NHL: After 20 Years, Nicklas Lidstrom Hangs Up His Skates

Dale Perth | Wed. May 30 2012, 07:05 pm

It’s the end of an era, as one of the greatest players in NHL history is set to retire. Nicklas Lidstrom has been with the Detroit Red Wings since the 1991-92 season, and his list of accomplishments is long and distinguished.

Six trips to the final, with four Stanley Cup rings. Lidstrom was the first European player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2002. He was the first European to captain a Stanley Cup-winning team when the Red Wings took the title in 2008.

Ten-time first-team All Star. Seven Norris Trophy selections, which ties him with the immortal Doug Harvey and leaves him just one behind the greatest defenseman of them all, Bobby Orr. Three of those Norris nods came back-to-back-to-back from 2001 to 2003, becoming the first since Orr to achieve the feat.

“(Lidstrom is) the consummate professional, the perfect role model, the perfect teammate … even-keeled at all times,” said TSN hockey analyst Aaron Ward, a former defenseman who played with Lidstrom for seven seasons on the Red Wings and was on two of the Stanley Cup winners with him. Ward was the first to break the news via his Twitter feed.

Another of the many tributes which is sure to follow over the next hours and days came from former coach Scotty Bowman. “You never had to worry about him day-to-day,” Bowman told The Denver Post. “He was just one-of-a-kind. Even after they changed the rules after the (2004-05) lockout, his game never suffered. People thought he might not be able to handle the new game, but he did. The great players always adapt.”

“I think he’s going to go down as one of the all-time best defensemen ever to play,” said Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman, who was the captain in Detroit before Lidstrom. “Having played with him and watched him closely from his first game, people know about it now but we’ve said it all along: you have to watch him closely to appreciate how good he is, what a great athlete he is because he makes the position look so easy. He is a special athlete.”

The 42-year-old Lidstrom is now expected to move back to his native Sweden, where his oldest son is in school and playing hockey. It’s all but confirmed he’ll be back for two more reasons: to see his No. 5 retired to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena, and to accept his first-ballot nomination into the Hockey Hall of Fame. One other thing is certain: fans will have to wait a long time before they see the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom again.