The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/31/12 at 12:41 PM ET
Thursday morning, Lidstrom, who played in 1,827 games, including the playoffs, made the announcement, which stakeholders in Hockeytown knew would eventually come, but were hoping it wouldn’t be so soon.
The most decorated defenseman of his era, Lidstrom, who appeared in 12 All-Star games and won his first Norris Trophy at age 31, has decided to retire instead of returning to the Wings for a 21st season.
Last month, after the Wings were eliminated by Nashville in the Western Conference quarterfinals, Lidstrom said that the toughest thing about coming back next season was getting motivated to make the necessary commitment to the off-ice workouts in the off-season.
“I know what I have to do to get ready for a long year,” said Lidstrom, who has been team captain since 2006. “I’m not willing to sacrifice that to have a good summer or take it easy. I know what I have to do and it’s a grind to go through, which all of us do in here. Then you hit the grind of (the) season. It’s a long year. You play 3-4 games every week for over six months and that takes its toll on you too.”
As Lidstrom said in Swedish, and in English at his presser, the motivation was lacking, and he wasn’t going to cheat himself, or his teammates, by doing anything less than playing at 100% percent.
To quote the AP’s Larry Lage:
“My drive and motivation are not where to need to be to play at this level,” Nicklas Lidstrom said, retiring after 20 #NHL seasons in the D
From the Wings:
NICKLAS LIDSTROM RETIRES AFTER 20 SEASONS IN DETROIT
... Four-Time Stanley Cup Champion and Seven-Time Norris Trophy Winner Leaves the Game as one of Hockey’s All-Time Greats …
Detroit, MI… Nicklas Lidstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings and a seven-time winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the National Hockey League’s best defenseman, announced today that he will retire from the Red Wings after 20 seasons. Lidstrom finishes his illustrious career ranked in the top 10 all-time among defensemen with 264 goals (ninth), 878 assists (sixth), 1,142 points (sixth) and 132 power-play goals (fifth). He played in 263 postseason games, second all-time among NHL players (Chris Chelios – 266), and 1,564 regular season games, second in franchise history behind only Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe (1,687).
“I’m extremely grateful for having had the chance to play in Detroit for 20 years, for an Original Six franchise with such history and tradition, and for having the opportunity to play with so many world class players during my career,” said Lidstrom. “I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch for always providing us with the best opportunity to win, year after year. I also want to thank the fans for their unending support. I have nothing but great memories of my time with the Red Wings, especially the four Stanley Cup championships we were able to bring to Detroit.”
Lidstrom, 42, was Detroit’s third-round pick (53rd overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in Chicago against the rival Blackhawks on October 3, 1991. The Vasteras, Sweden, native collected 60 points (11-49-60) during his rookie campaign and finished as the runner-up to Pavel Bure for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. Lidstrom was named to the 1992 All-Rookie Team. His stellar freshman season was simply a prelude of things to come over the next two decades.
Lidstrom spent all 20 seasons of his career in the Motor City, a rare feat in today’s professional sports landscape. He never missed the playoffs during his career, advancing to the conference finals eight times, the Stanley Cup Final six times and winning the Stanley Cup four times in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008. In 2002, the steady defenseman became the first European-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP despite playing on a team littered with flashy NHL stars such as Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek and Brendan Shanahan. He was named captain of the Red Wings prior to the start of the 2006-07 season and led Detroit to back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009. He became the first European-born captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship with a 4-2 series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008.
“It’s hard to put into words exactly what Nicklas Lidstrom has meant to the Detroit Red Wings over the last 20 years,” said Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland. “In my opinion he’s the best two-way defenseman to ever play the game. He’s the type of player that comes along once in a generation. We’ll miss what he’s brought to our organization as a player and as our captain, but what we’ll probably miss the most is the person that he is off the ice and having him around on a daily basis.”
