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Yzerman is among state's best and brightest

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
over a year and half after he announced his retirement from the game, Steve Yzerman was enshrined in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
DETROIT -- On February 11, 2008, Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman took another step toward hockey immortality when he was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. A month earlier, Yzerman was honored in a similar shrine in Ottawa, not far from where he grew up in Canada.

Yzerman was joined by former Red Wings' great Norm Ullman in Michigan’s Class of 2007, joining 18 Red Wings who reside in the MSHOF, including Gordie Howe (1957), Ted Lindsay (’66), Sid Abel (’67), Ebbie Goodfellow (’68), Terry Sawchuk (’74), James Norris (’76), Alex Delvecchio (’77), Bill Gadsby (’86), Budd Lynch (’94), Red Berenson (’96), Bruce Martyn (’96), Red Kelly (’98), Scotty Bowman (’99), Jack Stewart (’00), Mike Ilitch (’04) and Jimmy Devellano (’06).

While Ullman was unable to attended the ceremonies, here is what Stevie Y said to those in attendance at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit:

First off, I’d like to thank Jim Stark and the entire induction committee for bestowing this greater honor upon me. As you can see this tremendous group of athletes from all different sports, from different eras, and from different roles in sports, it is a tremendous group for me to be a part of.

Upon learning of my induction into the hall of fame, I got an opportunity, and I encourage you all to do so, to look back at the history of the hall and see the tremendous athletes that are in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. From all different sports, whether they be coaches, volunteers – one thing that Michigan does produce is tremendous athletes, tremendous coaches, tremendous people that want to just help out. We should be very grateful for the many good things that we have in our state. And one thing that we do produce is great sports athletes and people to support the games as well.

I came to Detroit and to Michigan in 1983 and over the course of my live here in Detroit I’ve been able to witness World Series championships, NBA championships, thank God, Stanley Cup championships, Olympic gold medallists. We really have seen it all here and we should be very grateful. I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Ryder Cup here in Michigan. I’ve been to the Buick Open. I had a chance to go and watch the Super Bowl and every event that is hosted in our state people come in and they leave, and can not believe how well events are hosted and how well they are supported. It really is a tribute to all of our citizens and how much we love sports and how proud we are of our own state here in Michigan.

I was drafted by the Red Wings in ’83, and the question that continues is ‘What is it like to play for an Original Six team?’ When I was a young kid down at Joe Louis Arena walking down the hallway one day, Gordie Howe just happened to pass by me walking by. I never met him before and he just nodded and said ‘hi’. Of course, I knew who he was, but I don’t think he had any suspicion of me at that time -- in that picture you just saw -- that I could possibly play for the Red Wings. Over the course of time, whether it be walking into the room and seeing Ted Lindsay working out in the locker room, last year when I had the good fortune of having my jersey retired and seeing Alex Delvecchio, a family member of Sid Abel or Terry Sawchuk in the building, and then tonight getting a chance to look up and see Bill Gadsby, Red Berenson, Nick Libbett, who I believe is in the building as well. For me as a Red Wing, these people were larger than life to me as a young boy. And the opportunity to come into this organization and to wear the jersey that these men wore and then to get to know them and know what kind of people they are – they’re just tremendous role models for me and all my Red Wing teammates and future Red Wings. They set a standard for how Red Wings should conduct themselves, how they should represent Detroit, the State of Michigan, and our entire organization. I am very grateful, so to answer everyone’s question about what it’s like to play for and Original Six franchise like the Detroit Red Wings: there are only six of the 30 teams in the league that get a chance to play in an organization with that history, and we really -- myself and my teammates and the future Red Wings -- really owe it to the Bill Gadsbys, to the Nick Libbetts, to the Red Berensons, Gordie Howes and Ted Lindsays. They’ve set an incredible standard and are fantastic role models for myself and for all the future Red Wings to come, and I can only hope to represent our organization like these gentlemen have done for decades.

As most of you have known, Mr. And Mrs. Ilitch purchased the team in 1983 and immediately brought Jimmy Devellano in as general manager, and I believe that was Ken Holland’s first year in the organization as well. Together, as a group, they really protected me and they watched over me. Pumped my tires when they needed to be pumped. Took a little bit of air out of my tires when I needed a little air taken out. And really, really allowed me to grow up and really guided me along throughout my career and they continue to do that now in my role with the team. I got a chance to play for that group of people that I just mentioned and now I’m getting the opportunity to work with them. And I think it’s very fair to say, a group that has worked that long together and the incredible success that they’ve had together – I don’t know that you’ve seen that in sports – how low keyed and how out of the limelight that group has stayed. And I think that’s a big reason why are organization has maintained the success it has over the course of time is that we’ve had such a fantastic group starting with Mr. And Mrs. Ilitch with Jimmy D and Kenny. The only thing they want to do is win, and I hear that daily, and now I get to witness it first-hand in the offices at Joe Louis Arena. All they want to do is win. They’re now in this for personal glory or the accolades. They just love the Detroit Red Wings and enjoy what they’re doing. So for me, it’s another great example and a great learning experience for me in just how a great sports organization should be run. I’m very grateful for the approach that they’ve taken and I’ve reaped the benefits and the rewards of their humbleness, their determination and their knowledge of the game.

