DETROIT -- Steve Yzerman has been Tampa Bay Lightning general manager for five years and they have played the Detroit Red Wings in many games during that time.
But the Eastern Conference First Round will be the first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the Red Wings will play the team put together by the man who was the face of their franchise for so many years.
Game 1 is Thursday at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, FS-D, FS-F).
Yzerman played his Hockey Hall of Fame career with Detroit (1983-2006). He was the longest-serving captain in NHL history, from 1986 to 2006. He won the Stanley Cup three times as a player (1997, 1998 and 2002), and won it a fourth time as a Red Wings executive (2008).
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was Yzerman's teammate for three seasons and had the locker stall next to him.
"I sat with him the last two years, learned a lot, how he prepared himself on and off the ice, and how he always was there for the team. It's something that I try to do," Zetterberg said. "Obviously he's the captain of the Detroit Red Wings. He will always be that. It doesn't matter who takes over afterward, he will be the captain. I played with him; it was an honor to sit next to him and just learn from him."
But the series against the Lightning is business as usual.
"He's the GM of the team, so any team he's playing he wants to win," Zetterberg said. "I don't think that because it's the Red Wings and Stevie has been the captain here for so long. … It's more a media thing than people involved are thinking about it. It's more for newspapers than anything else."
Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano selected Yzerman with the fourth pick of the 1983 NHL Draft when he was general manager.
"It's been five years [since Yzerman last played]. We've had a long time, both [Yzerman] and us have had a long time to get used to it," Devellano said. "He's done a good job and none of us are surprised."
Yzerman played for Detroit GM Ken Holland from 1997 to the end of his career and worked in the front office under Holland as a vice president for four years before becoming Tampa Bay's general manager. Holland said the only conversations he's had with Yzerman since the matchup was set was to discuss the logistics of what each team needed at the other's arena.
"I probably would have preferred to play somebody else, and Steve would probably tell you the same thing," Holland said. "But now that we're here, after a couple of weeks, one team is going to win and the other is going to go home.
"The game's played on the ice. We've done our parts. It's in the hands of the players and coaches. It's a nice side light from the fan's point of view. But at the end of the day it's up to the players and coaches."