Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Captain calls it quits

Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings' longtime captain who played his entire 22-year NHL career with Detroit, is retiring.

The 41-year-old Yzerman, who was 18 when he joined the Red Wings in 1983, ended months of speculation about his future when he announced his retirement at a news conference Monday.

Red Wings great Gordie Howe was in attendance.

"My intention throughout the season was to retire, play one last year," Yzerman said. "I really enjoyed my final season here with the Red Wings. I thought about it a lot, about coming back and playing this season. This is the right decision for me at this time. I really have no doubt about that."

Yzerman led Detroit to three Stanley Cups and playoff appearances in each of the last 15 years of his career. Only Gordie Howe holds as many franchise records. He has been Detroit's captain since 1986, making him the longest-serving captain in league history.

A 10-time All-Star, Yzerman was a member of the NHL's All-Rookie team in 1984, won the Lester B. Pearson Award honoring the league's outstanding player in 1989, the Conn Smythe Trophy honoring the playoff MVP in 1998 and helped Canada win gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

After leading the Red Wings back from years of mediocrity to the top rank of the NHL, Yzerman's individual achievements were tempered with disappointing team results late in his career. After winning back-to-back Cups in 1997-98, Detroit lost in the first or second round in six of seven years, interrupted only by the 2002 Cup.

The Red Wings had the best record in the league last season but lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs.

"I really enjoyed the season," Yzerman said. "It ended in disappointment, but that's the one great thing about sports in general. There's no predicting what's the outcome."

Major knee surgery limited Yzerman to 16 games in 2002-03, but he came back the following season to score 18 goals and 33 assists in 75 games. He managed 14 goals and 20 assists in 61 games last season despite tearing muscles three times.

One of Detroit's most popular pro athletes, the soft-spoken player long known simply as "The Captain" is the Red Wings' all-time leader in playoff scoring. He ranks first in assists and second only to Howe in games played, goals and points in the regular season. Yzerman also finished last season with more career regular-season and playoff points than any active NHL player.

Statements regarding the retirement of Yzerman:

"With his leadership and determination, with his devotion to the team concept, with his refusal to accept anything less than the best, Steve Yzerman became the symbol of the Detroit Red Wings’ standard of excellence in the modern era. The National Hockey League is grateful for Steve’s many contributions to the sport, nationally and internationally, and wishes him only good things in the future." -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

"Steve Yzerman was a tremendous hockey player who epitomized everything good about our game. He loved the game and played with passion every night. He was a winner who led Detroit to three Stanley Cups and was always there for his country to represent Canada on the international stage. He was the face of the Detroit Red Wings for the past 20 years and will be remembered as one of the best players and leaders that ever played the game of hockey. It was a pleasure to have worked with him." -- Wayne Gretzky

"Steve was a great ambassador for the game of hockey and will be sorely missed by everyone associated with the Nation Hockey League. Steve was a great leader, a great teammate and most importantly is a great person. I was fortunate to play at the 2002 Olympics with Steve and we won a gold medal together. It was a memorable experience and something I'll always cherish. I wish Steve the best of luck." -- Mario Lemieux


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