Last year I had the good fortune to come to the Sports Hall of Fame dinner and Jimmy Devellano, the general manager who drafted me as a Detroit Red Wing was inducted into the hall of fame. I’m sure many of you were here and Jimmy gave a fantastic speech and in true Jimmy D fashion credited everybody he could think of, but himself for the success of the Detroit Red Wings. And I know he doesn’t like to talk about it, but I get the opportunity a year later to come up and say the things that Jimmy would never say. He truly loves the Detroit Red Wings; they are his passion. He loves to win and day in and day out from the summer of 1982 when he was hired by the Red Wings I don’t think a moment has gone by in any day the he hasn’t thought about a way that he can improve the Detroit Red Wings or thought about what was going on with our organization. It really gives us an opportunity now once again to not only to acknowledge him, but to really thank him for his effort, his humility, and for me personally, the guidance and the mentorship that he has provided. And I think Ken Holland would agree with me that he is an invaluable asset, and I just wanted to single Jimmy D out.

For years to come he will be a great mentor, a great advisor, and a great executive for the Detroit Red Wings, and we within, and I hope you all understand how important a role he has played for our organization.

Now over a course of 24 years – and you think Frank (Beckmann) went on long – I can go on a long time here with all of the people I have to thank. I think I played for six coaches over the course of my NHL career, and really benefited and learned from all of them. We’re here to recognize great athletes, past and present, I can just stand up here for 15 minutes and rhyme off name after name of some of the players that I played with. Over the course of the next few years we’ll get the opportunity, I think, to honor some of the tremendous players that I played with, so I really feel that myself, being up here, at one time when I was young and naïve I thought I was a tremendous athlete, and then I got to be around truly tremendous athletes. I realized that I really didn’t do anything particularly special. I think my greatest skills have been being associated with tremendous hockey players. And really for me to stand up here, I really have to attribute it to – and I’ll only mention a few names – but the obvious are Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, I could go on and on, Igor Larionov. It brings me back to the group of people that are up here as well. There are so many tremendous athletes, and what I like about the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and a hall of fame that has a personal touch to it, is we don’t just recognize an individual in a particular sport, but we get to recognize athletes, people who contribute to sport in all different facets. It is truly a tremendous honor and I really accept it on behalf -- not so much myself and my family -- but as a representative of the Detroit Red Wings, and I hope to carry much like Bill and Gordie and Nick have, the tradition of pride and excellence on in my post-playing career as many of the former Red Wings have.

As I said, I was drafted in ‘83, I came here at the age of 18. My wife, Lisa, joined me in 1989 and we have thoroughly enjoyed our life here in Michigan, in the Detroit area. Really had a lot of fun, made wonderful friends, and this entire area has left a huge impact on us in how we conduct ourselves, and our values, and our principles. We’ve really made tremendous friends, and we attribute part of that, a lot of that, to our parents and our families, but a lot of it to the type of people we’ve been around and exposed to here in the state of Michigan; our friends, and just in general how the people in this state live and what they want and what they represent. We have three daughters born here in the Detroit area, growing up our oldest daughter is almost 14 now. Lisa would obviously agree with me: that’s our pride and joy of all the great things that have happened in our time here in Michigan. The birth of our three daughters and watching them grow up has been the greatest experience we’ve had here.

I would like to conclude here by saying, our daughters are happy and healthy, we believe that they have good values, they’re good little girls. We like to take a lot of credit for that, but we do recognize a lot of credit, the reason they are what they are, is because of their friends at school, their teachers, the families that we’ve become friends with, and again in general the people of Michigan and the way they conduct themselves and what they want, and what they want out of life and what is important.

So, if anything, I would really like to thank all of you here, the entire State of Michigan, on behalf of Lisa and my kids, just for the way we’ve been treated. I have three wonderful little girls, who are extremely happy and I think the state is a big reason for that, and for that I give you my biggest thanks.

I hope you’ve had a great evening; I certainly have. It’s a tremendous honor to see some familiar faces, people who I grew up watching, and as a sports fan I take great pride in being a part of the 2007 class of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. It’s been very special, and I thank you very much.

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