The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/31/12 at 08:07 PM ET
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom retired this morning, and while the presser was overwhelming, Lidstrom will appear on NHL Live at 6 PM, this afternoon’s Mitch Albom and Stoney and Bill shows, and it’s time to move on as well:
Here’s an in-progress summary of the Detroit-area media outlets’ takes on Lidstrom’s retirement, on a source-by-source basis.
Fox 2: WJBK posted a confirmation of Lidstrom’s retirement…
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has decided to hang up his skates after 20 years in the NHL.
The 42-year-old said, “at some point time catches up with everyone and affects their ability to perform. Something you love and care about passionately comes to an end sooner than you would have liked.”
Lidstrom says he’s made the decision to retire after careful consideration and evaluating his ability to maintain the high level of physical activity required for the NHL.
“Sadly this year it’s become painfully obvious to me my strength and energy level are not rebounding enough for me to play at this level, Lidstrom said. That’s why it is time for me to retire.”
He thanked the Red Wings organization, his past and current teammates and the Ilitch family for their support. Team owner called Lidstrom the team’s Rock of Gibraltar for being a solid leader over the years. Lidstrom thanked his family and especially his wife for raising their four boys. In closing Lidstrom said, “Retiring today allows me to walk away from the game with pride rather than have the game walk away from me.”
And a video of Lidstrom speaking to Dan Miller in a 6:21 interview:
Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch called it one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history. He thanked the team’s Swedish scouts for bringing Lidstrom to Detroit.
“I would like to thank Jim Nill,” Ilitch said.
Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland said he had been dreading Lidstrom’s retirement since he became GM.
“When you think about Nick, for me it’s about class,” Holland said. “I think he’s been the most valuable player of his era. He’s going to go down in history as one of the greatest Red Wings, as one of the greatest players at his position.”
WDIV is also asking fans to weigh in as to who should be the next captain;
From Tom Leyden, videos of Mike Babcock and Danny Cleary talking about the next captain…
Leyden also posted a Twitter-only video of Darren Helm discussing his “Lightning Bolt” scar on his right arm.
So I decided to go to a higher power and find out what Wings head coach Mike Babcock says about the comparison and believe it or not Babcock went to his own high power. “I called Scotty (Bowman) on my way in here today. Scotty coached him 10 and I coached him 7 (years).” Babcock went on to say that Bowman told him that “Orr changed the game. He said Doug Harvey and Nick Lidstrom were the two players that always made the right decisions every time and controlled the game. He has a much better read on that than I do so there is his input.”
As the code for these videos is funky, here is the link to it as well…
And I’m going to do the same regarding Riger’s conversation with Ken Holland…
nother mystery coming into the presser was when exactly did Lidstrom tell the Wings of his decision and how GM Ken Holland took the news? I wonder if Holland tried to talk Nick out of retirement, so I asked him. “I listened and he told me he decided to retire. I told him that a lot of athletes had made decisions to retire and made comebacks after they decided to retire. I told him when you retire, it’s for the rest of your life” Holland said. The GM gave Lidstrom the weekend to think over his decision and received a text on Tuesday saying that Nick will indeed hang it up.
But did Holland try to change his mind?
“I told him that I thought he was one of the 4, 5, 6 best defensemen in the world today even at the age of 42″ said Holland. Lidstrom replied that he was comfortable with the decision to retire at which point Holland went to Chris Chelios to try to get Lidstrom to change his mind. “Chelly went paddle boarding with him yesterday and Chelly called me at noon and said that he couldn’t change his mind either” Holland Said.
“At the end of the day I feel good for Nick” said Holland. “He’s up there, he’s walking away on his own terms, his standards are very high and he’s decided he wants to move on to the next chapter of his life. He gave us 20 incredible years and you have to feel good about what he has done for us” Holland went on to say.
If you don’t see the video, you can watch it here...
And Riger posted a chunk of the Lidstrom presser as well:
And here’s the link to that video.
