Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

Detroit’s Gift To Hockey:  19 To The Masses

Steve Yzerman has been the sole property of Hockeytown for twenty six years now.  Oh, we’ve loaned him out a few times, let him head to Canada now and again.  We even almost gave him away, allegedly, to Ottawa.  And just like the thought of almost NOT drafting him in ‘83 makes you want to suck your thumb and hum along to some Dr. Hook tunes?  The sick thought that he was almost dealt turns you all sickly and pale. 

But, luck intervened and the Islanders took Pat Lafontaine.  Then you, the 19—or the 19 before you—stepped in and made a statement.

When Scotty Bowman, allegedly, was on the verge of dealing The Captain out of Detroit you stormed the Joe.  You rose as one, directed your venom at the stumpy bald guy behind the bench, screamed Yzerman’s name on a warm opening night and made it clear that if he was leaving? Well, screw it, so were you.

And so he stayed.  For thirteen more years.

And three more Cups.

There are players who’ve been voted in who probably felt it was owed to them.  There are “captains” who stayed too long, wore out their welcome in at least three different cities, loved the attention, begged for it, thrived on it, then missed it so much created ways to keep their name out there….like inventing a “leadership award” and finding a hygiene product to sponsor it.  There are others who’s spectacular play earned their admission to the Hall, but their lack of character made you cringe to consider their place among the greats like Howe and Beliveau.

Steve Yzerman? He’s never felt like hockey owed him jack squat.  And his character is spotless.  He is the icon of our age.  A hero in a time when defining one is nearly impossible.

So we’re gonna go ahead and break the glass tonite.  We’re gonna smash it open and take him out.  We present our Captain to you because he’s always been bigger than just one town.  We’ve all known how lucky we’ve been and we’ve been stingy.  Frankly, if it was just about us, we’d keep him to ourselves.  But, it’s not and we know that.  We owe it to Steve Yzerman, against his wishes probably, to let him wear the C for an entire sport, not just the red and white.

He’ll have four minutes tonite.  Four minutes?  Yep, as I believe I heard, that’s all the inductees get.  Tell me, is there a formal time limit for baseball, football, basketball?  I didn’t think so.  Yet, we’re going to limit Yzerman.  We’re going to limit Brett Hull.  Uh huh. Good luck with that Gary. Ass.

Did you grow up with Steve Yzerman? I did.  Him and two others.  Yzerman and Alan Trammell were the two I looked up to as examples of how to play, if not live.  And then there was Kirk Gibson.  He was the devil on the other shoulder. 

But it was Yzerman of the three who really rallied us all.  It was Yzerman who willed us our first, then our second and our third.  Oh, I know.  They were 8, 9 and 10.  But it had been 42 years, man.  All we knew were the whispers.

Remember the Free Press photshopped his tooth in?  Whatever. He didn’t care.  Bettman blathered about something, about Hockeytown and the drought.  Whatever.  Just give the Cup to Stevie. He did and my frigging God the place exploded.  You were at the parade or you said you were and he held that shiny bitch aloft and held it there for hours, or so it seemed.  The Cup in the middle of millions.  And then next year he put in in Vladdie’s lap because he and 22 other guys said that’s where it belonged.

Four years later the legend was cemented with every shuddering rise from the ice.  If you’re a Wing fan you look back at that playoff run and you hear stories of the kind of pain he was in and it brings tears to your eyes because you feel like he did it for you, individually.  That’s the effect Yzerman had on Wing fans.  You just felt like when he won, he willed it for you.  And when the time came for credit and adulation, poof….gone.

But he’s ours no longer.  Tonite he becomes hockey’s.  And it’s a gift hockey had better be grateful for.  Hockey had better stand on its feet tonite and understand that there can be only one.  There has never been, and never will be, another Captain like Yzerman.  No one has withstood the kind of pain he did, or led as well.  Nobody.  As Captain Norris said in a comment earlier today, the Hall had better be ready to be humbled.

He’s been ours for nearly three decades, hockey.  Tonite we present him to you and the Hall becomes his keeper. 

image

The legacy, though, stays with us.

 

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com