Red Wings introduce Steve Yzerman as GM: 'There's a lot of work to be done'

By Eric Coughlin
Special to The Detroit News
Steve Yzerman arrives for Friday's press conference.

The Red Wings are bringing back a familiar face to help rebuild the franchise.

Detroit named Steve Yzerman its new general manager at a press conference beginning at 3 p.m. Friday. He'll replace Ken Holland, who will remain with the organization as senior vice president.

Yzerman, 53, spent the last nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, including eight as general manager. As a Hall-of-Fame player with the Wings, Yzerman served two decades as the team’s captain while leading them to three Stanley Cups.

Here are the highlights from Yzerman's introductory press conference by Eric Coughlin of The Detroit News.

At 3:06 p.m. Ken Holland, Steve Yzerman and Chris Ilitch sat at the podium.

"Steve Yzerman will return to the Red Wings," Ilitch said.

Ilitch reinforced that moving Holland to senior vice president and adding Yzerman will strengthen leadership for Red Wings.

"We believe Steve Yzerman is the perfect choice to lead our efforts," Ilitch said.

Then Ilitch went over Yzerman's resume as a front-office executive.

"Tampa ranks fifth overall in victories since Steve (Yzerman) took over," Ilitch said.

Ilitch praised Yzerman's perspective as a hall-of-fame player and highlighted his competitive drive to permeate throughout the organization.

Ilitch said that Holland thinks it best for Yzerman to take over hockey operations.

Ilitch then went over Holland's career accomplishments and then turned things over to Yzerman.

"I would like to start by saying I'm extremely happy to be back in Detroit," Yzerman said.

Yzerman then thanked the Ilitch family for putting him in a leadership position and then praised Holland for his tenure with the Red Wings.

"He's been a great friend, and he's been my mentor. I've learned so much from him," Yzerman said about Holland.

Yzerman stressed that he doesn't have a timeline but that winning will take time.

"I look forward to working with Jeff (Blashill)," Yzerman said about the Red Wings' current coach.

"I'm grateful for all for bringing me back here," Yzerman finished his opening remarks with.

Holland started talking by thanking the organization for his time as general manager.

"When he retired as a player he came into our front office and we worked together for four years. I respect Steve as one of the top general managers in the league," Holland said.

"Welcome back, Steve. I'm thrilled you're back where you belong," Holland said.

Ilitch wanted to then reiterate that no one has worked harder than Holland to bring success to the Red Wings.

"He's been an amazing general manager for our organization," Ilitch said.

After taking a question from the media, Yzerman said that once work was done in Tampa Bay, he had to move to Red Wings because it was "time to get to work with U-18s coming up."

Yzerman said that solid ownership was something he was looking for as a player and as a front-office executive.

"This has been an extremely successful franchise with the people that have been here throughout the ups and downs. There was no hesitation in working with this group of people."

Yzerman was asked if it was painful to see the team go through hard times.

"My goal when I left for Tampa was to win a Stanley Cup. It hurt to see the team struggle. It's tough to win a cup--I'm living it now."

Yzerman thought when he left he would never get a chance to be general manager for the Red Wings.

"I'm very proud of this organization," Yzerman said. "You saw this organization build and build and build to get back to where it was in the '50s and '60s. The people here know what they're doing, and they're going to get back there."

Yzerman was asked about making front-office moves.

"At this point, I can't say yes or no to that," Yzerman said. "There are great people in the Tampa organization. There is a limit to the number of people you could bring."

Yzerman was asked how he weighed leaving an organization that is close to the top for one that's not.

"I like being in charge. To come back to the Red Wing organization wasn't a difficult decision. There are so many positives here. It's an awesome opportunity personally and professionally," Yzerman said.

Yzerman confirmed that he plans on honoring the contract extension just signed by Blashill recently.

"I look forward to working with him," Yzerman said about Blashill. "I'm not looking to just roll in here just to make moves that seem exciting."

Ilitch said that in the fall he got together with Holland to discuss the possibility of bringing Yzerman back to Detroit.

"It's a moment in time for Steve to have stepped down from his role. He was interested in coming back and being closer to his family and that was very fortunate for the Red Wings," Ilitch said.

Ilitch then reinforced that Holland has handled the situation with the utmost professionality.

"I'm very disappointed we didn't win a Stanley Cup in Tampa," Yzerman said. "But the only reason I look back is to learn. I'm pleased people are excited, but these are difficult jobs. You get surprised positively and negatively. These players are young boys when they start. We're going to do things the right way, the way I learned in this organization. I'm going to ask for some patience, and I know there's a limit to that. I'm not going to make a big splash just so we are a little better next year. We're competing with 30 other teams. It's going to take time."

Yzerman was asked if it was fate that he came back on the 19th day of April in 2019 with his number with the Red Wings being 19.

"We'll see in five years," Yzerman said.

Yzerman was asked when he got the idea to come back to Detroit.

"My family has remained in the Michigan area. This is home. What was weighing on me (in Tampa) was spending time with Lisa and the girls (Yzerman's wife and daughters). I wasn't doing the job the way I thought. Ultimately we agreed I would stay as an advisor. As the year went on, in the back of my mind, I wanted to live in Detroit."

Yzerman didn't remember the exact day that the Lightning had contacted him to tell him the Red Wings had asked for permission to speak with him.

"I had a lot going on the last couple weeks so the timeline is blurred. Here we are today," Yzerman said.

Yzerman was asked how long it would take him to become familiar with every player in the organization.

"I don't think it will take me too long. With free agency we'll get a chance to have pro scout meetings, and I know those guys. I don't know the coaches in Grand Rapids. I know how I want to do things."