I believe Jamie Samuelssen’s stating the obvious here:
As much praise as Holland has received and as much of it that has been deserved, there’s always been that one nagging factor about his tenure in Detroit. All of his success (ALL of it) has come with Nicklas Lidstrom in the lineup. Holland will never have a better player on his roster. And he’ll never have a more valuable player. Lidstrom was basically three defensemen, two forwards and a Captain all rolled into one player. Some fans grumbled about Lidstrom’s salary number over the past few years as he got older. That’s a joke. There was no number that would have been too high for Lidstrom and what he meant to the franchise. I’m sure Holland negotiated each year hoping to drive that salary down, but he must have always done so knowing that whatever Lidstrom wanted, he was going to get. The Red Wings just couldn’t afford to lose him.
So now, it’s Holland’s time. Can he do it? There’s not a doubt in my mind. He’s got four rings to show for the job he did. But much like Phil Jackson won all of his titles with Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal or Kobe Bryant; Holland will now have to prove that he’s not just a by-product of inheriting the greatest defenseman of this generation and one of the greatest players the sport has ever known. Jackson never coached the Clippers. Holland never ran a team without Lidstrom.
He still has the backing of Mike Ilitch. He still has one of the great support teams in the game including assistant GM Jim Nill and ace scout Hakan Andersson. And he still is the general manager for the Detroit Red Wings – one of the proudest franchises in sports. In some ways, this should be fun for Holland. He has money to spend and he has obvious targets available through free agency.
Nicklas Lidstrom has been the most important member of the Red Wing organization for twenty years. That era is over. Holland is now the man in the spotlight. Opening night for the Wings comes in the fall. Opening night for Holland will be July 1st when free agency begins. And we’ll all be watching.
WBBL posted an interview with Detroit News beat writer Gregg Krupa:
If you’re interested, this is an “out of town” take, but here’s the MP3 of Lidstrom’s presser, from The Fan 590:
And here’s an interview with Kris Draper from earlier in the day:
Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji posted a gaggle of Twitter comments from throughout the day, and Wakjii posted a remarkable column from her conversations with Chris Chelios, Barry Smith, Mike Babcock, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Dave Lewis and Ken Holland:
Even a conversation on a paddleboard with Chris Chelios couldn’t change Nick Lidstrom’s mind—it was time to call it a career. Two of the greatest defensemen in NHL history took some time Wednesday to paddleboard on Orchard Lake. It didn’t take long for Chelios to realize that Lidstrom was resolute.
“After 30 seconds and looking into Nick’s eyes and how kind of distraught (he looked), it looked like he went through a game, I’m sure because of all the thinking he’s had to do over the past two weeks and what a tough decision he had to make, so I didn’t even have the heart to try to convince him otherwise,” Chelios said. “I know Homer (Tomas Holmstrom) had talked to him. They’re best friends. If Homer can’t convince him I’m sure not going to. Nick’s done everything right his whole career, I’m sure he’s content and happy with his decision now. It’s just a really tough decision, especially when you can play at the level he can still.”
But the man called the Perfect Human by many of his teammates didn’t feel he was ready to put in the work required to stay so perfect. Still, that didn’t mean it was an easy decision to make.
“With my age, just being a little bit older and not having that motivation I’ve had in the past and not having the drive and fire that I’ve had in the past not being there for me, made it a harder decision – especially saying goodbye to something I’ve done for 20 years,” Lidstrom said after the press conference. “It’s become a lifestyle. You’re used to getting up in the morning, working out, coming down here, skating, traveling with the team and just the competitiveness of playing games. I’m going to miss all that too, but if I don’t have that fire I can’t be to the level I want to be at.”
John Keating recalled the Perfect Human...
In a world where sports figures are all about “Not right now ... Can’t ... Won’t ... Nope ... Can’t you see I’m busy?” Nick Lidstrom was all about “Sure.”
There was always time for another autograph, another interview, another gentle needle. Assists were not just a hockey stat for him. They were a way of life.
To be honest, those interviews in the beginning had the potential to be painful. You’d need a quiver full of questions because the answers would often be brief. It was more extraction than interaction on some days.
Then Steve Yzerman, who had often referred to Lidstorm as “the best player on our team” retired. Lidstorm was the slam-dunk, no-brainer pick as the next captain. And the media corps said as one, “Oy.”
