DETROIT – One of Red Wings fans’ biggest questions about the 2014 Alumni Showdown will have to go unanswered for the time being: Steve Yzerman isn’t sure if he will participate.
The Detroit legend, who is general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, spoke to the media before Saturday night’s game in Detroit. When asked about his participation in the Showdown, which will happen Dec. 31 at Comerica Park, Yzerman was noncommittal.
“I haven’t given it really much thought,” Yzerman said. “I’ve been pretty busy with our team, and watching a lot of hockey games for the Olympics, so I really haven’t looked that far ahead.”
Yzerman said that he has only skated a few times since his 2006 retirement, and has had no desire to skate since.
When pressed about the possibility of playing in the Showdown, Yzerman didn’t seem to offer fans much hope.
“I don’t even own a pair of skates,” Yzerman said. “So, I may have to take up a collection.”
Though he had little to say about the Alumni Showdown, Yzerman was effusive in his praise of former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula, whom the Lightning signed to a five year, $25 million deal last summer. Filppula skated for the first time against his former team on Saturday.
“He’s been really good for us,” Yzerman said. “His all-around game really works with us well, and the style of game our coach wants to play. When we elected to buy out Vinnie (Lecavalier), it was a huge hole in the middle there. We had hoped to bring in a centerman, and thankfully he was available in free agency.”
Yzerman cited Filppula’s work ethic and style of play as key reasons why he decided to sign the 29-year-old Finn to the huge contract.
It would appear that the Lightning have provided the right atmosphere to allow him to flourish. Through the first 15 games of the season, Filppula has amassed six goals and six assists and is plus three.
Filppula said the experience of playing against Detroit was “weird,” but was happy to be in a place where he felt wanted – by a Hall of Fame player no less.
“There was a lot of different things that mattered, but one big thing was Yzerman being there, and kind of wanted me on the team,” Filppula said. “When a player like that wants you on the team it feels good. The player he was, I had a chance to briefly play with him, and know what kind of guy he was. All those things made a big difference.”
Yzerman also spoke with deference about the organization with which he spent an entire playing career.
“I’ve watched some of their games,” Yzerman said. “They’re incredibly well-respected around the league. Everybody wants to say they lost this player, they lost that player. But they just keep coming back. They’re extremely well-coached and well-run.”
— FRED COSTELLO