Shortly after the NHL awarded the 2013 Winter Classic to Detroit, Eric Lacy of the Detroit News reached out to franchise legend Steve Yzerman about potential participation in the alumni game.
Warning: If you’re a diehard Wings fan, you might want to stop reading.
“It will be a fantastic event with two great organizations at a storied venue,” Yzerman said via e-mail. “The perfect location and matchup, this is wonderful for the NHL.
“At this time I don’t plan on participating in the alumni game but hope to watch the Classic on TV.”
It’s a stunning — and immediate — decision from arguably the greatest player in franchise history. Yzerman is one of the most popular athletes in Detroit sports history and, after wearing the “C” for over 1300 games, is often referred to simply as “The Captain.”
He led the Wings to five Presidents Trophies and three Stanley Cups, winning the Conn Smythe trophy in 1998.
The news of Yzerman’s decline (Note: Yzerman didn’t offer a reason for not playing) will come as a disappointment not just to Detroit fans, but former teammates and front office executives as well. General manager Ken Holland is on record saying he hoped to get Yzerman to play while ex-Wing Kris Draper said he was “working hard” on having Yzerman suit up.
That said, not everybody turned down the alumni game. Former Toronto and Detroit goalie Curtis Joseph said he wanted in…but only as a Leaf.
“I heard about it, I thought about it, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that,’ ” Joseph told NHL.com. “There was no question in my mind. I’d play for Toronto, of course.”
Brian Leetch, who played in the 2011 Winter Classic alumni game with the Bruins and the 2012 edition with the New York Rangers, also said he’d be willing to play — Leetch played 15 games with the Leafs at the tail end of the 2003-04 season.
“I was thinking about that when they announced it. I said to myself, ‘There are so many Toronto alumni, I don’t know if I’m going to make the cut on that one, but I’ll certainly throw my name in the hat if they need it,'” Leetch said. “It’s been fun. I got to play in Fenway and then this past year’s, so if I got to sneak into another one it’d be great.
“You never know. I’d say yes if they asked me.”