Yzerman awarded Lester Patrick award

At a Monday luncheon held at Joe Louis Arena, five hockey greats were honored with the Lester Patrick award, which is given to those who have done outstanding service to the sport of hockey in the US.

The honorees…
1) Former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman
2) Current University of Michigan head coach Red Berenson
3) Retired NHL and college coach Glen Sonmor
4) Former Red Wings defenseman and captain Reed Larson
5) Former Red Wings Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne

As usual, Yzerman deflected all compliments giving credit to his teammates and the organization with their recent success.

“My contribution to hockey in the United States is just playing the game,” Yzerman said Monday, during a ceremony at Joe Louis Arena. “I don’t think I did anything extraordinary other than playing the game. I know it benefited me to play in an area that supports the game with such great enthusiasm.”

“My contribution to hockey in the United States was just playing the game,” he insisted Monday. “I don’t think I did anything extraordinary.”

It was an honor for the former captain to receive this award with former hockey players he grew up admiring.

“As a kid, I had a poster of Marcel Dionne up on a wall in my room,” Yzerman said. “For me, as a young boy, I was in awe of all these guys. Now we’re all kind of in the same group.”

Yzerman wasn’t the only one impressed with his fellow honorees. UM coach Berenson jokingly asked for Yzerman’s autograph.

Yzerman’s new job
As the new vice president, Yzerman has been learning and asking a lot of questions about the business behind the organization. And while his schedule is a lot more flexible (he’ll come to work between 8am and 2pm), he still stays busy and struggles with using the word retirement.

Meantime, he’s asking plenty of questions himself. Yzerman is learning on the job as an assistant to general manager Ken Holland, with whom he attends home games, as well as a recent trip to Dallas and St. Louis. He’s actively involved in scouting, sitting in on meetings and conference calls. He attended the Michigan-Michigan State game last weekend. Next month, he’ll head to Sweden for the world junior championships.

“Really, I’m trying to learn the business and learn some of the things I don’t know about,” Yzerman said. “I throw these ideas at Kenny all the time, and he listens and then he explains why some things are done or why they’re not done. It’s just not as easy as we all want it to be. That’s the one thing that I’ve found very interesting: Trying to get things done — it’s not that simple.”

Yzerman also explained that he tosses some ideas to GM Ken Holland on changes that could be made to improve the game and organization, but then learns that things aren’t so easy to change.

“I’ve enjoyed watching Kenny deal with different situations, whether it’s a contract negotiation or potential trades, just managing the team,” Yzerman said. “We all — players, fans, media — have ideas on what this team needs and what it should do. I throw these ideas at Kenny all the time and he listens and then he explains why some things are done and why they’re not done. It’s just not as easy as we all want it to be.”

Apparently, Yzerman no longer hangs out with his former teammates because he doesn’t believe he can act like a player anymore when he has new duties with his new job. These teammates still don’t recognize him as vice president and I bet it can be hard to go from teammate to belonging to different tiers of the organization.

Yzerman’s knee
While Yzerman doesn’t experience the serious daily aches and pains he had while playing in the NHL, his right knee still apparently bothers him. I know I have a hard time working out because it always flares up my knee and his is worse than mine…

His body, battered over the years by severe knee injuries, a neck problem that caused tendinitis in his shoulders, and multiple groin injuries, is doing much better, though the right knee, Yzerman said, is always going to be an issue. He tries to stay active, though he has discovered what every other lay person knows: It’s so much easier not to work out.

“It’s been a struggle at times,” he said. “You’ve got stuff going on and your routine isn’t a high priority and then by the end of the day, it’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll try again tomorrow.’ I’ve seen how that is easy to push onto the back burner.”

Paul Kukla’s Experience
Paul at Kukla’s Korner had the opportunity to attend the event as a member of the NHL media. He posted to his NHL.com blog with part one of his experiences. Look for part two to be uploaded on Wednesday or Thursday.

I found an open space near Reed Larson, clicked on my pocket pc and activated the recording device and pointed it towards him. My ears were listening to the conversation, but my eyes were focused on the entry to the media room. In walked Glen Sonmor, who was not as recognizable as the former NHL players and about a minute later, Steve Yzerman walked in. The media gathered around Steve as quickly as possible, leaving me with an opportunity to talk to Reed one on one. I found myself wearing my “fan” hat, chatting with him about the old Olympia, Reed told me it was the best ice he ever skated on. He mentioned the concrete under the ice was all one piece, not a crack in it at all, and he believes that was what made the ice so good.

I know that when I interviewed Jason Williams for about half an hour in November 2003, I did so in the hallway directly outside the doors to the locker room. It was hard to focus at times when I saw every single Red Wings player walk out including Yzerman. It took ever fiber in my being to not interrupt the interview and go over and introduce myself to Yzerman. Anyways, good luck to Paul in future assignments!

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