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Busy Yzerman glad he played in Alumni Showdown

by Tal Pinchevsky

DETROIT -- For Steve Yzerman's first time competing in any sort of hockey game since retiring in 2006, his day got off to a pretty good start.

The longtime Detroit Red Wings captain and Hockey Hall of Fame member received a warm response as the final player introduced before the start of the second of two Alumni Showdown games Tuesday at Comerica Park. Red Wings alumni swept the doubleheader against Toronto Maple Leafs alumni, winning the opener 5-4 before earning a 6-5 victory in the second game on Tomas Holmstrom's shootout goal.

Yzerman seemed to labor at times on the ice. There was skepticism prior to the event that the general manager of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Canada's Olympic team would have time to participate. But in the end, the Detroit sports icon made it, and he's glad he did.

"I enjoyed it all. It's the first time I've played in a hockey game or scrimmage since my last game. It was fun to be back on the ice," Yzerman said. "In the last month, we were ironing out my schedule and it looked like I could get out there and play. I didn't have any time to skate before today. All in all, I'm pleased with my performance."

The 33,425 fans in attendance at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, gave Yzerman a rousing ovation as he walked toward the outdoor rink. It was apparent early on that Yzerman's presence meant a lot to dozens of former teammates.

"It was great. I said to Stevie, 'Thanks a lot,'" Kris Draper said. "I let him know that it meant a lot to us that he was there. We had a special event, and he took it to the next level."

He may not have registered on the scoresheet in the second alumni game Tuesday, but plenty of familiar names did. Detroit's five goals in regulation were scored by Doug Brown, Chris Chelios, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom, all of whom won the Stanley Cup at least twice alongside Yzerman.

Detroit came away with the sweep in the doubleheader, but the entire event was made all the more special by the presence of No. 19.

"I thought it was great for him to come out and play and get that reception. It was great to have him in our locker room again. He was our leader and our best player for a lot of years," Lidstrom said.

Lidstrom was honest in his assessment of Yzerman's play, as only a true teammate can be.

"He looked rusty in warm-ups," Lidstrom said. "He started to pick it up a little bit, but the pace is not quite there, which is natural."

Yzerman's return to Detroit was brief. He won't be in attendance at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday at Michigan Stadium, and his thoughts following the alumni game immediately turned to the difficult task of making final cuts for Canada's Olympic team. But for an afternoon, at least, Yzerman and the city of Detroit enjoyed a memorable reunion.

"It is a nice little distraction. I've got a lot on my mind these last couple of days," Yzerman said. "In Canada, we've got a lot of really good players. I've watched a lot of hockey; live, on TV, on tape. I took this afternoon off, but I'll head home and probably watch two games tonight. I enjoyed it. This was a good day."

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