Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Being GM for team and country tough for Lightning's Yzerman

Given the drama that erupted around Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman as executive director of Canada's Olympic team, one might expect Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik to say "no way" when asked if he would allow Yzerman to take the job again.

But Vinik said he would not outright prohibit Yzerman from signing up.

"I wouldn't preclude the idea," Vinik said, though he added, "I'd have a discussion with him."

The point is moot, actually, as Yzerman, who led Canada to consecutive gold medals, said he will not be the boss of the 2018 team if the NHL decides to participate in the Games in South Korea.

Not because of the controversy and rancor that developed when then-Lightning captain Marty St. Louis was left off Canada's initial roster for last month's Games in Sochi, Russia, but because, Yzerman said, "It's time for me to step aside and give somebody else an opportunity."

Even so, the debate remains valid. Should a general manager head his country's Olympic efforts when personnel decisions could go against members of his NHL team?

"I think as a manager of a team, you really have to think about it," former Lightning and Flames GM Jay Feaster said. "At the end of the day, as much as you have pride in your country, your first obligation is to the team that's paying you. In retrospect, I ask: Is that why Steve stepped down at the end of these Olympics?"

"I don't think we'll see another GM doing that," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "I don't think anyone realized the impact it can have on the relationship with your players on your team and your country."

And what an effect Yzerman had.

Canada's roster was debated ad nauseam by the media and fans, not because of who was included but who wasn't. The search for snubs was endless. St. Louis apparently was so disturbed at being left off the roster, it was the final push he needed to leave Tampa Bay — even after he later was added to replace the injured Stamkos.

None of that, though, Yzerman said, was the impetus for him to say after Canada won gold that he would not lead a team in 2018. In fact, he said, he made the decision two years ago when Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson asked him to put together the team that would defend the 2010 gold medal won in Vancouver.

"I would love to go to Russia and try to win a gold medal and repeat as champion and try to win in a foreign land. That was my reason for doing it one more time," Yzerman said of leading the team in Sochi.

As for Canada's gold medal, Yzerman said, "I was thrilled to be part of it."

But he's done.

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