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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

# 19 Goes to the Rafters

The Captain's number will never be worn by another Red Wing. #19 is only the sixth number to be retired in the storied Detroit Red Wings organization. Given the fact the the Wings are 81 years old and all the amazing players that have worn the winged wheel, you have to be pretty damn amazing to have your number retired. Steve Yzerman, aka Stevie Y, joins hall of famers Gordie Howe (#9), aka Mr. Hockey, Ted Lindsay (#7), aka Terrible Ted, Alex Delvechio (#10), Sid Abel (#12), and Terry Sawchuck (#1). I don't know what more I can say than what I said when he retired (Read "Oh Captain, My Captain" and It's Official). I have to admit that I cried when I heard Stevie's speech. He was as humble as he always is about his career. He thanked every-one else for making him the star and leader he was. He never mentioned himself. He said that everything he was and had was due to those around him, especially the fans. When you hear his words, you know how special and unique he was as a player and is as a person. He is a once-in-a-lifetime player; humble, gracious, hard working, a Detroit blue collar lunch-pailer, a warrior, a sacrificer, a leader by example rather than by words, the list goes one and on. He even went so far as to thank the opposing team for being so patient since the ceremony went a bit over time. Who else would think to do that? He epitomized everything that all of us would want to look for and strive in ourselves. In that sense, he wasn't simply a super-star athlete that was a role model simply because he was famous. He was a role model because he was an amazing person with attributes any parent would want their children to have and look up to.

On a day in Michigan when President Ford was laid to rest in Grand Rapids, Michiganders mourned and celebrated the lives of two of Michigan's finest representatives. Detroit is experiencing dire times right now. Their unemployment rate is over 3% higher than the national average. The city needs heroes desperately. Who better to look up to for inspiration than the man that carried the whole city on his soldiers ON ONE LEG to a Stanley Cup win in 2002? Thank you can, Stevie. You are missed, and we will continue to try to live up to the standards you set for us.

Here are some pictures of the ceremony:
Yzerman's plaque was unveiled. It will be put in the hall of fame hall-way with the plaques of all the other Wings' greatest.
The street that intersects into the entrance of Joe Louis Arena will be renamed Yzerman Drive. Yzerman, humble as usual, said that in 20 years nobody will know how to pronounce it. Yeah, sure, Stevie...
Never seeking attention and always a bit embarrassed by it, Stevie waves to the fans as they welcome him with what seemed like a 5 minute standing and roaring ovation.
Stevie's #19 along with his "C" heads up the rafters to join the others. Stevie was the Wings' captain for 20 seasons, the longest tenure of any captain in hockey, and perhaps sports, history. He played 23 seasons for the Red Wings and was named captain at age 20, the youngest captain named in franchise history. In today's day and age of sports, it seems extremely unlikely that numbers like this will ever be accomplished again. It seems extremely unlikely that any other player will ever play this long for one team and be captain for this long. It also seems unlikely that we will see many more players play their entire career for one team. Again, Stevie was one of a kind.

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