But the “C” for Captain also seemed to stand for change. Lidstrom realized quickly that this was now his team. He was their standard. He was their face. And he evolved quickly into their spokesman.
There are Real Housewives who don’t become that media savvy that quickly.
After a tough loss, he turned at his locker and welcomed the horde. After an injury. After a prank pulled. After ANOTHER question that had something to do with his friend and longtime comrade, Tomas Holmstrom. There always seemed to be time. Which is especially noble for a guy well aware that time was a fading commodity.
And going forward, FSD’s Dave Hogg believes that the Red Wings will need to sign two defensemen to fill the holes in the roster left by both Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, snag a top-six forward, and, welll…Name Henrik Zetterberg captain:
No matter who Holland picks, he is going to have to find two players while simultaneously signing restricted free-agent Kyle Quincey. He also has to find more scoring—that’s where Parise was supposed to fit in—and decide what to do about unrestricted free agents Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom.
“I believe in our scouts and I believe in our coaches,” Holland said. “We wanted Nick to play another year or two, but we’ll find a way to keep this team very competitive. We have a lot of pieces already, and we’ve got a lot of cap space.”
Holland’s job will be done during the summer. Zetterberg’s new role will start at the beginning of training camp. The Red Wings have had two captains in the last 26 seasons—Steve Yzerman and Lidstrom—and they were both absolute locks to be first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Zetterberg isn’t in that class as a player, so he can’t rely on awe to hold the room. Luckily, Zetterberg has 10 years with the Wings, a Stanley Cup ring and the advantage of having worked as Lidstrom’s top assistant. That will give him respect from his teammates before he starts his new role.
Of course, they aren’t the only ones who will have to adjust. For everyone involved with the Red Wings, from players to fans, it will be very strange to not see No. 5 on the ice when the season starts in October.
Detroit News: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and Eric Lacy offered a presser story:
“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 when he turned 16.
“I never really wanted to leave Detroit,” he said. “I always believed in this team and organization.”
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa’s early column from the presser mostly focused on analyzing the motives behind Lidstrom’s retireement…
Yzerman’s last moment is etched in our minds, the rear view of him on television as he skated off the ice in Edmonton, walked into a tunnel and off into history.
Lidstrom’s was to the right of the visitors’ bench in Nashville where he came to a stop for some time to himself, hands folded on top of his stick and hiding a portion of his face, looking up at the scoreboard. Amid the agony of a final loss, it was a self-possessed moment for a self-possessed man.
To be selfish today and wish that he would play on is an easy response. But if we let that distract us we will miss another fine moment, the one in which a great warrior lets go.
This is the juncture at which Nicklas Lidstrom understands purely and simply that an exit is simply the requirement of a life led well enough to know that the glory of the effort passed, that the time arrived when the mind and body yield to younger men.
What Lidstrom leaves us with is the knowledge that a singular player led his team to the greatest feats in his game across a generation, and that as a man his accomplishments were even greater.
“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.”
The News also re-posted Krupa’s column about the championsihp window supposedly closing and Bob Wojnowski’s take on Lidstrom’s retirement, and Krupa’s translation of the Expressen column from Gunnar Nordstrom;
In the multimedia department, the news posted a video of Lidstrom’s presser, comments from his teammates, a retirement cerenony photo gallery and a career-spanning photo gallery, as well as comments from his peers via Eric Lacy and Gregg Krupa…
Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi: “It’s a real honor to be around someone like that.”
Former Wings defenseman Chris Chelios: “People buckle under pressure on the ice, but Nick never changed his demeanor. His composure rubbed off on everyone else and we were a better team for it.”
Former Wings center Kris Draper: “I heard him swear maybe three of four times in all the years I have known him.And if you think about the game out there and how emotional it can get, that’s just amazing. But that just showshow he always managed to keep his emotions in control.”
Paul Boyer, Wings equipment manager since 1994: “He was no-maintenance. If he had a bad stick you didn’t hear about it; I guess he just didn’t use it. He would just pick another one off the rack. ... I watched him make plays this year, and I was still shaking my head. He would always make the right play.”
