Watching Steve Yzerman play down the stretch and in this year's playoffs, one thing was obvious: The guy can still play. Yeah, Stevie Y wasn't the dangerous scorer he once was, but in the Wings' first-round series against the Oilers, Yzerman was still a factor on the ice.
An "upper-body injury," which forced him to miss two games, seemed to be a turning point in the series. The Wings definitely missed their captain, who returned for Game 6. In that decisive game, Yzerman registered an assist in a losing effort.
Yzerman is retiring because it just takes too much effort to play at the high level we've come to expect from him. Without a doubt, his soon-to-be Hall of Fame career is filled with fabulous moments and accomplishments. Here are 10 that come to mind:
June 7, 1997 The Wings completed a four-game Cup finals sweep of the Flyers with a 2-1 win on home ice, ending a 42-year championship drought. Captain Yzerman accepted the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman. He took the first twirl around the Joe Louis Arena ice surface, holding the Cup over his head for an adorning crowd. The first Cup is a crowning moment in any player's career.
Feb. 24, 2002 Team Canada defeated Team USA, 5-2, to capture the gold medal at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Yzerman was among the club's key leaders both on and off the ice. The victory ended a 50-year gold-medal drought for Canada.
May 16, 1996 You've all seen the highlight. It's been shown many times. Yzerman cranked a long slapper past Blues goalie Jon Casey to win a Game 7 double-overtime thriller, 1-0, in Detroit. Yzerman jumped for joy after netting the series-clinching goal in the Western Conference semis.
Oct. 5, 1983 A baby-faced Yzerman, then just 18 years old, netted his first goal in his very first NHL game. Who did he score it against? Winnipeg Jets goalie Doug Soetaert.
June 16, 1998 Yzerman led the Wings to a second straight Stanley Cup championship, sweeping the Capitals in the finals. He led all playoff scorers with a career-best 24 points. The Wings dedicated their title to defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov, who were seriously injured during a car accident after the club's Cup win in 1997.
June 13, 2002 Yzerman accepted a third Cup after the Wings quieted the Hurricanes in Game 5. Yzerman enjoyed another strong playoff campaign, compiling 23 points in 23 postseason games. It was the final game for legendary coach Scotty Bowman, who laced up his blades and took the Cup for a lap around the Joe.
Jan. 17, 1996 Stevie Y scored the 500th goal of his career, against Avs superstar stopper Patrick Roy at the Joe Louis Arena. The power-play goal made him just the 22nd NHLer to reach the 500-goal plateau. It also helped the Wings defeat the rival Avalanche, 3-2.
June 15, 2000 In recognition of his strong two-way play, Yzerman is awarded the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward. Early in his career (it seems a lifetime ago now), Yzerman was an offense-only player. In the mid-'90s, he transformed his game under Bowman's tutelage. The Selke honor was recognition of his willingness and ability to dramatically change his style.
Feb. 24, 1993 Yzerman became the 37th player in league history to total 1,000 career points. He hit the mark with an assist against the Sabres in his 737th game. He was only the third player in club history to score 1,000 points. Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio were the others.
June 8, 1983 The Wings select Yzerman with the fourth overall pick in the NHL draft. Wings GM Jim Devellano later said he preferred prospects Sylvain Turgeon and Pat LaFontaine. As it turned out, the Wings were lucky Turgeon and LaFontaine went off the board with the second and third picks, respectively. They did just fine taking Yzerman.