Ex-NHL referee: Steve Yzerman was 'disrespectful'

Mark Falkner
The Detroit News

Former referee Paul Stewart paints a rather unflattering picture of Steve Yzerman's on-ice behavior during Yzerman's 22-year NHL career.

In Stewart's new book "You Wanna Go," Stewart said Yzerman was his least favorite player to deal with because the Red Wings' captain showed little respect for his officials.  

"I made it my business to step up and defend the linesmen whom he treated the most poorly, in my opinion," Stewart wrote in the book. "In Minnesota, he berated a linesman to the point where I felt awful for this guy.

Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman, left, listens to referees Bill McCreary, center, and Kelly Sutherland during Game 1 of the 2006 playoffs against the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena.

"It finally reached the point where I asked to meet with Detroit head coach Scotty Bowman. Bowman told me Yzerman had been difficult to get under control. I asked Scotty to strike a compromise. 

"Bowman had other players like Doug Brown, Viacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larionov and Chris Chelios, who didn't berate officials and could discuss penalties and calls with me without going over the top in a disrespectful manner."

Ex-teammates of Yzerman disagree with Stewart's point of view.

"He's (Stewart) trying to sell a book, right?" said Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, a former Red Wing and the only player in NHL history with 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes.

"Steve had that fire in the belly, that relentless, unyielding will to win, but you would be mistaken and it would be inaccurate to say he was disrespectful. He wasn't that kind of guy. He held everyone accountable on the ice, even the officials."

Shanahan did say Yzerman and some officials weren't on great speaking terms.

More:Yzerman rules: Wings GM applies lessons from 14-year Cup drought

Shanahan remembers Yzerman's reaction when an official offered to buy them a round of drinks at a restaurant the day after ejecting Yzerman in the third period of a game in Nashville in 2003.

"Steve told the guy to (expletive) off ... and he (Yzerman) walked out of the restaurant," Shanahan said.

Yzerman spent his fair share of time in the penalty box during his 1,514 career games, averaging 42 minutes in penalties per season.

Red Wings color analyst Mickey Redmond says Yzerman was no pushover on the ice, especially early in his career when teams tried to intimidate the young captain.

"He learned how to use his stick to protect himself and earn his territory," Redmond said. "They tried to run him like any young star but he had the fortitude to say, 'I don't think so.' That set the bar for him to become a really good hockey player."

Bob Errey, a junior teammate of Yzerman's with the OHL Peterborough Petes and the Red Wings, also disagrees with Stewart's assessment of Yzerman's behavior.

"Stewie was a good guy, but it wasn't always about the game," Errey said. "A lot of times, it was about Stewie. Steve would ride officials if he felt they weren't doing their job, but not to the point of disrespect. I wouldn't classify it that way. No, not all."