Updates on Darren Helm and Danny Cleary from Ted Kulfan…
Helm had the cast removed from his forearm Wednesday and expects to begin doing more strength-related conditioning in the coming weeks. Helm suffered the injury in Game 1 of the playoffs against Nashville and missed the remainder of the series. The injury occurred just as Helm was returning to the lineup after missing six weeks with a sprained knee.
“I should be working out hard for a couple of months and get back and be ready for the start of camp,” Helm said. “Game ready.”
Cleary was bothered the majority of the season with a troublesome left knee that required extensive surgery three weeks ago. But Cleary already can see the difference.
“It’s a huge difference to be able to walk normally,” Cleary said. “To get out of the car and walk normally, since November it’s been a struggle. When you’re hobbling, it’s amazing how off your feeling. I’m feeling great.”
Cleary is working out and also expects to be ready for the start of training camp.
“Oh yes,” Cleary said. “If it was July, I’d be ready. I’m working out. I’m going to modify my training and make sure the best I can to not do anything stupid. I have the time to rehabilitate it and get ready for the season. Just not do anything stupid.”
And Kulfan speaking to both players abuot Henrik Zetterberg likely being named the team’s next captain:
“He’s like Nick but a little more vocal,” forward Danny Cleary said Thursday at Lidstrom’s retirement press conference. “He’s the ultimate team player. He cares about winning and has a great work ethic. He loves his teammates and the guys love him and respect him a lot. He’s my 1A, B and C.”
Zetterberg has been an assistant captain under Lidstrom and appeared to take on more of a leadership role the past couple seasons.
“With his work ethic and skill and his attitude, his will to win, he’s a great guy to lead this team,” forward Darren Helm said. “We have a few guys to choose from, but Hank is definitely one of the candidates.”
Macomb Daily: Thus far, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Peliness posited a slate of quips and quotes from Lidstrom’s presser…
“I was a little concerned the decision was a lot quicker than it was last year which set off some alarms for me,” Holland said. “We visited for a few minutes and then he told me he had made a decision to retire. I talked to him about the timing of a press conference, but I told him to take the weekend and get back with me on Tuesday because I told him I was hoping he would change his mind. I texted him Tuesday morning, telling him he was on my mind all weekend and I thought he had one more really good year left in him and we had a lot of pieces in place with him in the lineup and with some moves we could continue to be a contender. About an hour later he texted back and said he was very comfortable in his decision.”
Then he enlisted the help of Chris Chelios, who went paddle boarding with Lidstrom on Tuesday.
“He called me at the GM meetings and told me that the paddle boarding didn’t change his mind either,” Holland said. “For me I just wanted to make sure when Nick was on the podium he was comfortable with his decision. He’s very comfortable in his decision. He gave us 20 incredible years and you have to feel good for Nick that he gets to walk away from the game on his own terms,” Holland added.
The seven-time Norris Trophy winner missed 11 games in the later part of the regular season with a hair fracture in his ankle and could never get back to full health when the playoffs rolled around. Lidstrom, who wound up missing a career-high 12 games this regular season, needed injections before games to dull the pain and it didn’t allow him to play on the penalty kill.
“It did slow me down and that was still hurting when I was playing, especially when you have to do a lot of stops and starts in your own zone,” Lidstrom said. “When you can’t do that, it’s hard to be effective. But I think that it feels so much better now, if I had the determination and the will to do this again, I believe I could still be back up there. But when I don’t have that and if I still try to go out there and play, I don’t think I could play as well as I’d have to.”
The Macomb Daily learned during the regular season that Lidstrom had just finished building a lavish home in Sweden and that his son had told coach Mike Babcock’s son that he was not going to be signing up for travel hockey in the fall. Lidstrom spent his final six seasons as the Wings’ captain after taking over for Steve Yzerman, who was the longest-serving captain in NHL history.
“We’ve had 20 special years,” Holland said.
Lidstrom’s teammates’ belief that Henrik Zetterberg will be the team’s next captain out of the three players wearing “A’s” in Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall…
“They’ve got the A’s,” Holland said. “It’s hard to think you’re going to take someone without a letter and go past guys with letters. It’s hard to think you’re going to bring somebody from the outside to be your captain,” Holland added. “So in all reality, one of our assistants will probably be the captain.”
