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A tribute to Red Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom

The last time the New Jersey Devils made it to the Stanley Cup Finals was in 2003, and the day after game one, legendary goalie Patrick Roy announced his retirement.  Fast forward to 2012, and the New Jersey Devils are in the Stanley Cup Finals. And just like last time, another legend will be announcing his retirement.

According to reports by former Red Wing and TSN Analyst Aaron Ward, the Detroit Red Wings have scheduled a press conference for Thursday at 11 AM eastern time, which will likely be to announce Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement.

This makes sense from the stand point that last year, when he announced he was returning, all it took was a conference call.  Lidstrom struggled through injuries this year, and his body certainly took a toll.  For the first time in his career, Lidstrom looked like he had lost a step and that he could no longer take the rigorous demands of the game.

Lidstrom has been in the league for 20 years, and it is no mistake or coincidence that the Red Wings have been to the playoffs 21 consecutive times.  He will retire with seven Norris Trophies (best defenseman in the NHL) and will go down as the best European born hockey player of all-time.

There will, however, always be a debate about whether or not he or Bobby Orr is the best defenseman of all-time.  For me, it is no contest. Orr was a glorified fourth forward with knee problems.  Call me biased, if you wish, but no player in the history of the NHL except for maybe Steve Yzerman compares to Lidstrom as the total package.  He has the nickname “The Perfect Human” for a reason; he always says and does the right things at exactly the right time.  This ability separates him from anyone else that has ever played the game.

He was underestimated by many from the start, being drafted in the 3rd round, 53rd overall.  I doubt that anyone in the Red Wings management could have dreamed of getting a player of his caliber in the third round.  In 2008, he became the first European born Captain to win a Stanley Cup, and this was just the icing on the cake, as 2008 was the fourth time he had won it all.

Nick Lidstrom is also one of the few players to ever win an Olympic Gold Medal, a Stanley Cup and an IIHF World Championship Gold Medal, in their hockey career.  Lidstrom is truly remarkable and I could continue to list his accomplishments forever.  I’ve been trying to think of what is positive about him retiring, and sure, his $6.2 Million contract is off the books, and now the Wings have $20 Million in cap space to spend on Ryan Suter or Zach Parise, but you will never be able to replace a player like Nick Lidstrom.

For me personally, this feels like the end of the Wings that I grew up watching; the teams that were led by Stevie Y, the Grind Line, the Russian Five, Brendan Shanahan, Ozzie, Chelios, and the list goes on.  Watching Lidstrom retire, is like finally closing a chapter on my life.  I was at the game in 2010 when Lidstrom recorded his first career hat trick and I remember being in awe that after this amount of time, he had never recorded one.  Looking back on it, I feel very fortunate to have seen Lidstrom play so many times in person, and I was at one of his last games during the Nashville series.  This type of player does not come along very often, and when he does, be sure to appreciate him and take notice, because you don’t know when you will see another one as great as him.  I sure hope Nick knows what he is doing, and I know that all of Detroit thanks him and wishes him the best.

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