Yzerman: Outdoor games ‘killing golden goose’?

Caroline Cameron reports from Detroit where legends from the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs comment on playing in the alumni game at the Winter Classic.

The general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning is fresh off the ice, Red Wings pants hanging from his waist, having represented his old club in an outdoor alumni game at Comerica Park. And he’s certain he doesn’t want to do it again.

Steve Yzerman cuts his hand horizontally through the Detroit Tigers clubhouse air like a blackjack player declining another card.

“This is my one and only alumni game. That’s it,” he says. “I really enjoyed it, I’m really glad I played, and hopefully I’ll never have to do it again.”

Not only is Yzerman—the final Red Wings alum to be introduced on Tuesday, to a standing ovation of course—wrapping a bow on old-timer skates, he isn’t so caught up in Winter Classic hype that he’s jumping on the outdoor-game bandwagon.

The first of six NHL open-air games goes New Year’s Day at the Big House in Michigan. Balmy Los Angeles will host a game on Jan. 27, Vancouver will hold one in March, and the Phoenix Coyotes have reportedly lobbied the league to host one in the desert.

We ask Yzerman if he has made a similar pitch to hold an outdoor hockey game in the Sunshine State.

“I’m a little concerned that were killing the golden goose a little bit here with all these outdoor games and ruining the uniqueness and specialness of these games,” Yzerman says. “But someday I think it’s something to consider if our organizations continue to improve and both [Florida] teams get better and more competitive. Let’s see how it goes in California.”

How the Alumni Showdown went in Detroit was special, Yzerman says, with the Russian Five flying overseas to be in attendance and legends Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe being part of the day.

“I probably envisioned walking out into Comerica to an ovation in an Ordonez uniform or something, but this is as close as I’m getting,” Yzerman says. “I was trying not to get run over and make too many mistakes. The pace was good, and it was a fun game.”

Yzerman was a late addition to the Wings alumni roster, but he says his hesitance to commit to the exhibition was purely based on scheduling.

“I had a lot going on. We weren’t sure if we going to be naming the Olympic team. We were talking about naming it on the 28th [of December],” says the executive director of Team Canada. “That’s a big responsibility, and I want to focus on that. But once I knew my schedule, it was no problem.”

One problem, however, was he played Tuesday’s game in skates too big for his feet. Yzerman says he’s not done skating entirely, but he will have to find another pair of blades.

“Ideally, I would’ve retired raising the Cup in Joe Louis Arena, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way,” he says. “So it was nice to be on the ice one more time.”

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