Lidstrom took over for Steve Yzerman, who was the longest-serving captain in NHL history, in 2006. After talking with his teammates at Thursday’s press conference announcing Lidstrom’s retirement, it seems obvious Zetterberg, 31, is the logical choice.
“I think Hank always shows up to play, always shows up in the big games,” Kronwall said. “He’s been a leader on this team for many meany years, to me that would be a logical choice.”
“His leadership on the ice,” Justin Abdelkader said. “He’s not a rah-rah, vocal guy. He leads more by example. He’ll say something when something needs to be said but he’s in a similar mode to Nick. There are lot of good candidates, like Nick said. Kronner has really stepped it up. We’ll see. That’s a decision the coaches and management will make.”
“He’s a competitor,” Todd Bertuzzi said of Zetterberg. “He leaves everything on the ice. He works hard off the ice, is a tremendous person. He’s a good guy, he’s a great guy to be around. He has that presence in the locker room.”
“He’s got all the qualities,” Danny Cleary said. “He is the ultimate team player. He’s not concerned about his own personal stuff. He has great work ethic. He treats everybody with respect. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever played with.”
And while Tomas Holmstrom may not have the luxury of waffling for much longer, Pleiness says that’s exactly what Holmstrom’s doing:
“It’s been so much fun, it’s a sad day, but he’s had a great career and he’s played against all of the best players for 20 years, but it’s come to an end,” said Holmstrom, who sat in the second row and watched intently as Lidstrom announced his retirement. “Detroit has been fortunate to have him here and everyone is fortunate that he put on the Red Wings jersey for 20 years.”
The other four players on the distinctive list are Kris Draper, who retired last season, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty. Holmstrom could be the next added to the list of retirees.
“It’s probably coming soon, I have to figure it out and I really don’t know right now,” Holmstrom said when asked about next season. “I go back and forth and try to figure out my body. I’m going to miss him, but it’s going to come down to if I really want to play and if I’ve still got it, those are the main reasons,” Holmstrom added. “I’ll never go anywhere else. I’d rather retire before that.”
Holmstrom and Lidstrom were almost inseparable on game days, from driving to the rink together to eating pre-game meals.
“You look in that dressing room, from the guys that have won the Cup since ’97 and those remaining were Homer and Nick,” Draper said. “A lot of character and a lot of success has left that dressing room. But with that said, there are some great players left in that room as well. They’ve learned from the best. Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom and Chris Chelios showed the way now it’s time for (Henrik Zetterberg), (Niklas Kronwall), (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Valtteri) Filppula to pass it on. That’s how this organization has been so I guess the torch as been passed and they have to go with it now.”
“At some point in time, it catches up with everyone and diminishes your ability to perform at something you love and care about passionately and it comes to an end sooner than what you would like,” Lidstrom said. “The last two years, I wanted until after the season to assess my ability to play another year. I needed to let a few weeks go by to get a reading on my body’s ability to recover from the grind of an NHL season. Sadly, this year, it’s painfully obvious to me that my strength and energy levels are not rebounding enough for me to continue to play. My drive and motivation are not where it needs to be to play at this level. That’s why I feel it’s time to retire. I’m aware some people think my skill levels have only diminished some and that I can still help the Wings win games. I truly appreciate their support.”
Lidstrom battled an ankle injury last season that caused him to miss 11 regular-season games and hampered him in the Red Wings’ first-round playoff loss to the Nashville Predators. Lidstrom spent his final six seasons as the Red Wings’ captain. He succeeded Steve Yzerman in that role – Yzerman is the longest-serving captain in NHL history—and in 2008 Lidstrom became the first European-born player to captain a Stanley Cup champion.
Lidstrom is one five Red Wings who played on all four of Detroit’s Stanley Cup championship teams since 1997. The others are Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty and Tomas Holmstrom. In 1,564 regular-season games, Lidstrom had 264 goals and 878 assists for 1,142 career points. In 263 playoff games – a team record – he had 54 goals and 129 assists for 183 points.
