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 MICHAEL ROSENBERG: The time is now; No. 19 will retire 
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Post MICHAEL ROSENBERG: The time is now; No. 19 will retire
From May 3

freep.com wrote:
Steve Yzerman says he knows what he'll do. And for once, the mysterious legend is easy to figure out:

The Captain plans to retire.

Yzerman has always been undecided about his future in recent years. But after the Red Wings were eliminated Monday night at Edmonton, Yzerman said he knows what he will do and will make an announcement within a week.

There are two reasons for the delay. Even in defeat, Yzerman doesn't want to overshadow his team. And he is wisely taking a few days to confirm his plans. But at this point, Yzerman's return is only slightly more likely than Ted Lindsay's.

If you think Yzerman is coming back for a 23rd season, understand this: He almost didn't finish his 22nd.

Yzerman came close to retiring in the middle of this season. A lot closer than most people realize.

How close?

One game away.

According to two people familiar with his thinking, Yzerman had serious discussions with the Red Wings about retiring in late November. He even had a final game in mind: Dec. 1 at home against Calgary.

Close call

When the Wings played Nov. 26 at San Jose, Yzerman took the highly unusual step of asking out of the lineup.

"My knee was sore," Yzerman said then. "I just wanted to take a day off, just to rest."

That was only part of the story. Though nobody knew it, Yzerman had been hit in the head against Anaheim the night before. The combination of the head injury and his knee troubles were too much to overcome. And though most of his teammates didn't realize it, the end of Yzerman's career appeared near.

Yzerman was frustrated by his inability to make plays he made just two or three years ago. And to Yzerman's disappointment, the Wings' new coach, Mike Babcock, did not seem to have much faith in his star. While predecessors Scotty Bowman and Dave Lewis were deferential to Yzerman, Babcock was not.

Babcock had given Yzerman only 6 minutes, 37 seconds of ice time against Anaheim. The game before that, his ice time was 6:17.

Yzerman understandably did not want to be a six-minute-per-night player. But he seemed stuck in that role. Two other Wings centers were thriving: Pavel Datsyuk's playmaking style seemed perfect for the new NHL, and Robert Lang had five assists in the San Jose game alone.

Then came an ironic twist: Instead of retiring because of injury, Yzerman avoided retirement because of an injury.

It was the night of Nov. 28, two days after Yzerman asked out of the lineup. The Wings were playing at Los Angeles. This was supposed to be Yzerman's final road game. It changed his season instead.

Early in the second period, Lang suffered a groin injury. Less than five minutes later, Yzerman assisted on a Mathieu Schneider goal. A few minutes after that, the Captain followed up with a goal of his own.

With Lang out of the lineup, Babcock had no choice but to give Yzerman more ice time. And with his performance against L.A. (he nearly scored two other times), Yzerman suddenly had reason to think he could play at a high level again.

The Wings came home for that Dec. 1 game against Calgary. But Yzerman's retirement was now on hold. He continued to improve, and in the last month, Yzerman was one of the Wings' best players -- a development that seemed impossible just a few months before.

Last dance

At the end of what was surely Steve Yzerman's final game, the Wings had one last chance at a miracle. It was a face-off in the Edmonton end. If you have followed Yzerman's career at all, you had to think he would win that face-off.

There was only one problem.

Babcock didn't let Yzerman take the face-off. In fact, Babcock didn't even put Yzerman on the ice. (Pavel Datsyuk took the face-off and won it.) It was a poor choice by Babcock. But it is a testament to Yzerman that eight days before his 41st birthday and five months after he nearly retired, it seemed like he belonged on the ice.

Yzerman can leave knowing that he gave all he had, which was way more than the rest of us. Gordie Howe is Mr. Hockey, but Steve Yzerman is Mr. Red Wing. He is synonymous with the franchise, maybe the most respected star athlete in Detroit history.

It will be strange, so strange, to look out at the Joe Louis Arena ice with no chance of seeing No. 19. But if it makes you feel better, you should be able to find it in the rafters.

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May 12th, 2006, 12:58 pm
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I'll believe it when I see it... for one I think that guy should be fired for writing speculation on a topic of a serious highly sensative decision that someone has to make... Steve almost retired before Dec. 1st, but that was before having an amazing playoff run... not the team... HIM... he played lights out by all accounts in the playoffs... I would like to see him pull a Roger Clements... Stay out until the season is 1/2 over, sign with the team, and head towards a playoff run...


May 12th, 2006, 10:43 pm
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