Steve Yzerman 1990-91
In Detroit sporting circles during the 1980s and 1990s, the greatest players were recognized by simple terms. "Isiah" was all you had to say and people knew you meant Detroit Pistons captain Isiah Thomas. Likewise, "Barry" could be none other than Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, while "Tram and Lou" were Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, the sensational double-play combination of the Detroit Tigers.
On the ice, Wings center Steve Yzerman also carried a straightforward handle. He was - and still is - "The Captain."
It's a handle he wears with pride.
"When I was looking for a captain, I wanted a guy with the Red Wings crest tattooed on his chest," said former Detroit coach Jacques Demers, who named Yzerman captain in 1986. "Steve Yzerman was that guy."
He set Wings rookie standards with 39-48-87 totals in 1983-84 and continued his assault on the record book ever since. Yzerman's 1988-89 numbers of 65-90-155 remain single-season club production standards. He's posted two 60-goal and three 50-goal seasons, collecting 100 points on six occasions.
Lately, he's been knocking off some of the all-time greats, as Yzerman ascends to the elite class of NHL stars. He's a member of the NHL's 600-goal, 900-assist club, a group whose membership also includes Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier and Marcel Dionne.
"These guys I'm moving up amongst, these are the guys who were the heroes of my era," Yzerman said. "It's great to be mentioned in the same sentence with them, but I certainly don't consider myself their equal."
That task is happily filled by others.
Danny Gare was the man who surrendered the "C" to Yzerman and the former Wing has followed his successor's career with great delight.
"He was doing the job then and he's still doing it today," Gare said. "When that team needs a lift, he's still the one they turn to, the one who gets them going."
For all his accomplishments, the one Yzerman cherishes most is that moment when he lifted the Stanley Cup in 1997, ending Detroit's 42-season title blight.
"For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of lifting the Stanley Cup," Yzerman said. "I watched the presentation every year. I watched the dressing-room celebration and I dreamed of the day it would be me."
He's a hero of Hockeytown and also back home in Nepean, Ontario, where Yzerman grew up. "I played for the same Tier II junior team that he did," former Wings defenseman Aaron Ward said. "In the Steve Yzerman Sportsplex.
"As soon as you walk in the rink, his pictures are everywhere. He's a legend."
Perhaps Philadelphia Flyers winger Rick Tocchet, a career opponent of Yzerman's, summed it up best.
"The game is a better place with Steve Yzerman in it," Tocchet said.
Cranbrook, British Columbia, May 9, 1965
Selected fourth overall in the June 8, 1983 NHL entry draft
BEST SEASON WITH RED WINGS:
TOTALS WITH RED WINGS:
GP-1,310, G-645, A-969, PTS-1,614
Won Conn Smythe Trophy, 1997-98; Won Selke Trophy, 1999-2000; Won Lester B. Pearson Award, 1988-89; Selected to NHL First All-Star Team, 1999-2000; Selected to NHL All-Rookie Team, 1983-84; Played in nine NHL All-Star Games; Named team captain in 1986; Played for Canada in 1989 and 1990 World Championship, 1996 World Cup and 1998 Winter Olympics