Lidstrom was recognized as the NHL’s top defenseman seven times over a 10-season span from 2001-2011. His seven Norris Trophies (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011) tie him with Doug Harvey for second most all-time, trailing only the legendary Bobby Orr (eight). Lidstrom won his first Norris Trophy at age 31 and in 2011 he became the oldest player ever to win the award at age 41. He holds Detroit’s single-season records for assists (64) and points (80) by a defenseman, ranks fourth in franchise history with 1,142 points and has the highest plus-minus rating (+450) in the NHL since 1991-92, his first year in the league. Lidstrom was named a First Team All-Star 10 times during his career (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011) and a Second Team All-Star twice (2009, 2010). He was selected to play in 12 NHL All-Star Games (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011) and picked to captain his squad in 2011. Lidstrom ranks in the top three all-time among defensemen in the postseason with 54 goals (third), 129 assists (third), 183 points (second) and 30 power-play goals (first). He was named the NHL’s player of the decade from 2000-2009 by both the Sporting News and SportsIllustrated.com.
Lidstrom’s durability over his 20-year career is nearly as impressive as his litany of accomplishments. He missed just 44 regular season games since he entered the league in 1991-92. Twelve of those 44 games came during the 2011-12 season. Lidstrom played in every regular season game seven times during his career and played in 80-or-more games 14 times in 20 seasons. Over his 20 consecutive playoff appearances, Lidstrom would miss just two postseason games due to injury, both in 2009. He skated in 263 of the 265 playoff games the Red Wings played from 1992-2012.
Lidstrom also found success at the international level throughout his career. He represented his native Sweden at numerous international competitions and is a member of the exclusive ‘Triple Gold Club’ having won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006 and an IIHF World Championships title in 1991 to go with his four Stanley Cup championships in Detroit.
Update: Here’s Lidstrom’s comment clip from NHL.com:
Update #2: here are some more quotes from Michigan Hockey Now’s Michael Caples...
“A couple weeks after the season was over, you start working out, you start doing the things you do to prepare for a long summer to stay in shape,” said Lidstrom. “Once I started doing that, I didn’t have that push that I know I need, that I’ve had in the past. I knew I didn’t have that drive in me. I can’t cheat myself.”
Since first donning the Winged Wheel, Lidstrom has helped the Red Wings advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs each and every season of his illustrious 20-year career. In the process, Detroit currently holds the longest active post-season appearance streak at 21 seasons. That streak is the longest active run of any of the four North American major professional sports leagues (NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA). The current run is tied for the fifth-longest NHL streak of all-time.
Though he suffered a pestering ankle injury and a significant drop-off in his offensive production this season, he was still the foundation for the Red Wings’ roster. Lidstrom’s steady, positional-sound play – exactly what he has made a career of – led Detroit again to not just a team record, but a league record. From Nov. 5, 2011 to Feb. 19, 2012, an astounding three-and-a-half month span, the Detroit Red Wings won 23 straight games at Joe Louis Arena, the longest home-winning streak in NHL history.
As he retires, Lidstrom stands as the Red Wings’ all-time leader in plus-minus (plus-450), points by a defenseman (1,142), and is second in games played (1,564) only to Gordie Howe. And if you want to talk ‘clutch,’ Lidstrom finished second in Red Wings’ all-time playoff points, with 183. Yzerman only had two more postseason points.
When Lidstrom captured gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics with Sweden, he became a member of what is known as the Triple Gold Club, an exclusive home to those who have captured a Stanley Cup, as well as a gold medal at the Olympics and World Championships.
“It’s hard to choose from when you’ve won four Stanley Cups,” said Lidstrom of his fondest memory over the course of his career. “I think the one in ’97 was pretty special because I remember it so well.”
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and Eric Lacy:
“After 20 seasons I am announcing my retirement,” Lidstrom said. “It’s painfully obvious to me my strength and energy level are not rebounding quickly enough for me to continue to play. My drive and motivation are not where they need to be. … It’s not that the tank is completely empty. I just don’t have enough to get me through.”
The low-key excellence Lidstrom brought to the ice will be missed.
“He’s going to go down as one of the all time best defenseman,” said former teammate Steve Yzerman, another Red Wings legend.
Thursday’s press conference was attended by Lidstrom, Wings general manager Ken Holland and team owner Mike Ilitch.
“It’s one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history,” Ilitch said. Nick has been a Rock of Gibraltar.”
