Quick Note: For the sake of clarity and fluency, I have omitted extraneous uses of the phrases, “and,” “but,” “so,” “you know,” and “I mean.”
Question: What makes this place [Joe Louis Arena] unique to you?
Steve Yzerman: Oh, there’s a lot of things. [laughs] It’s just, you know what - the simplicity of the building is what was great about it, why it lasted so long. The atmosphere in the building, the fans are right on top of you. I like the ice surface, the ice was always good. The boards were good, they had a little bit of cushion to them. As a player - all the things that are important to a player, this building had.
Question: Steve, you had all that talent too around you, all those years. Is that ever going to happen again in any other [team] going forward?
Yzerman: Well, I think so. I think so. You look at some of these teams. Chicago - they’re a rival of the Detroit Red Wings and I’m still a Red Wings fan. You look at that team that they have and they’ve won three Stanley Cups and it looks like they’re contenders again.
Their nucleus is still relatively young. I think it’s more challenging obviously with the salary cap. It makes it a little bit more difficult. But yeah, I think you’re going to see some teams and potentially you’re looking at the Blackhawks right now as a team that might be that.
Question: You said - What did it mean to you that you were able to play your entire career in this one building? Not too many guys get to say that.
Yzerman: Yeah, I take great pride in that. I loved playing here, I loved playing in Detroit. It was really special to me to be a Red Wing my entire career. I was very - I was really lucky actually to be able to do that. There’s a lot of luck involved, timing comes into it, and we did a lot of winning. As a team wins, they want to keep it together and that was probably the biggest reason why I was here.
Question: Steve you always said that you were one of many great players here in Detroit...
Yzerman: I didn’t really say that, but [laughs]
Question: No, you said that you were one of a very good collection of athletes here, something to that nature.
Question: When you said that - when you look though back at that 2002 team with all the Hall of Famers, the top 100 that the NHL had - that is pretty extraordinary. Do you really believe that there could be a team that could rival that on the ice?
Yzerman: Yeah, for sure, oh absolutely. Well, you won’t be able to afford that in the salary cap now. That’s going to be difficult, but I do think - like we won whatever, I guess I retired - but that team won four Stanley Cups, the Red Wings, over a ten year period roughly.
You look at Chicago right now has won three. You look at L.A. has won a couple. Pittsburgh - these teams might do it. It’s just a little bit more of a challenge right now.
Question: Steve, Coop [Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper] mentioned the significance of some of the games from the [first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs] two years ago to the Lightning franchise - the come-from-behind win obviously in this building. Was that kind of a turning point there you think for the franchise to you?
Yzerman: For the Lightning? Oh, that was huge. I was sitting in the room next door watching the game. Whatever, we’re down two [games in the series] - we’re going to be down three games to one if we lose that. We’re all pretty quiet. Six minutes to go in that game, I think it was, turned it around. I think we went back and lost the next game in Tampa.
But winning a game on the road I think it gave our players a lot more confidence, a lot more comfort going in the road in the playoffs and winning games. We were able to come back in and play really well in Game 6 as well. If we lose that one, coming back from 3-1 is very difficult. You never know, but obviously it would have been very difficult.
Question: You knew [Detroit Red Wings captain] Henrik Zetterberg as a young player when he first came into the league. What do you think about the way he’s carried on the tradition that you and Nick [Nicklas Lidstrom] set for him?
Yzerman: From the day that he came into the organization, he was professional. Very mature, professional, the way he conducted himself, the way he practiced, the way he played. He was going to be Henrik whether Nick or I was there or not. He just has special qualities of a leader. Tremendous hockey player, tremendous all-around player.
Like from day one, he had all those abilities which I really admire ‘cause a lot of us had to learn that stuff and he knew it as a young man. He’s just been a fantastic leader for the team. Again, he’s what, 36 now? He’s having quite a year - a tremendous season. First impression of him was, “Wow. This guy’s got it. He’s got it figured out. He’s a classy guy. He’s a smart guy.”
I got to play against him actually in 2002 in Salt Lake at the Olympics. Sweden beat us in the first game. That was my first look at him live. He was really good, made a great play on his backhand on a 2-on-1. From that moment on, it was just like, “Wow. This guy’s really good.” And he has never, never looked back.
Question: We’re doing a story on Ted Lindsay. What does he mean to you, the NHL, and the Red Wings?
Yzerman: Well, Ted - I came to Detroit in 1983. You walk into the locker room, Ted Lindsay was in the gym working out. He’s probably still doing that today. He’s such a down-to-earth guy, such a nice person. Always took time to say hello, talk to you, ask about your family.
So a great role model for all the Red Wings, myself included, even the young guys that are here on the team today. A tremendous role model for them all in that you have a Hall of Fame player who had a tremendous impact on the Red Wing organization, but on the league for all the work that he did in getting a players’ association started. I just - you have to really like and admire the person. He’s never changed from day one.
That’s what I’ve always found is unique about the Red Wings is I come into this building as a kid, you walk in one day you see Gordie Howe, talk to Gordie Howe. The next day you walk in, you see Ted Lindsay. Alex Delvecchio keeps a very low profile around the city, but occasionally you’d see Alex. It just goes on and on with some of the older guys. Those are unique to playing in the Original Six cities.
Question: Will you take a memento with you [on your last night in Joe Louis Arena] or anything?
Yzerman: Not likely, no. [smiles] I’m hoping to get two points, that would be a nice way to get out of here. But no, not likely - I’ve got tremendous memories that I’ll always have. Nothing’s better than those.