I personally have had the great honor of watching you through your entire tenure with the Detroit Red Wings franchise. Players with your kind of skill set don’t come around very often. The Wings drafted you 171st overall in the 1998 NHL draft. I think it just goes to show how excellent our scouting system is for them to find a gem like you late in the draft. The way you matured and played the game like nobody else could, you really should have been taken in the first round. I am sure all the other teams in the NHL are kicking themselves after all these years that they passed on you and really didn’t do their homework on what kind of player you could be in the league.
The way you were able to take the puck away from other players so effortlessly was simply amazing. I found myself saying “how does he do that” on so many occasions that it seemed to come routinely, and that soon transitioned to “he is something else, honestly.” You played the game at both ends of the ice. Not many players have the ability to be so strong offensively and defensively, but it seemed to come naturally to you. There is such a long list of highlight real plays that you have on your NHL resume, but there’s one in particular that I personally would like to point out.
It was back in the 2011-2012 season when the Red Wings broke the record for the most consecutive home victories in NHL history. It was February 17th against the Nashville Predators, the game after you guys broke the initial record of 20 consecutive home victories and got number 21. It was my little brother’s first Red Wings game. The crowd was already extremely hyped from the record being broken two nights prior to the Predator’s game. We were hoping that Hockeytown could extend the already amazing accomplishment and, more importantly, to give my little brother an experience he’d never forget. Well, needless to say, that experience occurred. The game was tied at one goal apiece with about 15 seconds to go in regulation. You had initially won the face-off, but it got pushed back to center ice. Nicklas Lidstrom was there to keep it from going further. He passed the puck to Henrik Zetterberg and he dished you a pass that, all these years later, I still don’t know how he made because he wasn’t even looking in your direction. The puck hit your tape and you put a great deke on Ryan Suter and put the puck past Pekka Rinne with 5 seconds to go in regulation. I just remember looking around the Joe and seeing everybody on their feet in excitement. Nobody seemed to sit down afterwards. The public address announcer announced that you had scored the game-winning goal and there was an extra roar from the crowd. We had the Journey experience and everything. My little brother and I had a blast at the game and it was topped off with your magic. It’s moments like those that you wish you were at the arena for so you could have experienced it live, and fortunately we were able to be there, so thank you for that moment.
In closing, I know I can speak for a vast majority of Red Wings fans in saying that we are going to miss you dearly. Your presence on the ice always seemed to have the opposing team change up their game plan. You were nicknamed “The Magic Man” for a reason. Every time you touched the ice, it was pure magic and I’m sure you even left opposing players thinking “what just happened” on plenty of occasions. I fully respect the reason you’re going back to your homeland of Russia, and nobody is going to be upset at you for that. Your legacy for the Red Wings speaks for itself and will live on forever. Just be prepared to make a trip back to America in the near future because I am pretty sure that your number will be lifted to the rafters along with the other Red Wing greats that have had their numbers retired. Thank you again Pavel Datsyuk, there will never be another one like you… Ever.