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Steve Yzerman's NHL All-Star debut unexpected

Red Wings rookie was third-youngest ever to appear in game on Jan. 31, 1984

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

LOS ANGELES -- Steve Yzerman said he can't remember for sure how he learned he was going to the 1984 NHL All-Star Game. He thinks he received a call from Glen Sather, coach of the Edmonton Oilers and the Campbell Conference.

But he's certain of one thing:

"I didn't expect it," he said.

When Yzerman suited up in orange and black at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Jan. 31, 1984, he wasn't just a rookie with the Detroit Red Wings; he was 18 years, 267 days old.

He was the third-youngest to play in an NHL All-Star Game, after Fleming Mackell of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1947 (18 years, 166 days) and Larry Hillman of the Red Wings in 1955 (18 years, 259 days). But Yzerman was the youngest to play in an All-Star Game who wasn't a member of a defending Stanley Cup champion, which was the old format.

Not until Jan. 30, 2011, when Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner played in the All-Star Game at age 18 years, 259 days, did someone younger do it.

"Now these kids, they're household names around the world before they're even drafted," Yzerman said. "For me, nobody even knew how to pronounce my name, where I played. And it was good, because you just came in and did your thing. But I had no idea if I was even going to make the Red Wings, let alone be an all-star."

The Red Wings did consider sending Yzerman, the No. 4 pick of the 1983 NHL Draft, back to Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League for the 1983-84 season. But he earned a roster spot in training camp and never looked back.

He found himself in the locker room at the All-Star Game with Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Lanny McDonald, Mark Messier and Denis Savard, with whom he now is enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He got an assist on a goal by Detroit teammate John Ogrodnick in a 7-6 loss to the Wales Conference.

"Compared to today's [All-Star] games it was a pretty competitive hockey game, and it was incredibly exciting," said Yzerman, who went on to finish with 39 goals and 87 points and rank second to Buffalo Sabres goaltender Tom Barrasso in the voting for the Calder Trophy. "It just happened so quickly. These events, there's so many people and players, and you're coming and going. It was just kind of an awesome experience being around, in the room with all the great players."

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