Detroit sports desperately need Steve Yzerman, not just Red Wings
Highlighting five key games at Little Caesars Arena in the 2018-19 season for the Detroit Red Wings. Video by Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press Wochit
Steve Yzerman is a man for our time. And a man for our city.
You need him. The Detroit Red Wings need him. The Detroit sporting scene needs him.
News of his impending return to the place that made him tore through Hockeytown this week, sending Wings’ fans into near cardiac arrest, spawning a deluge of hopeful Twitter GIFs.
This is understandable. Not just because the Wings haven’t contended for a Stanley Cup in almost a decade, but because the city’s professional sports landscape is as barren as the surface of Mars.
Yzerman would bring water. He would bring life.
He isn’t just the Captain. He’s a captain who set out on his own and became a general. And his announcement earlier this week that he was moving home couldn’t have been better timed — just a day after Monday night’s debacle at Ford Field.
More on that in a minute.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons have churned through seven coaches since their last title. Their eighth, Dwane Casey, may be a fine coach, but the roster is built around a fading superstar, a big man in a small man’s game, and a point guard who can’t stay healthy.
The Pistons could be interesting this year. But they’re hardly contenders.
As for the Detroit Tigers, well, they’re busy selling nostalgia and prospects, a combination as enticing as a needle to the back of the gums.
Into this desolate hellscape steps Yzerman. The man whose mural once adorned a downtown skyscraper, and whose face had to be roughed up in the painting to quell a protesting fan base, who thought the original image too pretty.
That’s right, they demanded to see the scars, to see evidence of his gritty skill in portraiture, to see a reflection of what he meant to them. Yzerman offered both talent and toughness, and it’s that double-play, and the possibility of its return, that provided such a jolt.
You needed that jolt. Especially after the Detroit Lions’ meltdown Monday night, when the Patriot Way Midwest belly flopped on national television.
Now, Yzerman’s announcement that he’s moving back to Detroit doesn’t mean he’ll slide right into the general’s seat with the Wings. He may never.
He has a year left on his contract with Tampa, and an advisory role to fulfill this season. And the team you‘d like him to commandeer already has a general manager who signed a two-year extension, which means Ken Holland isn’t going anywhere for the moment.
Ah, those pesky details.
Though they’re beside the point, right? Why let a couple of contracts distract you from dreaming?
It’s all you’ve got. All anyone has around here that cares about the city’s professional teams.
And that’s the point. Yzerman allows for dreaming.
Because he proved himself in Tampa, yes, but also because he brings the trait our region’s most successful sports leaders share: history.
Detroit doesn’t do whiz kids. Our teams don’t often unearth ready-to-blossom coaches and general managers who were tucked away in other cities … except for Daddy Rich.
Chuck Daly was the last successful leader who arrived here without much glitter to his resume and no previous connection to southeastern Michigan.
In the past 20 years, when our teams have competed for titles, we’ve either brought in a ringer — Larry Brown, Scotty Bowman. Or we’ve brought back — or promoted — a family member — Joe Dumars, Jim Leyland, Ken Holland.
This makes sense. It’s hard to find the next great thing. And easier to take a chance on the former great thing.
If Yzerman does eventually land in the front office, the easy comparison will be to Dumars. Like Yzerman, the Pistons’ former shooting guard played his entire career in Detroit. And, like Yzerman, Dumars retired as an iconic franchise player, but not the iconic franchise player.
Not to say that Yzerman or, for that matter, Dumars, didn’t play with sublime skill. They did. Their skill was just more suited to team-building, which, in Dumars’ case, led to the Pistons’ 2004 NBA championship.
Yzerman got close in Tampa, where his Lightning lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015. The hope is he’ll finish the journey here, back home, in the place he earned all those scars.
Steve Yzerman announced Tuesday he’s stepping down as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Wochit