Even after a breakthrough season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished one victory from the Stanley Cup finals, first-year general manager Steve Yzerman was preaching perspective.
"We're not where we want to be," Yzerman said. "It's a positive start. But there are always ways to improve. You never really relax and feel comfortable about things."
For a brief moment on Thursday night, though, Yzerman enjoyed some well-deserved praise.
Yzerman was named the Tampa Bay area sports Executive of the Year during the inaugural Sneaker Soiree at TPepin's Hospitality Centre. The event, presented by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, was organized to honor excellence in the Tampa Bay sports business world.
Award winners in 16 categories were announced.
Yzerman, who was Team Canada's executive director and oversaw the nation's gold medal-winning team in the 2010 Winter Olympics, might need to clear his mantle for another award. He is a finalist for the NHL's GM of the Year — along with Vancouver's Mike Gillis and Nashville's David Poile — which will be presented on June 22 in Las Vegas.
He had similarly formidable competition for Thursday night's honor.
Yzerman was selected ahead of Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, whose team transformed from 3-13 to 10-6, and Rays president Matt Silverman, who heads the business side of an organization that won two AL East titles in the past three seasons.
Award nominees were selected and voted upon by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission's board of directors, with two awards decided with online voting from fans. Rob Higgins, the commission's executive director, said the event's proceeds will benefit youth sports.
"It's hard not to notice the strength of the decisions that each of our local sports properties are making off the field, and there (wasn't) anything being done to honor these success stories," Higgins said. "Our overall event concept was our version of the ESPY's meets your local high school pep rally."