Lender Banks On Yzerman

June 30, 2006
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COMSTOCKPARK — Standing near the warming tray filled with hot wings in the Fifth Third Bank suite at Fifth Third Ballpark last week was the hottest Wing of all.

Detroit Red Wings Captain Steve Yzerman was there to meet and greet some of the bank's clients as part of a "free-agent" contract the revered forward and certain future hall-of-famer had signed with the local lender.

"He is helping us with some advertising, both print and television. He is also doing some personal appearances for us, both as a thank you to existing clients and as a special event to prospect for new customers for Fifth Third," said Mark Michon, executive vice president for the investment advisors group at Fifth Third.

Before Yzerman threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a West Michigan Whitecaps game last week, he led off the event by speaking to a roomful of the bank's commercial customers, clients of the investment advisor division, and members of the business banking group.

Yzerman has performed the same duties for Fifth Third on the east side of the state for years, and he signed a one-year agreement earlier this year that brings him to West Michigan.

"We've had quite a long relationship with him. We have not utilized him as extensively on the west side of the state, but we are planning for a couple more events like this for our customers and for our prospects," said Michon.

"We expect there will be at least one [other appearance] in the fall."

The contract is good through 2006, and Michon told the Business Journal that the bank would try to renew the agreement for next year.

"Going into 2007, we expect that we would be able to work with Steve a little more extensively," he said. "For those of us who have met Steve Yzerman, we know him as a humble hero."

Yzerman has had other agreements similar to his current one with Fifth Third. Probably the most visible was his contract with Art Van furniture, which featured a line of furniture named after him, and public appearances at stores in metro Detroit.

More recently, Yzerman authorized Stevie Y Authentic, now known as Lucky Sports Management, an online memorabilia store that sells exclusive Yzerman-signed merchandise. He also has served as a spokesman for hockey-equipment manufacturers and sports-drink makers.

Yzerman, who is just eight career tallies short of reaching the coveted 700-goal mark, is debating whether or not he should hang his skates up for good. He said last week he would always have a desire to play the game that he has played the past 22 years in Detroit, but fully realizes his role has changed as he has aged. He also said he made a positive contribution to the Red Wings last season.

"I've talked to players who have retired and they do miss [the game]," said Yzerman, who turned 41 last May.

Yzerman seemed to have a pretty good idea of where he wants to be whenever he decides his playing days are over.

"I'd like to stay in hockey. When I retire, I'll sit down with the organization and we'll figure it out. I don't know what that [position] will be," he said.

But he did say that he doesn't have much interest in coaching.

"I wouldn't rule that out. But the thing about coaching is you've got to move around, and I'm not prepared to do that."

That statement from Yzerman probably makes Fifth Third happy, as the bank would like him to remain in Michigan. Even if Yzerman stops playing, Michon said he would still be a good fit for Fifth Third.

"When you think of an organizational leader, Steve kind of exemplifies what we want to represent at Fifth Third. I guess his personal demeanor and his professional demeanor is consistent with our mission and our corporate values," he said.

"He is, of course, a tremendous leader. He is a nine-time All-Star and all the wonderful stats associated with his successful career. But he also is a terrific team player, and it's rare that a superstar can bring superstars together, and we'd like to think that within our own organization we can emulate what Steve has done with the Red Wings."    

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