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Fans can be thankful for what Yzerman brought them

Tuesday, 11.10.2009 / 11:04 AM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

Monday night, my plans were to point out all the reaction from fans regarding Steve Yzerman's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. But during the night I changed my mind.

Throughout a restless night, I kept going back to the words Steve said in his induction speech: "I just want to thank the entire organization for all you've done for me, you've done a great job. I've made it to that finish line …"

Yes Steve, you have reached the Finish Line, the one line a vast majority of hockey players never see. You've crossed that line with numerous individual and team awards. Even with the weight of an entire fanbase on your back, you finished first. First in our hearts and in our minds, and we will never forget.

Sure, there were disappointments along the way. The struggle to reach the ultimate goal, that of raising the Stanley Cup above your head, took longer than expected. The trade rumors, the injuries, the unexpected defeats when we felt the Wings were invincible, just made the Stanley Cup celebrations that much sweeter.

I've told this story before, but it's worth repeating; just thinking about it puts a smile on my face and shows you how much  an influence Steve Yzerman had on the fans of Hockeytown.

After the Wings won their first Cup in 42 years in 1997, numerous parties popped up throughout the Detroit area -- it was one big party and everyone wanted to say they at least attended one of these spontaneous gatherings.

One such party happened right in front of my eyes. Slowly, players entered a local establishment that happened to be in view of my second-floor balcony. I watched from above as word started to spread -- the Wings were arriving, Stevie has the Cup and soon the police had to be called to control the fans and traffic in the area.

A few streets were closed to traffic. I watched as a blue Porsche pulled up, only to be directed in a different direction. I noticed the driver of the car was Grant Hill, then a huge star for the Detroit Pistons.

Hill exited his car to speak with a police officer. He had a befuddled look on his face and did not grasp what was going on. As fans streamed by him, all doing a fast-walk to get to the Wings party, I only could imagine what Grant Hill was thinking.

Normally he would have been the person people were rushing to see, but not this time. Steve Yzerman and the Cup he had in his hands was the center of attention on this night, and fans could care less about meeting up with anyone else. The fans wanted to see the Cup with Yzerman and no one, including Grant Hill, was going to get in their way.

Hill eventually turned around and drove off, probably wondering if the same reaction would happen if the Pistons brought an NBA championship to Detroit.

Yes Steve, you have crossed one finish line, but I am sure there are many of those lines ahead of you. People say the first race they win is the one that is most remembered, and as a fan of the Detroit Red Wings, I must admit, that holds true. 

You thrilled us, Steve -- we named children after you, we have hockey shrines built because of you and now we anticipate your next race and assume you will finish first again.

You made our dreams come true, you brought happiness into our lives and provided us with memories we can pass on to younger generations. 

It is our time to thank you, Hockey Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman, for all that you have done for us.
Quote of the Day

I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.

— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas