Ever since Steve Yzerman announced his retirement in July 2006, he's been on a management fast track as a Red Wings vice president and alternate governor. Yzerman also is working closely with Wings general manager Ken Holland.
On Oct. 7, 2008, Yzerman was finally able to flex those management muscles when he was named executive director of Team Canada for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
The fruits of Yzerman's labors were unveiled Wednesday when Team Canada unveiled a 23-man roster that is favored to win the gold medal in Vancouver.
"All Stevie has to worry about," Team Canada coach Mike Babcock grinned, "is making sure 34 million people are happy when the games are over."
Is that all?
"Seriously, though," Babcock continued, "Steve is a competitive guy. He's cerebral and really thinks out things and doesn't have trouble making hard decisions which is a really key part of leadership. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and we've shared that vision."
Talk about turning the tables. With Team Canada, Holland is an associate director and Babcock, the Red Wings' coach is behind the Team Canada bench.
"Steve did a tremendous job helping run Canada's World Championship team (which won gold at the 2007 IIHF World Championship in Moscow) and I don't even have to tell you what he's meant to Canadian hockey in general," Holland said. "It's a natural fit that when Wayne Gretzky stepped down that Steve would take over. Steve and I work together every day in Detroit, so I was very honored when he asked me to become associate director."
When jokingly asked if this would be his time for a little payback, Yzerman smiled.
"The one thing I've learned from Kenny about management in my four years working for him is the importance of talking with everyone around you," Yzerman said. "Kenny listens to everyone's opinion and they debate over and over and, at the end of the day, if there isn't a consensus, he just goes and spends some time on his own and figures out what he wants to do. That's the way I like to do it. I like to talk to everybody, get everyone's opinion and if we don't have a consensus, then it's my responsibility to figure out what we want to do or what we're going to do."
Yzerman has won praise for how he went about deliberating the Canadian roster.
"I think everybody knows what I think of Steve Yzerman," longtime Red Wings executive Jim Devellano told NHL.com. "I go back so far with him -- bringing in him as a 19-year-old player to Detroit. He was an automatic to run Team Canada. The one thing I know about Steve is he really uses people well and I say that in a good way.
"He likes to bounce things off of people that he trusts he and Kenny (Holland) work together spectacularly, along with Jim Nill and Ryan Martin and me. Kenny Holland would be the first to tell you it's a team effort; it's a big business today and you need a lot of good minds working together and giving input."
Following a Hockey Hall of Fame career that spanned 22 seasons, Yzerman is grateful to be getting the managerial opportunities in retirement.
"The guys that stay involved and work at it (in the front office), still enjoy the game," Yzerman said. "I like being around the game, like the people in the game and I like being involved. Someday, it'll be a great challenge to be in some type of role like Kenny or (Dallas Stars GM) Joe Nieuwendyk. We're all relatively young guys and I think there's still motivation to compete and to be a part of the game."
When Babcock was named Canadian coach, he knew his discussions with Yzerman would be a little different than those with Holland and the Red Wings.
"Now, I've coached Steve and I've been in the same organization as Steve, been out socially with him and understand him very well, so it's not going to be a hard situation," Babcock said. "But at times, when he and I get together, it'll be a different focus than maybe if Ken and I did but we'll all be working together on the same projects. Really, doing your job for one is often doing your job for the other."
That being said, creating Team Canada's roster was a Herculean task.
"It's always difficult any time you're picking a team to find that chemisty, to find the right pieces," Holland said. "When you win, you made the right decisions but when you lose, somebody will always have something to say. We have a lot of good people on this management team with international experience, so we should have a great team."