Friday, June 1, 2012
One of the best defensemen in NHL history, Nicklas Lidström announced his retirement yesterday after a 20 year NHL career. Lidström had a brief hockey resume when he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1989, having only played one season for Västerås IK in Sweden and in one European Junior Championship.
Lidström was the 19th defenseman taken during that draft when he was selected 53rd overall. In fact, he wasn't even the first defenseman taken by the Red Wings, who had previously selected Bob Boughner 32nd overall with their second pick.
He would remain in Sweden for two more seasons, which included appearing in a World Junior Championship, a second European Junior Championship, making his senior international debut at the 1991 World Championships, where he won a gold medal, and in the 1991 Canada Cup before joining the Red Wings in 1991-92, impressing with 60 points as a rookie.
Lidstrom in the Red Wings Turn Back the Clock jersey
worn during his rookie season
After three seasons with the Red Wings, Lidström would return to the World Championships in the spring of 1994. Later that year he would play 13 games for Västerås while waiting for the NHL season to begin due to it's labor issues which delayed the start of the season until January of 1995. Back with the improving Red Wings, Lidström and his teammates were gaining more playoff experience each season, making the finals for the first time in 1995 and making it back to the conference finals in 1996.
Lidström was again chosen to represent Sweden in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey prior to the start of the 1996-97 NHL season, which would conclude with the Lidström winning the first Stanley Cup of his career.
For the 1997-98 season, Lidström was made an assistant captain for the Red Wings. Motivated by the accident in which teammate Vladimir Konstantinov was seriously injured, Detroit repeated as Stanley Cup champions again in 1998 as Lidström contributed 19 points in 22 games. Also during the 1997-98 season, Lidström would make his Olympic debut, as the NHL would suspend it's season, allowing it's best players to compete for the first time.
Lidstrom posing with Konstantinov in happier times
After three more seasons with Detroit, Lidström would be named the winner of the Norris Trophy for the first time in 2001, the first European so named.
The following season of 2001-02 would be a memorable one for Lidström, as he would win his second consecutive Norris Trophy, compete in his second Olympic Games, and win not only his third Stanley Cup, but become the first European to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process, as he chipped in 16 points in 23 games.
After two more seasons of play with Detroit, which included winning his third consecutive Norris Trophy, the first since Bobby Orr to win three in a row, Lidström would appear in his 1,000th NHL game, having missed only 17 games in 12 1/2 seasons. After the Red Wings were ousted from the playoffs, he would make an appearance in his first World Championship since 1994. Later that fall he would skate in his second World Cup of Hockey, the final hockey he would play for over a year, as the NHL season would be cancelled due to the lockout. While many players returned to Europe to compete, Lidström, now 34 years old, chose to take the season off.
His decision recharged his batteries, as when NHL play resumed in 2005-06, Lidström set a career high with 80 points, topping his previous best of 73 in 2000, and earning him his fourth Norris Trophy. He would also set a more dubious career high with 50 penalty minutes, thanks to a change in rules enforcement coming out of the lockout. During that season he would join a prestigious few, as he would score 6 points in 8 games as Sweden would capture the gold medal at the 2006 Olympics as Lidström scored the game winning goal in the final, making him a member of the Triple Gold Club, for winners of the World Championships, Stanley Cup and Olympics, one of only 18 men to have competed the trio of championships at the time.
He became the first European in franchise history to be named team captain in 2006-07 and would later be named the winner of the Norris Trophy once again. The 2007-08 season was another great season for Lidström, as he would reach 70 points for only the fourth time in his career, win his third consecutive and sixth Norris Trophy before the Red Wings would bring home the fourth Stanley Cup of Lidström's career in the span of 11 years, the first European born and trained player to captain any team to the Stanley Cup.
In 2009-10, Lidström became only the fourth Red Wing and eighth defenseman in NHL history to score 1,000 points. He would also compete in his fourth Olympics that season and was named team captain for Sweden.
Lidström would finish 2010-11 with a negative plus/minus rating (-2) for the first and only time in his career, but such was the respect for his ability to control a game and always make the ideal play, that he was recognized with his seventh Norris Trophy, the oldest player to ever win one, equalling the great Doug Harvey and pulling to within one of Orr's record of eight. Also that season, he scored the first hat trick of his now 19 year career at the age of 40, the oldest player to ever score a hat trick for the first time.
He would play one final season in 2011-12, after which Detroit would qualify for the playoffs for the 20th consecutive time in Lidström's career, which allowed him to finish second in NHL history in games played in the postseason with 263, just 6 back of former teammate Chris Chelios.
His final career totals are 1,564 games played, the most ever by a Red Wing or a European, 264 goals and 878 assists for 1,142 points, second all-time among Swedish-born players. Keeping in mind Lidström was a defenseman whose career high was 80 points, it's a testament to his longevity and incredible durability, as he never played less than 70 games a season and suited up 80 or more times 14 times. In all, he missed only 40 possible games in his 20 year career.
Today's featured jersey is a 2008-09 Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidström jersey as worn during the 2009 NHL Winter Classic. This jersey was based on the style first worn by the Detroit franchise back in 1926-27 when the club was original known as the Cougars, so named since their roster of players came from the now defunct Victoria Cougars of the old Pacific Coast Hockey League.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2006-07 Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidström jersey as worn on January 2, 2007, when the Red Wings honored their previous captain Steve Yzerman, by retiring his #19, an event commemorated on the player's jerseys with a special patch.
Today's video section begins with a news report about Lidström announcing his retirement.
Next, Lidström scores the game winning goal against Finland in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Finally, an excellent highlight package from his entire 20 year NHL career.