MIKE BROPHY The Hockey News
I am feeling very old this morning.
It wasn't that long ago...or at least it seems that way...that a youngster looking not a day over 12 made his way to the Peterborough Petes table at the Ontario Hockey League draft in Toronto, having been that team's first round draft choice. His longish, pop-star hair flowing to his shoulders, Steve Yzerman was taking the first major step on his path toward the Hockey Hall of Fame. And even though he stood well under 6-feet tall and barely weighed 185 in his prime, Yzerman was a giant amongst all those he faced. I had the good fortune to have covered Yzerman's two-year stop in Peterborough, during which time he established himself as a future big-league star. And while there was never any doubt Yzerman would climb to enormous heights as an NHLer, I'm not certain anybody predicted he would become one of the best pros to ever skate in the world's top league. Yzerman's transformation from a one-way offensive star into the consummate two-way performer is now a major part of his legend. That he became such an incredible leader only adds to the package. Watching his jersey retirement ceremony last night, I couldn't help but think back to the two years he played in Peterborough. The team never came close to winning a championship, but anybody who watched the Petes play with Yzerman in the lineup, knew they were seeing something -- somebody -- very special. He was the fastest player, but he was creative enough to out-think the majority of those he faced. And his determination stood second to none. Hard to believe so much time has passed between then and now. Hard to believe his playing days are over. Hard to believe he was once almost traded to the Ottawa Senators! Steve Yzerman left the NHL the way he entered the league -- with class and humility.