At 16, Steve Yzerman joined the Ontario Hockey League's Peterborough Petes, where scouts for the Detroit Red Wings soon took notice. In 1983, his bronze medal win with the Canadian team at the World Junior Championship added to the confidence of Detroit's management and Yzerman was drafted to the Red Wings. Though merely 18, Yzerman became known as one of the Red Wings' more formidable players, amassing 39 goals (a team record for a rookie) and 87 points in his first season. In 1984, he was part of the gold medal–winning team at the Canada Cup.
Though the Red Wings had not won a Stanley Cup in over 30 years, new, aggressive management and upcoming young stars sparked fan interest in the team. Yzerman, with his showy puck-handling abilities, quickly became a fan favourite. In 1986, at age 21, he was named captain, the youngest in Red Wings history. In the six years that followed, Yzerman consistently maintained an average of over 100 points per season and, for most of those seasons, scored over 50 goals per year. For his efforts he was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Trophy (now the Ted Lindsay Award) in 1989 as the league's most outstanding regular season player.
In 1995, for the first time in several decades, Detroit made the Stanley Cup finals, but was defeated by the New Jersey Devils. Rumours of a trade involving Yzerman surfaced soon after, but his personal success at the 1996 World Cup endeared him to Red Wing officials once again. Finally, in 1997, the Red Wings ended their Stanley Cup losing streak when they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers. As team captain, Yzerman was the first Red Wing to hoist the trophy since 1955. The following year, he again won the Stanley Cup as captain of the Red Wings, and received the Conn Smythe Trophy as his team's most valuable player in the playoffs; he also played with Team Canada at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano that year. In 2000, Yzerman received another honour, the Frank J. Selke Trophy, for his defensive-forward skills.
In 2001–02, Yzerman seriously aggravated an existing knee condition. Despite his injury, he led the Red Wings to another championship title (his third as captain). That year he was also part of the gold medal Olympic men’s hockey team at the Winter Games in Salt Lake. In the off-season he underwent knee surgery. Though he played only 16 games the following season (2002–3), he was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication to his sport. During the 2003–04 season, Yzerman helped the Red Wings secure the Presidents' Trophy as the top regular season team, and surpassed the 1700-point barrier. After the 2004-05 lockout Yzerman began to entertain thoughts of retirement, making it official in July 2006. By the end of his NHL career, he had played 1514 regular season games with the Red Wings and had amassed a total of 1755 points, scoring 692 goals and 1063 assists. The Red Wings retired Yzerman’s jersey number (19) in 2007.
In 2006, Yzerman transitioned from player to administrator, becoming the Red Wings Vice President — a position he held until 2010, when he became general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In both 2007 and 2008 he managed Team Canada at the IHHF World Hockey Championships, where the Canadians won gold and silver, respectively. Yzerman was executive director of the Canadian men’s hockey teams for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2014 Games in Sochi. Team Canada won gold both times.
Honours and Awards
Lester B. Pearson Award/Ted Lindsay Award (1989)
Stanley Cup Championships (1997, 1998, 2002)
Conn Smythe Trophy (1998)
Frank J. Selke Trophy (2000)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (2003)
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (2008)
Hockey Hall of Fame (2009)
Order of Hockey in Canada, Hockey Canada (2014)