Shame on me for having a Red Wings blog and not acknowledging His induction yesterday. Not even so much as a picture or a three-word post. Indefensible.
He's still, three years after his last game, my favorite hockey player. He will never not be my favorite hockey player. I used to think it was lame when I was younger and kids my age would say that Michael Jordan or Barry Sanders was their favorite player even after they retired, but I sort of get it now. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I'm still cheering for him as if he's a 44 year-old active player with surgically repaired knees and playing 7 minutes a game on the 4th line. And there's a tiny, selfish part of me that wishes that this was reality.
We don't actually know professional athletes, despite how much we worship them. We're reminded of this fact whenever a positive steroids test or criminal report comes out and permanently changes somebody's image for the worse. But you never felt as assured about someone as you did with Stevie Y. You could watch just one of his post game interviews or press conferences and your lasting perception of him would be one of class and character. When you hear him talk, he almost comes across as overly humble; you can practically see the pain in his face whenever he's asked to talk about himself. Your mom probably saw him on TV at some point and remarked, "wow, he seems like a nice guy, why aren't you more like him?" (Assuming your mom is the same as mine).
On the ice he was perfect. Physically, he wasn't imposing with that 5'11"/185 lb. frame, but he squeezed out every last ounce of talent. That was my favorite thing about watching him, how a guy could appear to be so unassuming yet consistently do amazing things with the puck.
There was the one where he lofted a puck over a defenseman's head and into an empty net, like a soccer player chipping the keeper. Or that goal against the Penguins in the above video. Or any of the times that he terrorized Patrick Roy: In the '97 playoffs with that bank shot from behind the net, or the '99 playoffs when he roofed one over his shoulder though like a 2 inch window. His goal-scoring touch was simply different, if not the best, from anyone I've ever seen. He found the strangest ways to score sometimes.
Not to mention his playmaking ability, leadership, general sexiness, and how he helped set a Red Wing precedent as a "skill guy" who would play defense -- something that's been the norm for some 15 years now. He's a living legend in every sense of the term. A hockey deity. If I'm ever fortunate enough to meet him, It's likely that I will literally collapse and die. Right there at his feet. And for that I will be able to say that Steve Yzerman was the last person on Earth that I saw, which wouldn't be that bad.