The Steve Yzerman jersey retirement ceremony earlier in the week simply blew me away. One doesn't have to be a Red Wings fan to appreciate Yzerman himself or what the Detroit organization pulled off to celebrate and honour his exceptional career. The always humble Yzerman must have simply been floored by the entire presentation, as many hockey fans also were. There has been few players in the history of the game that compare.
The Detroit presentation raised the bar for such ceremonies.
Being a Canadiens fan, I've seen a great number of jerseys being drawn skyward in my time. The Habs organization have put on many a dignified presentation over the years. With technological advances, these presentations can take on monumental proportions sometimes. While the Canadiens have sought to honour certain greats recently, in light of their upcoming 100th Anniversary in 2009, many feel the sheer quantity of numbers hanging from the Bell Centre rafters diminishes the achievements of those truly worthy of the honour.
The Canadiens organization is like few others - so steeped in historical hockey significance, and the building in which they play reflects that fact. While the Bell Centre is not quite the Montreal Forum of their glory years, it does maintain a certain prestige. The edifice is Montreal's hockey temple, a shrine for a hundred years of winning and class. With all those years and Stanley Cup conquests, it is only fitting that over a dozen players be so rightly honoured.
Ken Dryden will be the next great fittingly tributed on January 29th. It is quite likely that the Canadiens will honour two more long overdue stars worthy of their night and hang Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson's jerseys in the upcoming years. Patrick Roy's #33 would be the next in line after, and that should complete the picture of a hundred years of on ice success.
Don't expect any of these players to get the same treatment of the hour and a half showstopper that the Yzerman night was. Honestly, and with all due respect, they simply do not deserve quite that much fuss. That notion does not diminish their achievements, it simply states that Yzerman was truly one of a kind. Perhaps only Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau in the anals of Habs history are fair comparison.
Gainey, Robinson, and Roy, along with Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore, and Yvan Cournoyer all enjoyed defining careers, and are deserving of their individual nights of recognition for time well served with Le Tricolore.
Yzerman played 22 seasons in the same rink, 20 as captain and determined leader into battle. The uniqueness of his night equalled that of his career.
It is great news for the millions of hockey fans unable to attend the ceremony that the Red Wings will be producing a DVD commemorating the evening and celebrating Yzerman's career. Copies of it will fly off the shelf, no doubt.
There has been some excellent coverage of the evening and the events for Steve Yzerman night at Behind The Jersey. Christy Hammond has gone all out in true Red Wings style to cover every aspect of the great day and her site documents it in fine detail with lots of great pics and videos. Check out some of her Yzerman archives as well as she posts on the announcement of his retirement, writes about his leadership, pays tribute to him - not once but twice, bundles up a bunch of his best quotes, and writes about the jersey number 19 that inspired her to start her blog initially.
Not coincidently, Yzerman is being mentionned as possible heir to Wayne Gretzky's position with Hockey Canada. That would great news for all Canadian hockey fans and fans of international play.
With all the focus on Yzerman in the past week, NHL.com writer Phil Coffey examines why hockey players are considered a breed apart from most other sports figures. Check out his piece - it's a must read!