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Five Questions: Yzerman on life as Lightning GM

Sunday, 10.07.2012 / 9:00 AM / Five Questions With…

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Five Questions: Yzerman on life as Lightning GM
Steve Yzerman may have traded his stick and skates for a suit and tie, but the urge to win that marked his 22 seasons as an NHL player is every bit as intense now that he's Tampa Bay's GM.

NHL.com will periodically be doing a series called "Five Questions With…," a Q&A with some of the key movers and shakers in the game today aimed to gain some insight into their lives and careers.

This edition features Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman:

When Steve Yzerman decided to trade in his stick and skates for a briefcase and dress shoes, he did so with an eye on consistently feeding the competitive spirit that drove him to play 22 Hall of Fame seasons for the Detroit Red Wings.

Six years later, Yzerman has won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Red Wings' front office, guided Canada to an Olympic gold medal in Canada as the team's executive director -- and now he's in the process of rebuilding the brand of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Some could argue Yzerman is one more Stanley Cup championship away from having a Hall of Fame post-playing career.

"Coaching is a tough and exciting job, and I had an interest, but when I retired I really leaned toward management because it was more interesting. I like the idea of building a team, finding players." -- Steve Yzerman

Yzerman, 47, gave NHL.com insight into why he chose to be in management and some of the responsibilities he faces in his day-to-day life.

Here are Five Questions With … Steve Yzerman:

Why did you want to turn to management when you retired rather than, say, coaching or scouting or just maybe a generally easier way of living than the pressure and stress you're under now as a GM?

"I always wanted to stay in the game; it's what I enjoy most. I've been intrigued by both coaching and management, but as I went through my career the idea of building your own organization, putting together your own staff was more appealing to me than coaching. I believe being the general manager is an incredible responsibility and a great challenge. I always thought that way, which is why I leaned more in that direction. Coaching is a tough and exciting job, and I had an interest, but when I retired I really leaned toward management because it was more interesting. I like the idea of building a team, finding players."

People see you and they see the Red Wings, so how do you separate that now because you are no longer associated with the Wings?

"It doesn't come into play doing my job. I was in the [Detroit] organization for a long time, and I will always be associated -- or at least I hope I'll always be associated with -- the organization even though I don't work for them at this time. I learned so much being a player and a part of that group, and a lot of it molded me and my ideas in the game as well. I accepted a position in Tampa and I really enjoy what I'm doing. I love being a part of this organization, the people I work with and work for. You can't look back, and at the same time you can't live in the past."

More pressure: Playing for Team Canada or managing Team Canada?

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"I didn't play for Canada in Canada, so that is a little bit different. I've always felt pressure is what you put upon yourself, and I felt equally responsible as a player and as a manager. I guess I enjoyed both of them. It was a great experience in Vancouver, but it was something I never experienced before. As a player, I experienced a lot of things. So I would probably say, if I had to pick one, being the manager of that team, whether it's true or not, you feel a huge amount of responsibility. There were sleepless nights, but as a player there are nights where you don't sleep at all too. It could be after some games when they've gone really well and you're just too excited, and after some games when they haven't gone well and you're upset. As a player I had those a little in the Olympics, but more as the manager."

When scouting, what does Steve Yzerman look for in a center?

"You have to know there are different types of centermen, so in scouting you've got to learn to appreciate different types of players. A Stanley Cup team doesn't have four centermen that play the same way, so you try to find out what type of player they are -- if they're defensive-minded or a playmaker. But in centermen for the most part, you want guys with good hockey sense all over the ice because they're all over the place. It's a little different than playing wing. I like to think your prototypical center is responsible in both ends of the rink, has good vision, and can both produce on offense and play well on defense."

As a GM you have some influence, so I have to ask: Is there one rule or interpretation you would like to see changed today?

"Boarding. I think we put an emphasis on boarding and kind of rewrote the rule last year, and to be perfectly honest I don't think it worked out well at all. Now every time a guy gets hit in the boards he throws himself in the boards and lays there until he sees if the referee puts his hands up or not. Players with the puck have some responsibility to protect themselves and not put themselves in vulnerable positions. That's the one rule I'd like to see us continue to spend time on."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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