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Steve Yzerman to return to Detroit for first time since leaving Red Wings to become Tampa Bay Lightning GM

Steve Yzerman was captain for three Stanley Cup champs with the Red Wings, breaking Detroit’s 42-year drought.

Getty Images (2000)

Steve Yzerman was captain for three Stanley Cup champs with the Red Wings, breaking Detroit’s 42-year drought.

DETROIT — During a timeout in the first period of tonight's game between the Lightning and Red Wings, the public address announcer at Joe Louis Arena will introduce Steve Yzerman.

A shot of Yzerman in his seat will be shown on the scoreboard, which then will run a video tribute; at least that is the plan, the Red Wings said.

It is a display Yzerman probably could do without.

Not that he won't appreciate it. "But the game is about Tampa Bay playing Detroit. It's not about me," Yzerman said. "It shouldn't be about me."

But in a way, it is.

Yzerman brings the Lightning to Detroit for the first time since last year leaving the Red Wings — the team for which he had a 23-year Hall of Fame career and worked four years as a vice president — to become Tampa Bay's general manager.

So, yeah, Detroit GM Ken Holland said, "It will be a big deal."

"He's beloved in Detroit and Michigan," Holland said. "He was the guy who put hockey back on the map here in the '80s, when it had fallen off the map here for 15 years. He led us to our first championship in 42 years (1997). His (No. 19) jersey is in the rafters. He's one of the greatest Red Wings players ever."

• • •

Holland said he was surprised in May 2010 when Yzerman left the Wings because his connection to Detroit is that strong.

Yzerman, wife Lisa and daughters Isabella, 17; Maria, 13, and Sophia, 12, still have a home in the area, and Yzerman spends a lot of time commuting.

He also said he always will be a Red Wing.

"It never changes," he said.

But Yzerman wanted to be a general manager. And with Holland, at whose right hand he learned the business, entrenched in Detroit, Yzerman signed a five-year deal with the Lightning.

Yzerman, 46, brought instant credibility to a downtrodden franchise that hadn't been to the playoffs in four years. And his savvy moves — trading for goalie Dwayne Roloson and defenseman Eric Brewer — helped take Tampa Bay to within one game of last season's Stanley Cup final.

"He's doing great," Holland said. "He's made some real key decisions. I talk to him quite a bit, and I know he wants a team that's built for the long term."

"Obviously," Yzerman said, "I want to build a Stanley Cup champion. … It's a real challenge, and I've really enjoyed it. We've got a lot of work to do here. But my family has been very happy, and when we win, I'm happy."

As for the Tampa Bay area, "I'll tell you," he said, chuckling, "it grows on you."

• • •

Yzerman has not publicly committed to attending tonight's game. He is in town and was at the Lightning's Tuesday practice.

But, you know, he's a busy guy.

"There's a lot of other things to do, a lot of other hockey games to see," Yzerman said. "If there are other places I should be and I can make the best use of my time, then I'll go. If not, then I'll go to the game in Detroit."

Let's assume Yzerman will attend. The Red Wings likely would not state that a tribute is planned if Yzerman was not going to show.

Tampa Bay players figure their tribute will be their play.

"He obviously really wants to win that game," said captain Vinny Lecavalier, who idolized Yzerman growing up. "I'm sure it's going to be very special for him, and yeah, we really want to play a good game for ourselves and for him, too."

"We want to make him proud by competing and playing hard," left wing Ryan Malone said. "It would be great to give him a win, but you want to make sure you go out with a great effort he deserves for what he's done in Tampa and Detroit."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

.TONIGHT

Lightning at Red Wings

When/where: 7:30; Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: Versus; 970-AM

Key stats: The Lightning is 1-12-0 with a tie in Detroit, where it has not won since January 1994 (0-9-0 with a tie). … Tampa Bay W Marty St. Louis has zero goals and three assists in 15 games against the Red Wings. … Detroit's 19 home points (9-2-1) are tied for the league's best. … The Red Wings have outscored opponents 43-23 at home. … Detroit RW Johan Franzen and Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier entered Tuesday tied with a league-best four winning goals. … Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom's 13 points on six goals, seven assists led all defensemen in home-ice scoring.

Steve Yzerman to return to Detroit for first time since leaving Red Wings to become Tampa Bay Lightning GM 11/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:06pm]
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