Only Gordie Howe has appeared in more Red Wings’ games than Lidstrom. Howe is the club’s all-time leader with 1,687 games. The only other players to appear in at least 1,500 games with the Red Wings are Alex Delvecchio (1,549) and Yzerman (1,514).
In honor of Lidstrom, several team and Joe Louis Arena employees attended the news conference wearing Red Wings’ home jerseys with Lidstrom’s name and number on the back.
“Three come to mind: Z, Pav and Kronner,” said Holland, who will make the decision along with coach Mike Babcock. “They’ve got the A’s. It’s hard to think you’re going to take someone without a letter and go past guys with letters. It’s hard to think you’re going to bring somebody from the outside to be your captain. So in all reality, one of our assistants will probably be the captain.”
Babcock never used Zetterberg’s name but made it sound as if his appointment is a done deal.
“There was no decision whatsoever,” Babcock said. “We’ll probably announce it in the fall this year and I don’t think there will be a lot of debate. We’ve been thinking about this.”
“Hank always shows up to play, always shows up in big games,” said Kronwall, who like Lidstrom and Zetterberg hails from Sweden. “He’s been a leader on this team for many, many years. To me, that would be a logical choice.”
Danny Cleary called Zetterberg his “1-A, B and C” choice for captain. We’ll be in great hands,” Cleary said. “We’ll have a great captain in Zetterberg. Z is the ultimate ... he’s like Nick, but a little more vocal. Ultimate team player, all he cares about is winning. Great work ethic. He loves his teammates. Guys love and respect him a lot. He treats everybody with respect. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever played with.”
Lidstrom was asked about his replacement but would only say that there are several quality candidates. He named Zetterberg, Kronwall and forward Valtteri Filppula as potential captains. Todd Bertuzzi agreed that the Red Wings aren’t short on candidates to wear the ‘C’ as captain.
“In Detroit, it’s such a sacred letter to have,” Bertuzzi said. “You have a couple guys who stick out and can carry the load and carry the torch when Nick is gone. (Zetterberg) is a competitor. He leaves everything on the ice. He works hard off the ice, is a tremendous person. He’s a great guy to be around. He has that presence in the locker room.”
“Soft spoken, doesn’t say a lot, leads by example, his work ethic,” said Chelios. “The good thing is a lot of guys can do it. They’ve had the best leaders over the past 10-12 years in Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom. There are some good guys and quality players in that locker room. It’s tough shoes to fill.”
Radio broadcaster Ken Kal, who has seen the Red Wings play as much as anyone during the last two decades, thinks Zetterberg is the obvious choice.
“He’s like Yzerman and Lidstrom,” Kal said. “He leads by example. He’s one of those guys who competes hard game in and game out. With the success of the Red Wings over the years and the captain leading by example, I think he’d be the perfect fit.”
Michigan Hockey: Michigan Hockey posted a Lidstrom photo gallery, a recollection of Lidstrom earning the “C,” Kevin Allen recalling Lidstrom embodying the definition of “ballsy” hockey, and Michael Caples and Stephen Kubus’s story from today:
“When I signed with the Wings back in ’91, I never envisioned myself playing for 20 years,” Lidstrom said. “It’s been a great ride.”
Many thought that, after the announcement of his Red Wings playing host to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2013 NHL Winter Classic and a disappointing first-round exit in this year’s playoffs, Lidstrom would come back for one more year. But Lidstrom captured four Stanley Cups, Olympic gold, seven Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Winter Classic victory, and 12 All-Star appearances, while being the first European player to win the Norris, Conn Smythe, and captain a club to Lord Stanley’s Cup – all feats that might never be duplicated.
“I’ve been dreading this day since I became general manager in 1997,” said Detroit general manager Ken Holland. “I’ve had the luckiest seat in the house for 15 years since 1997. I’ve had a front row seat in the press box to watch Nick play. I think he’s been the most valuable player of his era. He’s going to go down as one of the greatest Red Wings of all time, one of the greatest defensemen of all-time. A 10-time first-team all star, two-time second-team all star, seven Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe Trophy, four Stanley Cups. What words can you use to describe an incredible career?”
