This morning I woke up and checked NHL.com, "Yzerman, Red Wings icon, named Lightning GM". "Damn!", I thought to myself, "it wasn't a dream". Shortly, thereafter I logged onto Facebook, pulled up the Tampa Bay Lightning fan page and clicked "Become a Fan" (or Like). Within minutes my wife posted on my wall "You like the Tampa Bay Lightning?! Come on now..." I thought to myself, Y not?
When the news broke yesterday that my favorite player and legendary Red Wing Steve Yzerman left Detroit to take over as GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning, I couldn't believe what I was reading. Is this a joke? I thought what probably every Wing fan thought at that time they heard the news... "F$%&*$!" While none of us thought this was possible, deep down, we all knew that this was bound to happen. He was going to have to wait a long time to become the GM in Detroit and fresh off his success as the GM for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics, now was the time. What a great situation to go into too. The Lightning have some really good, young, talented players to build around. Guys like Steven Stamkos (age 19), Victor Hedman (age 18), and Vinny Lecavalier (age 29). The Bolts have a new owner, Jeff Vinik, who has deep pockets and a commitment to winning. Plus, you get to live in sunny beautiful Florida year round! What more could you ask for? While it hurts us Red Wings fans to see him leave our franchise, most of us will continue to cheer on The Captain as GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning. A good number of Wings fans have already said that Tampa Bay will be their second favorite behind the Wings. So get ready Lightning, your fan base is about to get very big, very fast.
A few Wings fans that didn't take the news so well said things like, "I hope the Lightning do terrible, so they'll fire him (Yzerman) and he'll come back here" and "I hope he doesn't tarnish his name trying to save this cheesy Mickey Mouse franchise". First, hoping that a guy that spent 27 years of his life turning your team in a winner fails is ignorant. Plain and simple. Second, no team starts off as the Detroit Red Wings. Everybody starts off as a "cheesy Mickey Mouse" franchise. Who took the NY Yankees seriously before Babe Ruth? Who took the 49ers seriously before Joe Montana? Who took the Penguins seriously before Mario Lemieux? Everybody starts off as this franchise that everybody points and laughs at. Then that one guy shows up, leads you to greatness and changes everyone's perception forever. Yzerman can do that with the Lightning. He can take them from being this unpopular Florida based hockey team and turn them into the Red Wings of the Eastern Conference. He has the smarts, he has the support and he has the young stars to build around.
I also think its very ironic that Yzerman went to Tampa Bay. The Wings colors are red and white. The Lightning's colors are blue and black. The exact opposite. Detroit is so far north, its almost in Canada. The Lightning couldn't be farther south. The best player on the Lightning is a 19 year old, right handed shooting, first round pick named Steve that was given the task to not only perform, but to renew interest in this hockey club. Wasn't Yzerman given that exact same assignment 27 years ago? Steven Stamkos also wears the numbers 1 and 9 on his back, except in the reverse order (91). The Bolts also have a young 18 year old Swedish defenseman named Victor Hedman that is supposed to be one of the next great defensemen in the game. Its like Yzerman went to the bizarro Red Wings. Everything is so similar yet different.
Its a very exciting time for Steve Yzerman and it should be an exciting time for his loyal fans. Yzerman and the Lightning have a lot of work to do, but they are on the cusp of something great. O CAPTAIN! my Captain! Good luck with your new team and us Wings fans will be there to cheer you on every step of the way!