The Athletic’s Joe Smith penned a column regarding players who’ve taken a while to win the Cup.
Smith focuses on the team he covers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in discussing Steven Stamkos’ as-yet-unfulfilled quest for the Cup and Dave Andreychuk’s 22-year quest to win a championship in 2004, but Steve Yzerman makes a cameo of sorts in the article, too:
“In ’97, with all the little things, Stevie went above and beyond,” recalled former Red Wings teammate Kris Draper. “He was on the PK, winning faceoffs, blocking shots. I think he felt he had to become a dominant two-way hockey player to give ourselves an opportunity to win the Cup. In that big moment, your best players have to be your best players, and that’s what Steve was for us.
“When you’re sitting there and see your captain blocking an Al MacInnis slapshot and he gets up and is ready to do it again, it’s contagious. You’ve got (Hall of Fame) coach Scotty Bowman looking at you, ‘If Steve Yzerman is blocking shots, you make sure you do.’”
Draper will never forget the gap-toothed smile on Yzerman’s face when he finally was handed the Stanley Cup. “All the doubts, people thinking he should be traded, some people losing confidence in Stevie,” Draper said. “Not within our room. You’re proud to win the Cup with that guy.”
Yzerman said his experience taught him patience, and perspective, keeping him from over-reacting and being too discouraged with the setbacks.
“Over the course of a long career, guys are fortunate just to win it once,” Yzerman said. “You look at a guy like Chris Kunitz, who’s won four of them. That’s unusual. Just try to win it once, so some of these guys play 20 years to win it once. Our goal here is to win more than one, but let’s try to win one. It’s a difficult thing to do, and you have to stick with it. You get knocked down, you get back up and you learn from it and keep moving on.”
Smith continues, (paywall) speaking with Jimmy Devellano and Paul Coffey as well as Stamkos and Andreychuk…