Steve Yzerman played center for, and spent 20 consecutive seasons out of 22 total (1986-2006) as captain of the Detroit Red Wings. He was born on May 9, 1965, in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and he grew up in Napean, Ontario, which is a suburb of Ottawa.
After playing his junior hockey with the Peterborough Petes, he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings with the fourth overall pick in the 1983 amateur draft. He jumped right to the NHL at the age of 18.
He quickly impressed fans and coaches alike, with his graceful skating and offensive touch. He became the youngest player selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game, at the age of 18, during his rookie year (1983-84). At 21 he became captain of the Red Wings, and is the longest-serving captain in NHL history and in sports history.
As his career progressed, he amassed large point totals each year, but his teams kept falling short of the Stanley Cup. People around the league began to question his leadership qualities, saying he was too much of a one way player, and couldn't play defense. That all began to change in 1993.
In 1993 the Red Wings hired legendary Hall-of-Famer coach Scotty Bowman. Bowman wanted to install a defense-first system, and many thought Yzerman would not mesh well with that type of coach. There were many trade rumors floating around. The biggest rumor had the Red Wings shipping Yzerman to Ottawa. Yzerman quickly reinvented his game, to become one of the best two way players in the game, even winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward for the 1999-2000 season. Also, he was one of the best captains any NHL team has ever seen, leading the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002).
Steve Yzerman entered the 2005-06 season, sixth on the all time scoring list, with 1,755 points. He's also one of only three players to score more than 150 points in a single season—155 in 1988-89—joining Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as the only players to accomplish that particular feat. He was a member of the 1984 all NHL team, won the 1989 Lester B. Pearson Award (the trophy for the NHLPA-voted most valuable player), and the 1998 Conn Smythe Memorial Trophy, which is awarded the best performer of each year's playoffs. And he has his named engraved on the Stanley Cup four times (three as a player and one as an executive), for winning in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008. He is also one of only twelve players to have scored 600 or more goals in his career. He represented Team Canada in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, winning the gold medal in 2002. He also won a silver medal for Team Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the 1985 and 1989 World Championships. In 1984, Yzerman won a gold medal at the World Championship. In 1983, he also won a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship. He missed most of the 2002-03 season recovering from knee realignment surgery (which is normally performed on elderly people), and then was knocked out of the 2003-04 playoffs by an errant shot to the eye, leaving him with a scratched cornea and a broken orbital bone. Luckily, he recovered completely during the 2004 NHL player lockout, and signed a one-year contract with the Wings prior to the 2005-06 season, and made his 22nd season in the NHL official on opening night of that season. He returned to the lineup sporting a visor on his helmet due to his eye injury from the previous postseason. In 2006, as Team Canada prepared for the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, the team retired Yzerman's #19, making him the first player to be so honored by a national team.
Steve Yzerman retired on July 3, 2006, after 22 years in the NHL, all spent with the Red Wings. Yzerman's #19 jersey, complete with the captain's C, was immortalized with a banner hanging from the Joe Louis Arena rafters when the Red Wings retired his number on January 2, 2007. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, his first year of eligibility.
Team Canada CEO Wayne Gretzky announced in January 2007 that Yzerman was to become its new general manager, and the Red Wings elevated him to a vice president position within the organization in September 2006. In 2010, Yzerman accepted an offer to become the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, leaving the Red Wings after 27 years.
Yzerman finished in the top 10 all-time in many NHL statistical records:
- Games: 1514 (11th)
- Goals: 692 (8th)
- Assists: 1063 (7th)
- Points: 1755 (6th)
- Points per game: 1.16 (15th)
- Goals created: 664.6 (5th)
- Shots on goal: 4602 (8th)
- Shorthanded goals: 50 (3rd)