'Who knows what might happen?'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 5:41 PM ET

The thunderous ovation for a player who has scored more than 1,700 points and the tears as a city says an emotional goodbye to one of its heroes. But, thanks to the NHL lockout and a subsequently cancelled season, it might never happen.

Of course, if he does wait out the shutdown, Motown will throw one hell of a retirement party. And you can bet Yzerman will be nervously shuffling in his skates, uncomfortable with the recognition, uneasy with the celebration.

If this is the end, has Yzerman had a chance to write the final chapter?"

"It's a great question," says Pang, the former 67's goalie who played in the NHL with Chicago. "With everything he has overcome in his career and what he's been through, you wish he could have the chance to say goodbye properly.

"You want him to step out on the ice for that final game, to hear the crowd cheer at Joe Louis Arena and then sit in the dressing room afterwards having a beer ... just enjoying the moment and having the memories. If it's over, though, I don't think there's any regret.

"I know one thing about Steve Yzerman whether he plays again or not: He puts, and has put, everything on the line every night. If the book is closed on his career, then I believe he's written a great story and filled up every chapter. One that's about heart, desire and a willingness to win by competing hard."

Don't send out the invitations to the retirement party, yet. Yzerman wants one more chance. He wants to come back from the eye injury and get another shot at the Cup with the Wings.

"I want to play. The tough thing is maintaining a conditioning level," says Yzerman, who quit skating in late January. "I've been riding the bike and working out since June. Anybody who exercises on a regular basis knows it's a struggle.

"To come back to play is a difficult thing to do -- especially when there's no competitive hockey. The writing is on the wall. That's kind of obvious. I don't want to close the door and say, 'Well, forget it. I'm done.' There isn't any reason to say I'm done right now. Who knows what might come in the next 12 months?"

He doesn't want it to end this way. There are no personal milestones he's aiming for. No records. That's not the player he is. And it's not about the money.

For Yzerman, it's about winning. It's about squeezing everything he can out of his career. He knows what it's like to win a Stanley Cup and the sacrifices that go with it: The sweat and desire. Others would have walked away facing less adversity. But this is Steve Yzerman.

"I don't want to script the end of my career. Regardless of the lockout, I'm not totally okay if it ended this way," says Yzerman. "I'm disappointed how my season was individually last year. I look back and wish I had done this or that. I can't put too much weight on my final season because it doesn't really effect my career. But I was looking forward to coming back and playing for another year and at the end of the season feeling better about things. There are just some things that have bothered me."

That being said, Yzerman doesn't want a farewell tour. What he wants is a chance to play.

"I'm not into that stuff, he says. "I'm not Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. They clearly stood out. You can acknowledge the greatness there. Those guys deserve farewells because they stood out and they were at the top of the sport. They really separated themselves from everybody else. I never made it to that level."

Many would suggest otherwise, however.

"No, no, gosh no," says Yzerman. "Those two guys clearly separated themselves from all the other great players in hockey. Their accomplishments reached another level in my lifetime ... them and Bobby Orr."

Before heading home, Yzerman wants to make one thing clear: It's not time to count him out just yet.

"Don't write the obituary," says Yzerman. "There's no need to make a decision one way or another. I just kind of wait."

And we wait too. We wait for The Warrior to return. We wait for some semblance of sanity between the NHL and NHLPA. And we wait for a settlement, putting the NHL back on ice. So The Warrior, the courageous one, can bow out on his own terms, in all his quiet glory.


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