Thanks for the Memories Chris Osgood

Ozzie, as he has been lovingly referred to by fans the past 20 years, has been my favorite player for as long as I can remember. As I write this, I am trying to hold back the tears that have already been flowing for a day, while I try to do him some form of justice. Nothing I ever write would be enough though. I love and respect Ozzie so much mainly because throughout his career, he has faced so many obstacles and critics around the league. One of the biggest being his height- he is only 5’10”. The height of the goalies has transformed drastically since Ozzie came into the league. But, he worked with goalie coach Jim Bedard to change his playing style. He has more heart and love for the game than any other goalie, and possibly player, I have ever seen. Whether it be his pregame interview bombing with Ken Daniels, or his off ice charity work, he is the ideal definition of what a Red Wing player is all about. Character, Courage, Determination, Ethics, Loyalty, Perseverance, and Team.

Basic Bio:

Ozzie was born November 26th, 1972 in Peace River, Alberta. He was obsessed with hockey. His favorite pro team was the Edmonton Oilers. He was drafted 54th overall by the Red Wings in the 1991 NHL draft.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

1993-1994: This was Ozzie’s first season with the Red Wings. During the playoffs, he was made the starting goaltender due to Bob Essensa’s performance in the regular season. In game 7 of the quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks, Ozzie went to clear the puck and ended up giving it away. The heavily favored Wings were eliminated from the playoffs due to it.

1995-1996: On March 6th, 1996 Ozzie became one of only nine goaltenders to score a goal. He led the NHL with 39 wins and a 2.17 goals against average. He received his first Vezina trophy nomination.

1996-1997: Ozzie helped bring the Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown after a long awaited 42 years.

1997-1998: This is one of my favorite seasons for Ozzie. Besides having an epic goalie fight, he led the wings to back to back Stanley Cup championships.

2001-2002: In the summer of 2001, Ken Holland received a phone call from Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Reiger. The Wings ended up acquiring Dominik Hasek. Holland had to call Ozzie, who he considers a son, and tell him. Ozzie was picked up on waivers by the New York Islanders. Ozzie had this to say…“Things happen in sports. I’m not leaving on a sour note because too many positive things have happened to me in Detroit… Who knows? Maybe one day, when I’m a free agent, I can come back.”

2002-2003: March 11th, 2003 Ozzie was traded from New York to St. Louis.

2005-2006: On August 8th, Ozzie did the unthinkable and signed a two year contract with the Wings.

He was injury plagued for a lot of the season.

2007-2008: Ozzie battled for the starting position with Dominik Hasek for the majority of the season. Hasek ultimately won the position and was set to start the playoffs. After poor performance in game 4 of the quarter finals, Hasek was pulled and Ozzie was sent in. Ozzie then led the Wings to a Stanley Cup Championship. During the offseason, Ozzie and Captain Norris took the Cup on Jay Leno’s tonight show. I will never think of the song “sexy back” in the same way ever again.

2008-2010: Ozzie was plagued with injuries once again and struggled during the regular and post seasons.

2010-2011: December 27th, Ozzie won his 400th career game against the Colorado Avalanche. While Adam Foote was the only player left on the Av’s from the 90’s rivalry, I see it so fitting that Ozzie won this milestone against the team that was basically enemy number one of the Red Wings franchise throughout his career. January 4th, Ozzie would play and win his last game against his favorite team growing up, the Edmonton Oilers. His father was in attendance.

On Tuesday June 19th, rumors started surfacing that Ozzie would be holding a conference call to announce that he would be returning for one more year. USA Today, NHL.com, the Detroit Free Press and Yahoo sports all had reports to this effect. About ten hours later, there were completely new reports stating the exact opposite. At noon, Ozzie had officially announced his retirement and stated that he would be working to mentor the young goalies in the Red Wings organization.

Now the Hall of Fame debate truly gets underway. While every other site out there feels the need to compare him to other players and say why it is or isn’t that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, I’m just going to state the obvious. He deserves to be in there among the greats. He has over 400 wins, which is tenth in all of NHL history. That alone should be enough. On top of that, add three Stanley Cups, with him being the starter for two of them. He is sixth all time in winning percentage with .539% and two of the goalies ahead of him are still active. So, there is a very good chance that he will even move up on the list. Ozzie’s amazing stats go on and on. As far as him playing among greats, didn’t most successful goalies? (Patrick Roy, cough, cough.)

You more than likely already have your own opinion on the subject and I’m sure I cannot change that. (Especially if your name is Ryan Lambert.) But, consider the statistics and it’s obvious where he belongs.

2011-2012: Ozzie will continue what he’s been doing for the past twenty years or so, just not playing. He will continue helping mentor Howie and any other goalie that needs or asks. He will continue being a leader on and off ice. He will continue his shenanigans with Draper right by his side. He will continue to make us laugh by probably interview bombing every once in a while during pregame warm-ups. He will continue to make us so happy that we are fortunate enough to be Red Wings fans.

Have a great retirement Ozzie and you will truly be missed.

Love,

Ally and the rest of the Hockeytown Family

P.S. Drapes, don’t leave. I couldn’t stand writing two of these in the same year.

Twitter Google Plus or Email: redwingsandov8@yahoo.com

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My Tribute to Steve Yzerman

Steve Yzerman is undeniably, and always will be, one of the most beloved Detroit Red Wings players ever. To so many of us, he is the greatest player of all time. Yes, even better than Gretzky. Some people will never understand why or how we can make that comparison, but they didn’t have the opportunity to see him play game after game, injury after injury. Gretzky on the other hand was featured every night on ESPN highlights. So, I know I will not do him justice in this article, but I feel the need to try and explain why so many of us feel that he was the best player to ever play the game and why he will always have a special place in our heart, no matter where he is. (I also mean no disrespect to Wayne Gretzky in this. He is after all “The Great One.”)

