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Yzerman: Mike Ilitch “will live on vividly in my mind and heart”

Owner of Detroit Red Wings, Tigers and Little Caesars died Friday.

Anaheim Ducks v Detroit Red Wings
Mike Ilitch during Steve Yzerman’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2007.
Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

To know what Mike Ilitch meant to the Detroit Red Wings, you need to look back to the year 1997, when the Wings won the Stanley Cup after a 42-year drought.

When a team wins the Cup nowadays, the captain of the team usually passes it on to a player who’s been in the league a while but hasn’t yet won.

When Steve Yzerman was presented with the Stanley Cup in 1997, the first person he handed the Cup to was Ilitch. Ilitch, the owner of the Red Wings since 1982 when he bought team for $8 million and the team was known as “the Dead Things,” died Friday. He was 87.

When Ilitch bought the Red Wings, his first move was hiring general manager Jimmy Devellano, who in turn drafted Yzerman with the No. 4 overall pick in 1983.

The rest, they say, is history.

Yzerman, now the Lightning’s general manager, on Saturday remembered the only owner he ever played for in his NHL career with some touching words. Read the full statement below.

I'm extremely saddened to hear news of the passing of Mr. Ilitch. Both Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, as well as their entire family, have had an immeasurable impact on not only my career, but my life.

Going back to the age of 18 when I arrived in Detroit, the guidance, generosity, concern and love Mr. Ilitch had always shown me and my family are things I will forever be grateful for.

I was extremely fortunate to have played my entire career for a man who's love of hockey and burning desire to win were the catalysts which drove the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup Championships after his purchasing the team in 1982.

Mr. Ilitch has left an incredible legacy in baseball, hockey and Metropolitan Detroit. He will forever be remembered for all the ways he enriched our lives. Mike Ilitch will live on vividly in my mind and heart forever.