The hockey careers of Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock have crossed a few times over the years, including the 2010 Winter Olympics as Babcock coached Team Canada for GM Yzerman. (Photo by Getty Images.)
For the first time in his life, Steve Yzerman that iconic hockey hero known to a generation of Hockeytown fans as simply “The Captain” will make his return to Joe Louis Arena this week.
But instead of wearing a Red Wings’ lapel pin on his tailored suit, the Hall of Famer who won three Stanley Cup championships as Wings’ center will be sporting one with a cobalt blue lightning bolt when he accompanies his Tampa Bay squad into JLA Wednesday night.
Like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, who eventually left the organization to play for other clubs, Yzerman will forever be a Red Wing for helping build a hockey renaissance that brought Stanley back to Detroit after a 42-year dry spell.
But for the last year and a half, Yzerman has been the vice president and general manager for the Lightning. He also served as executive director for a Team Canada squad that won the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
While Yzerman will likely receive a lot of media attention this week, Wings coach Mike Babcock, who coached the 2010 Canadian team, said he’s looking forward to it.
“I’m a big fan of Stevie’s, obviously from coaching with him, from working with him, from working with him in the Olympics,” Babcock said. “I talk to Steve – regularly would be too much – but quite a bit. And I think they do a good job there. I’m a fan of the coach (Guy Boucher) there and they have good players and it should be fun.”
Tampa Bay plays the Minnesota Wild tonight in St. Paul and will travel to Detroit right after the game. The Lightning are taking the unusual approach and staying in suburban Birmingham and practicing at the Troy Sports Center. Tuesday the Bolts will stake from 2-4 p.m. EST, and they will have a morning skate Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
“We get to watch them on TV here tonight and see what they’re more about,” Babcock said. “We went through quite a bit of it today already, but we’re excited to play them.”