The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/01/12 at 06:16 AM ET
I couldn’t fit this into the overnight report, but it is the overnight report’s exclamation point. This is a not-so-rough translation of Lidstrom’s discussion with Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman, and it will surprise you, and hopefully put a smile on your face:
“Difficult to get through the speech”
Lidstrom about his emotional farewell, his family moving to Sweden, a free summer and the future.
New York. He has battled against the best hockey players in the world for 20 years. But “Foppa,” Crosby and others can be excused:
Nicklas Lidstrom’s toughest game ever was when he gave his farewell speech to hockey and Detroit at his home in the old Joe Louis Arena yesterday.
“I found it hard to get through it. My wife, Annika, sat and cried through the whole press conference, so I couldn’t possibly meet her gaze. Then I couldn’t have continued,” the retiring legend said to Sportbladet.
It’s over now.
Nicklas Lidstrom has played his last hockey game.
He brought and end to the most glorious career in Swedish hockey history with a press conference at Joe Louis Arena last night.
And it was, as so often happens when one gives their grandest farewell, an emotional event.
Especially when he talked about his family, “Lidas” was obviously taken [with emotion].
“Yes, when talking about those personal matters, it’s a sensitive subject,” he says when we talk a few hours later, on his way to his home in suburban Novi.
“Luckily, I didn’t look at Homer”
Were you close to tears?
“It was difficult to get through the speech. My wife, Annika, sat and cried through the whole press conference, so I couldn’t possibly meet her gaze. Then it never would have [gone on]. It was very special to have her coming to it. And three of my sons were there, too.”
Yes, but your oldest, Kevin, is in Sweden, and couldn’t attend. Instead, he Tweeted yesterday how proud he is of the, “World’s best dad.”
“Oh, did he? I didn’t know, but that’s incredibly cool to hear.”
“Homer” says he cried at the press conference, too.
“I didn’t see, but I was lucky that I didn’t look at him, either. Then it wouldn’t have continued, it was hard enough as it was.”
But you gave a good speech. Did you write it yourself, or did you get help?
“I wrote down some of the things I wanted to say, and then I had some help form John Hahn, our press officer, with a few supporting points. It was difficult, I think. There’s so much I wanted to find and so many I wanted to thank, but you always forget someone.”
It worked perfectly.
“Well, maybe it looked better than it was, then, I thought it was a bit strange and hard to sit there. But I feel good afterwards, I’m happy.”
When you got off the ice after that last game in Nashville in April, could you honestly say that you didn’t know what direction you were leaning in then?
“Yes, I didn’t know what I would do. Just that I would take a few weeks and really get a feel for it. I only decided last week, and when I called Ken Holland (Detroit’s general manager) and explained that I didn’t have enough motivation anymore, he asked me to reconsider the decision over the long Memorial Day weekend, and I did, but my decision stood firm. Now that it’s been made, it feels very good.”
Who else had you talked to about this, apart from your closest?
“On Wednesday, today, I met Chris Chelios. He went through this already a few years ago, and we had a discussion about what it means. He asked if I was really convinced that I wanted to quit, and yes, I said so.”
You’ve talked to your parents, too. What do they say?
“They think that in a way it’s a shame, but they’re also very pleased that we’re moving back home so they can meet and socialize with us and the children much more regularly.”
Yes, so for now, you’re bearing the words, “To Sweden?”
“Yes, we’ve constantly been on the move home, and we’ll be ready in two weeks.”
But you’ve only come home for the summer, when everything is nice. Don’t you think it’ll be much less fun to sit here on a Tuesday in February?
“Yeah, certainly. It will probably be a big change. As for me and Annika, we’ll certainly go back to Detroit quite frequently, we have many friends that we want to keep in touch with.”
Both of you have lived your entire adult life over here. Haven’t you been Americanized?
“I would think, as you say, because we’ve lived here since we were really young. I know a lot more about how the American systems work than Swedish, with practicalities and such. But I think it will be easy to adapt.
Will have the summer off
Everyone’s asking what to do, but do you have any idea?
“No, I’ll let this sink in first. Then we’ll see. I’ve spoken with the Red Wings a little loosely about a role with the team in the future, but exactly what it would be isn’t clear, and they know that we’re moving home.”
You mentioned Par Marts in the press conference. Johan Garpenlov said he’s not sure if he wants to continue as an assistant coach for the Tre Kronor. Might that be something for you?
“‘Pelle’ is one of the most important coaches in my career. He’s the one who started coaching me when I went to hockey school in Vasteras when I was 16. But no, it’s far too early to talk about anything like that. Now I just want to enjoy being free for an entire summer.”
It was really a long time ago, huh?
“Yes, it feels like my first ever. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t devote myself to dry-land training for an entire summer. I’m really looking forward to it.”
One can safely say that, after 20 NHL seasons and 1,564 games, Nicklas Lidstrom’s worth it.
He is. And he’s been worth sleeping two hours over the last 23. Nicklas Lidstrom broke into the league the year I did—1991-92—and I never thought I’d be writing about him retiring and Vladimir Konstantinov doing anything other than playing twenty years ago, but I had hair on the top of my head and not on my upper lip, my dad was still alive and my Aunt Annie’s birthday was her 50th, not the 70th birthday she celebrated on Thursday.
Things change, people change, but the Red Wings and Nicklas Lidstrom have evolved instead, while maintaining and exceeding their standards of excellence, and all I can hope is that Lidstrom’s legacy will ensure that, two years from now, never mind twenty, the words, “Detroit Red Wings” and “Stanley Cup contender” will still be close friends.
May they always be, and may Nicklas Lidstrom enjoy every second of his retirement as fans like you and me have enjoyed every second of his career, even if we didn’t always understand why making the simple play was so damn hard. It took me a while to figure it out, but when I did…
I started watching Lidstrom very specifically, taking note of those little steps taken to the left, little steps to the right, the way he rolled his wrists when he shot the puck, the way he managed to keep his head up while slowly plowing up ice, holding the entire rink on the pivot that was the puck on his stick…
And I will miss it, and miss him, but will be forever grateful. Thank you, Nick. Thank you for everything. Maybe one day, as I said in the overnight report, I’ll save my pennies and get an authentic Lidstrom jersey, and maybe, one day, I’ll ask you to sign it. Until then…
You remain my favorite player ever and someone whose jersey number I’m proud to honor when I wear my own. The “9” in my “59” is for three people—Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman and Gordie Howe. The 5 is for you, and for Red Wings fans, that’s always what 5 will mean.
Not perfect, not superhuman, just able to hold back his tears, if only barely. That’s more than enough.
Update: One more video, from “Currich5” on YouTube:
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.