How He Became A Wing:

At the 1983 draft, the Red Wings were going to pursue Pat Lafontaine instead of Stevie Y. They had the fourth overall pick in the draft and the New York Islanders had the third. The Isles took Lafontaine and so Jim Devellano, who was our general manager at the time, decided to take a chance on the 18 year old from Cranbook, B.C.

Leadership:

On October 7th, 1986 at the age of 21, Stevie Y was named the Captain of the Detroit Red Wings. On that day, he became the youngest Captain in franchise history. Next season, he led the wings to their first division title in 23 years. Throughout his career, he proved why he was the right person to don the “C.”  His teammates always considered his leadership cool, calm, and collected. He always seemed to be uncomfortable when people recognized and praised his leadership abilities and talent. Stevie chose to lead by example instead of giving hour long locker room speeches. In my opinion, that is part of the reason he was such a fantastic leader. Stevie holds the NHL record (20 years) as the longest serving captain of a team in the league.

Style of play:

Scotty Bowman became the Red Wings coach in 1993. He wanted Stevie to play more of a defensive style of game. At first Stevie resisted, but then he “tried it out” and became a better defender and eventually evolved into one of, if not, the best two way player ever in the game. Some say that Datsyuk wouldn’t be the player he is today if it wasn’t for watching and learning from Stevie Y’s style of play.

Perseverance:

This is the most memorable part of Stevie Y for myself. Throughout the 2001-02 season, he was having many health problems, specifically with his knees. When it came around to playoff time, he could barely skate, but he did.  I remember Brendan Shanahan saying that Stevie would come up to him during the playoffs and explain what he could and couldn’t do. “But then, you realized when you watched him, there wasn’t a lot that he couldn’t do,” Shanny said. And there really wasn’t. He had so much drive and determination that nothing could really stop him. The next season, he was forced to miss over 60 games after undergoing a knee realignment surgery.

Off Ice:

Stevie was always a leader and role model in the community. He supported many charities and was influential in the Christmas trip to the Detroit Children’s Hospital. There are so many articles about Stevie’s charity works. More than half of them make me want to cry, and some of them in fact do. I’ve listed one of the articles that was most touching.

Braxton

Stevie also would always take time for fans after practice/training camp/whatever the occasion. I have never personally been to the Red Wings training camps, but I know many people that have and their stories are always the same. Stevie would come outside and start his way at one end of the line and work his way to the other until every fan had their autograph and picture.

Leaving Detroit:

This is a quote from the Ilitch family reguarding Stevie’s departure from the Red Wings’ organization to the Lightning’s organization. “This is not easy. We’re having a difficult time, frankly, because Stevie’s been with us from the start and we consider him part of our family. We drafted him as a young and shy 18-year-old – just a year after we bought the team – and he has been part of it all: the ups and downs, highs and lows, the Cups, the celebrations, really everything Red Wings over the last 27 years. We watched him grow and develop over the years into a Hall of Fame player, a wonderful husband and father and now, a very capable executive. We appreciate all Stevie has done for us, our organization and this community, and we wish him all the best. Stevie Y will always be a Red Wing and he’ll always be in our hearts.”* It was hard on any true Red Wings fan, but I think we all agree that Stevie deserved that opportunity. And he proved that. The previous season the Lightning finished 25th in the league and had not made a playoff appearance since 2007. Then Stevie takes control, makes a few adjustments including acquiring veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, and they finish eighth in the league and make it to the Eastern Conference finals.  He was up for the General Manager of the Year award for his spectacular “rookie season”, but lost to Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks.

Awards:

  • 1989- Lester B. Pearson Award
  • 1998- Conn Smythe Trophy
  • 2000- Frank J. Selke Trophy
  • 2002- Men’s Ice Hockey Olympic Gold Medal
  • 2003- Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
  • 2006- Lester Patrick Trophy
  • 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008 Stanley Cup Champion
  • Also received four different medals through the Canada Cup and World Championships.

*Notable Honors/Statistics:

  • 10 All-star games
  • Sixth in NHL history in points, eighth in goals and seventh in assists
  • First in Red Wings history in assists; second in points and goals; third in games played; second all-time in seasons and games played with only one NHL franchise
  • Number (19) retired with Detroit Red Wings – 2007
  • Number (19) retired with Canadian Men’s National Team – 2005 (Was unretired by Stevie himself and gave to Joe Thornton.)
  • Longest-serving captain for a team in league history (1,303 games)
  • Was Ranked #6 in The Hockey News The Top 60 Since 1967 – The Best Players of the Post Expansion Era
  • Has been inducted into Four Hall’s of Fame (Ottawa Sports HOF 2008, Michigan Sports HOF 2008, Canada’s Sports HOF 2008, Hockey HOF 2009)

Memorable Moments Through Pictures:

Closing Thoughts:

We now say that Nicklas Lidstrom is the “perfect human” but if you look back on Stevie’s career, he truly was. He was a model captain, player and friend. I remember reading in Bob Probert’s book Tough Guy, that when Probie was playing with the wings and going through all his “troubles”, he would always look forward to talking with Stevie. He knew that Stevie would never look down on or degrade him, like so many did. That was just the kind of guy Stevie was and always will be.

Ohh and when Holland retires, he will be back. (Just saying.)

*Stats/Honors via Stevie’s Wikipedia, Quote via Detroit Red Wings

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