“Nick has been our Rock of Gibraltar,” said Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch. “He’s just been a solid leader.”
“The more time you spend with him, the more time you spend with the team as a group, you see how things go and get a chance to witness his leadership.”
Lidstrom has been a steady force on the Detroit blue line virtually since he has entered the league as a rookie back in 1991. And amidst all the Hall of Fame-caliber statistics and awards, perhaps the greatest statistic lies outside of all that. The Red Wings’ captain said he didn’t think he would be able to find the energy to prepare for the next season at the level he was accustomed to.
“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.”
Windsor Star: Their offers are sparse thus far, so here are words I can agree with, from Robbie Benneian:
I can’t put into words how important Nick Lidstrom was, is, to me, to my team, to how I identify as a fan.
Nick Lidstrom is the Detroit Red Wings, just as much as the Detroit Red Wings are Nick Lidstrom.
He may have officially donned the sweater for the last time, but his legacy will last forever.
The Windsor Star did post two quick clips from Lidstrom’s presser.
Detroit Free Press: The Detroit Free Press’s Helene St.James spoke to Lidstrom right after his presser...
“I felt a relief once I made the decision,” Lidstrom said. “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. It’s been a great ride.”
Lidstrom met with general manager Ken Holland a week ago to deliver the news. Holland told him to think some more about it, to take the long Memorial Day weekend. Tuesday morning, Holland sent a text to Lidstrom.
“First thing, like 9:30, saying that I thought about him all weekend, that I hadn’t slept very much, that I thought he had another good year in him,” Holland said. “I thought that if he came back and we make two or three moves, that we could have the potential to have a tremendous year. Flattery and a guilt trip. He sent me a text back saying he was comfortable with his decision.”
At the office, Holland talked to Chris Chelios, a former teammate of Lidstrom’s who is now a front-office adviser.
“I wanted Nick back. I wanted to make sure that Nick was totally comfortable with his decision. And so when Cheli told me he called him and that they were going to go paddle-boarding ... I was at the general manager meetings in New York, and a text came through from Cheli to call as soon as I can.”
Unfortunately for the Wings, the news was the same. Chelios knew it 30 seconds into their outing on Orchard Lake.
“Looking in Nick eyes, he looked like he’d just gone through a game, I’m sure from all the thinking he’s already done the past two weeks—I didn’t even have the heart to try to convince him otherwise,” Chelios said.
I hate to say this, but we’re not going to see anybody like him again,” the Detroit Red Wings’ owner said at Lidstrom’s news conference today at Joe Louis Arena. “We’re going to get some good players, we’ll have good teams, but there won’t be another Nick Lidstrom.”
Ilitch called today “one of the most emotional days in Red Wing history.” He called Lidstrom “a Rock of Gibraltar” and marveled that, for 20 years, there never was an off-ice misstep, never an embarrassment and he always was the epitome of class.
“There were no variations,” Ilitch said.
“Everybody knows, the hockey fans are so close to the sport, they get to know the people well,” he said. “When you have two guys like Yzerman and this guy comes along, it’s like God took care of you. Stevie was the best. Kenny and I sometimes keep talking about it, sometimes over and over, how great a person Nick is, how great a person Stevie was. We were gifted with those players. They helped established a good thing for Hockeytown.”
Concern about the future is legitimate. While Yzerman and Lidstrom led in different ways, there was a respect, almost a reverence, from their teammates because of their stature in the game – and their humility.
“You heard (Lidstrom) talk about working hard and getting determination,” Ilitch said. “He just has a mind-set of being all business. Being respected and knowing the things he’s got to do to earn the respect. I‘ve never seen tighter team than with Yzerman and him. A few little petty things might come up, but they don’t come to me. In some other sports, it’s not quite that way. There’s big clashes, and you’ve got to work like heck to get it all straightened out.”
