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The Malik Report

Oh, Jerry Green..

Every once in a while, the Detroit News’s Jerry Green probably cracks the arthritis out of his knuckles and pens a column about the Detroit sports scene, offering the perspective of someone who really was an “ink-stained wretch” who likely spent his time hunched over typwriters, chain smoking his way toward beating a deadline.

I respect the hell out of his, “Old school? I’ve literally been there and did it!” perspective (I work for someone like that, and his insights are remarkable), but he is also something of a…Curmudgeon of the Stan Fischler school. So it comes as little surprise that, in discussing the retirements of Detroit Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez and Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, he compares the Red Wings’ captain to a player who definitely mirrored Lidstrom’s playing style in Red Kelly, and petitioning for Kelly’s #4 to be raised to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena despite his acrimonious split with the team, which is spot-on…

Green insists that Lidstrom paled in comparison to the real McCoy:

We grizzled gaffers claim that Red Kelly was the greatest defenseman in the history of the Red Wings. We agreed that Lidstrom played, quietly, efficiently, brilliantly in the style of Kelly.

Nick won the Stanley Cup four times in the 1990s and 2000s. Kelly just happened to win four Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings in the 1950s. Then he won the Stanley Cup four more times with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a forward. Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy seven times as the NHL’s best defenseman. Kelly, the first Norris Trophy winner in 1954, was selected eight times as an NHL All-Star defensemen in his seasons with Detroit, six as a first-team All-Star.

Yet the Ilitches and Jimmy Devellano refuse to hang Kelly’s No. 4 where it belongs. Tradition hangs heavy with the Red Wings, it seems. In 1959, Kelly broke a bone in his ankle. He continued to play with the injury. His injury was kept secret. The next season Kelly explained to a journalist why he had not played was well as usual at the end of the 1959 schedule. He admitted he’d had a broken ankle.

The fiery and often angry Jack Adams was then general manager of the Red Wings. Adams was furious at Kelly for revealing the secret. In spite, Adams traded Kelly to the New York Rangers. Kelly refused to go and said he would retire. So Adams traded Kelly to the Maple Leafs — and on to four more Cup championships.

It’s strange and true. We battle forever about which athletes are better from generation to generation — and which would, if ever possible, would outperform the other.

But no matter the era, the end comes, retirement looks as relaxing and as comforting as a hot bath. Then the steam fades and the water cools — and the best of times transform into yearning memories.

Now I happen to believe that Kelly’s #4 and Larry Aurie’s #6 should be up in the rafters, but to suggest that Lidstrom’s longevity, durability, sustained brilliance and remarkable leadership, on and off the ice, don’t hack it…

Hell, what do I know, I’m only 34, and watched each and every season of Lidstrom’s 20-year career. I’m just a rookie, and am part of a generation that can’t write a column “on retirement” like Green because the times have changed, and I expect to be working till I drop (which is fine). That and I got this via a heads-up from RedWingsFeed on Twitter. So I’m unqualified to comment.


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RWBill's avatar

I thought Jerry Green had passed away.  I might be thinking of Joe Falls.

Posted by RWBill on 06/03/12 at 12:26 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.