It was at the ceremony following the finale at the Joe that the chant from Detroit Red Wings fans echoed the arena: Come Home Stevie
On April 19, 2019, (4/19/19), he finally did. Every Red Wings fan–especially those who idolized him as a player–can tell you where they were when they found out Steve Yzerman was coming home. It’s also not lost on anyone that it happened to be Good Friday. Normally a somber day of reflection, many of those recognizing the day could be forgiven for seeing it as a great Friday.
The Red Wings Let Yzerman Get Away
To be fair, late owner Mike Ilitch tried to make Yzerman the general manager before Tampa Bay came calling. But it was blocked by then general manager Ken Holland, who as history would show, found his next decade as manager much worse than his previous. Until Yzerman’s hiring, Red Wings fan morale around the team was suffering and Holland’s inability to provide answers was wearing thin. Watching the Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning go in diametrically different directions during the 2010s only infuriated the fan base more.
When Yzerman announced that he was stepping away from Tampa in 2018 with just a year remaining on his contract, the entire fan base waited with bated breath for his return.
And fittingly, on 4-19-19, the Captain was back.
The Real Rebuild Begins
Yzerman promised to do what Holland wouldn’t–perform a true rebuild instead of a half hearted one. Holland didn’t have the stomach to tear down what was an antiquated, past-its-prime team that continued to overpay role players on long term deals. The draft gems were harder to find, and the stars who’d steered the ship were retired, leaving, or about to retire (Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg). Truth be told, Holland really didn’t appear to start facing the reality until it was already three seasons too late. There’s probably more to it than this as well, but at the same time, did Red Wings fans really think that Holland was the guy to run a rebuild? Some managers and coaches are meant for it. Others are best for teams on the cusp of contending. Regardless, Yzerman is actually where he’s supposed to be and that’s seeing this team through the rebuild all the way to hopefully, a championship.
Patience and Time will Pay off for Yzerman
The state of the rebuild is in better shape with Yzerman running the show. It’s just the matter of patience and waiting for everything to turn the corner. To be done correctly, corners can’t be cut and it can’t be rushed. Though the losing certainly is a drag, seeing the progress of prospects shows that help is certainly on the way.
So Happy Yzerman Day. Here’s hoping two years from now, the Red Wings are beginning to show signs of moving into the competitive stage of hockey.