“We’re very concerned,” Ilitch said about sustaining the Wings’ success without Lidstrom. “Lidstroms don’t grow on trees, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Mike Thompson also posted a cartoon of Al the Octopus asking to see Lidstrom’s number join the rafters’ slate of immortals, the Free Press is asking fans to weigh in on the best Wing ever, and Evil Drew Sharp of all people believes that Ken Holland will be just fine:
As sad as he was to bid farewell to Lidstrom, he’s fired up about the opportunity awaiting him in what will be the Wings’ most important off-season in the last 20 years. There’s something exhilarating about the uncertainty of tomorrow. As underappreciated as Lidstrom was as a Detroit sports icon, it’s also true that Holland has never been fully appreciated as arguably professional sports’ best general manager the last 10 years. In some minds, Holland simply piggy-backed off the superstars he inherited when he became general manager in 1997.
Holland won a Stanley Cup without Steve Yzerman because Lidstrom was still there. If he can win the Cup within the next two years, it will be because of the free agency decisions made in the next two months coupled with the progression of previous draft picks. If Holland keeps this train rolling without Lidstrom, with consecutive regular season sellouts at Joe Louis Arena and another Stanley Cup in the next two or three years, his management legacy will be one of the top 10 professional sports executives ever who took a breath.
Holland sounds ready.
“When the sun comes up (Friday) there’s going to be a challenge,” Holland said, “but we’ve had challenges before. We’ve lost guys and had to deal with people having doubts about us and our ability to seriously contend for Stanley Cups. But it’s not simply an expectation with this organization, it’s a mandate. We’ve still got a very good team.”
They’ve had challenges before, but not like this. Holland called Lidstrom the NHL most valuable player of his generation. You don’t replace that. You find another path. That’s the greatest challenge awaiting Holland. If he takes the wrong road in the coming weeks, he’ll wonder if he really should’ve followed Lidstrom out the front door.
DetroitRedWings.com: And in the, “Finally, for the moment, anyway” category, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose took note of Lidstrom’s comments given an interview he gave Roose way back in 1995, about leaving Sweden…
“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.”
“He did talk about the grind of training, preparation,” Chelios said. “I told him, ‘Don’t lift weights, go mountain biking, go paddleboarding, spend all the time with your kids and then see. But after 30 seconds his mind was made up, there was no changing that. I don’t doubt that Nick is mentally and physically drained right now. … I’m sure because of all the thinking he’s had to do over the past two weeks and what a tough decision he had to make, I didn’t even have the heart to try to convince him otherwise.”
Lidstrom had already made up his mind, informing general manager Ken Holland last Thursday of his decision to retire and move back to Sweden with his wife, Annika, and their four sons.
“It was a good one,” said Lidstrom, referring to his talk with Chelios. “We talked about what he went through when he decided (to retire), where he was at his stage of his career, where I’m at.”
Chelios thought paddleboarding would provide the perfect backdrop to fully understand where Lidstrom was in terms of his decision to retire or return to the Red Wings for a 21st season.
“I can’t relax as a person, but the water has a calming effect,” Chelios said. “I thought that would be a great surrounding to have him relax and not stress him out because I know I stress my wife out and I don’t want to do that to Nick because I know he’s been through so much the past three weeks. You’re sent by Kenny to talk to Nick but you still feel like a player. As management I failed miserably because I think of him as a friend and a teammate.”
Paddleboarding is something that Lidstrom has done quite often in the past at Chelios’ Malibu home near the Pacific Ocean. It was seven years ago when Chelios thought he had Lidstrom set-up to fail with an activity that the Swede knew little about. Boy, was Chelios sadly mistaken.
“Nick was perfect, he was a rock, you couldn’t rattle him,” Chelios said. “Even paddleboarding on the ocean the first time I wanted to see him fall out of control, even when he fell it was in total control. Other guys were throwing their paddle, Nick put his down nice and slow and started all over again. It was crazy, damn it, I still didn’t get him.”
The Wings’ website posted a Lidstrom photo gallery, and here is the entire presser…
Lidstrom being asked what the Wings need to do in the off-season…
Lidstrom being asked what the captaincy meant to him…
Lidstrom talking to Ken Kal about “what’s next”...
Lidstrom being asked why he retired…
Lidstrom being asked whether he has any regrets…
Lidstrom talking about the brawl with the Avs back in 1997…
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