The Detroit Red Wings raised Steve Yzerman's jersey to the rafters Tuesdayin an emotional hour-long ceremony.
Yzerman, who retired in July after a23-year career in the NHL, was given a lengthy standing ovation at Joe Louis Arena.
In an emotional address, he thanked Red Wings management, coaches and players.
Yzerman, who was a captain for a league-record 20 seasons, is regarded as one of the best leaders in NHL history. But he played down his contribution in that regard.
"I feel my image as a great leader is greatly overblown. I realize that because I played with some of the best hockey players who will ever play in the league," he said.
Yzerman also acknowledged his fans.
"I don't know how I can thank you," he said, fighting back tears. "As I said earlier, the first time I stepped on the ice in 1983, I was in awe of the building and the atmosphere. I felt that throughout my entire career. It's inspirational."
Yzerman, who spent his entire career in Detroit, was a crucial part of the team's transformation from an also-ran to a Stanley Cup champion, winning the cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
Born in Cranbrook, B.C., and raised in Nepean, Ont., Yzerman playedjunior hockey for the Peterborough Petesbefore being drafted No. 4 overall by the Red Wings in 1983.
Yzerman ended his career with 1,755 regular-season points, a total that led all active players last season and trails just five othersin NHL history.
"Being team captain wasn’t just a responsibility [for Steve], it ran through his veins," Red Wings' owner Mike Ilitch said during the ceremony. "He never took a night off. Never. His commitment to the teamis as good as it gets."
Skated in 2002 Winter Olympics
Yzerman alsocompeted at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Just two weeks removed from knee surgery, he proved to be one of Canada's top players at the 10-day tournament.
"He came in here hurt and then played like there was no tomorrow," said Jacques Martin, who was an assistant coach for the Canadians. "You wouldn't have known he was hurt if you looked at him on the ice. The guy was outstanding."
Some of his former teammates — Brett Hull, Igor Larionov and Mike Vernon — were at Tuesday's ceremony along with former coaches Scotty Bowman, Dave Lewis and Barry Smith.
Yzerman was welcomed to the exclusive club of Detroit legends by the three surviving players to have their numbers retired — Gordie Howe (9), Alex Delvecchio (10) and Ted Lindsay (7), along with the grandson of Terry Sawchuk (1) and son of Sid Abel (12).
After the ceremony, the Red Wings squared off against the Anaheim Ducks, the NHL's top team with a 28-7-6 record this season. Detroit won the game 2-1.