts was valuable information in ultimately making a long-term decision to sign Niklas Kronwall. . . .
“Right now, with him coming right out of the NHL, nobody has a better feel for the league and our team than Steve,” added Holland. “He was right into our dressing room, he knows the chemistry and the dynamics. When I talk to him about other players around the league, he played against them, so he’s got first-hand, current knowledge from being on the ice with those guys.”
But where this all leads is anyone’s guess.
“Does he end up down the road being a GM, does he end up being a president, what title? He has to figure that out,” said Holland. “But I know Steve has great passion for the game.
“Even when he was playing, if he knew I was out on a scouting trip at the world juniors, I’d come back and we’d quickly get into a half-hour conversation. He would want to know how the Red Wings prospects played in the tournament and wanted to know about possible draft choices. He’s always been interested in the building of our hockey team.”
Putting on his front-office hat, Yzerman was asked about his team’s performance so far this season.
“I think we’ve gotten off to a very good start,” he said of the Red Wings, who were 14-7-4 heading into Tuesday night. “I like the way the team plays. I think they compete very hard. I think we’ve become a little bigger and a little physically stronger. . . .
“I like what I see from our hockey club, there’s areas obviously to improve, but I’m pretty optimistic about this team and I think we’ll get stronger as the season goes along here.”
The Ottawa native announced his retirement July 3. He spent his entire career with the Red Wings, winning three Stanley Cups. Detroit will retire his No. 19 in a one-hour ceremony Jan. 2 before a game against the Anaheim Ducks.
Will the tears be flowing?
“I’m looking forward to it but I don’t know how I’m going to handle it,” said Yzerman. “We’ll have to wait and see.”