Lidstrom took the first few minutes to thank Red Wings ownership, current and former players, and coaches for helping him in his career since he moved from Sweden once he turned 16.
“I never really wanted to leave Detroit,” he said. “I always believed in this team and organization.”
Mike Ilitch’s comments aren’t loading, but they’re available on NHL.com as well, and, via Paul:
Here’s the Q and A…
And Ilitch’s comments:
No Nicklas Lidstrom equals $20.2 million to spend on a handful of openings. Build your own #NHL #RedWings roster: http://www.capgeek.com/cap-calculator/?team_id=15
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa offers some early quotes...
“This is one of the most emotional days in Red Wing history, with Nick retiring and all of you showing respect for such a high quality individual,” owner Mike Ilitch said Thursday at Lidstrom’s retirement press conference at Joe Louis Arena. “He has just been a solid leader. The word perfect has come up and I say, ‘Whew, let’s not get carried away here, nobody’s perfect.’ But the more time that you spend with him, the more time you spend with the team as a group, you see how things go and you get a chance to witness his leadership. His qualities are right there. No variations. Get out there and get the job done, and be a professional. Be a human being. Be a good citizen. Don’t do things that will hurt your reputation, hurt your team.”
The kindness, the compassion, the courage, the forthrightness, the emotional equilibrium that Lidstrom showed throughout his brilliant, nonpareil career is what should remain with us. Long after the debates about whether he or Bobby Orr was the greatest defenseman, long after the debates about whether he or Steve Yzerman were more important to the teams that won Stanley Cups for the Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002, and long before we are done missing Nicklas Lidstrom, what we should take from him is the gift of his humanity.He is the son-in-law we would like for our daughters, the big brother we would like for our sons, the father-in-law we would like for ourselves.
After praising his wife for doing “the incredible job of raising four boys” with a husband on the road for much of nine months of the year, Lidstrom reflected on his career.
“I take a lot of pride in what I have done here in over 20 years,” he said. “I take a lot pride in how hard I worked, how I prepared for games. I represented my country in different Olympics or world championships. I represented Detroit, not just the Red Wings but the city itself, too,” he said. “We see a lot of fans when we travel around North America, and others showing us great respect. So I take a lot of pride in being a Red Wing, but also being a player who comes from Detroit.”
“For me,” said Ken Holland, the general manager and executive vice president of the Red Wings said, “when you think about Nick, you think about class.
Ditto for the Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James, by way of USA Today:
“The last two years, I waited until season was over to assess if I could play again,” Lidstrom said. “I let my body recover. Sadly, this year, it’s painfully obvious to me my strength and energy level are not rebounding. My drive and motivation is not where it needs to be to play at this level. That’s why it’s time to retire. I’m aware some think I can still help the Wings win games. I appreciate that. It’s been a great, great ride. I take a lot of pride in how hard I worked, in representing my country, and in representing Detroit.”
Lidstrom was flanked by team owner Mike Ilitch and general manager Ken Holland on the dais.
“It’s one of the most emotional days in Red Wing history,” Ilitch said. “Nick has been a Rock of Gibraltar. A solid leader. The word perfect comes up.”
Lidstrom, a 1989 draft pick who spent his entire career in Detroit, retires as a member of the exclusive “triple gold” club, having won the Stanley Cup (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008), a World Championship (1991) and an Olympic gold medal (2006 at the Torino Games, where he scored the gold medal-winning goal).
“I never thought I’d be able to be part of Stanley Cup championships, Norris trophies, parades,” Lidstrom said. “That’s something I never thought about.”
Lidstrom has been a fixture in the Wings’ locker room since 1991-92, his rookie season. His departure — with Tomas Holmstrom’s retirement probably following soon after — is going to be felt in every aspect for the Wings. Bertuzzi, one of many teammates along with Holmstrom, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Drew Miller and others who were at the Joe for the announcement, can hardly fathom what it’s going to be like next season.
“It’s going to be a very different locker room,” he said. “It’s going to look weird without Nick.”
Lidstrom said his immediate plans include moving back to Sweden with his family. But he also said he’d “like to remain with the organization somehow.”
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