Thursday, 31 May 2012

Changing Of The Rearguard

His very first game happened on October 3, 1991 when the Detroit Red Wings battled their division rivals in the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-3 tie at the legendary Chicago Stadium. Twenty years, seven months, and 28 days later, one of the all-time greatest defencemen has finally decided to call it a career in Detroit. Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the classiest men to have ever laced up the skates on this planet, has decided to retire.

Lidstrom may not have been the flashiest player on the ice, but you always knew what you got when #5 went over the boards. He was a consummate professional, and relished the job he was given in shadowing the opposition's best while still playing at an exceptionally high level in the offensive zone. He was a rock for Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock, and he really became the foundation of the franchise after the tragic accident to Vladimir Konstantinov in 1997. With legends such as Howe, Yzerman, Lindsay, and Sawchuk already donning the Winged Wheel, Nicklas Lidstrom carved out a career that put him in the same echelon as the greats that once wore Detroit red-and-white.

Seven Norris Trophies leaves him one shy of Bobby Orr's record of eight, and he is tied in Norris Trophies for second with another legend in Doug Harvey. He earned the 2002 Conn Smythe Trophy, and added his name to the Stanley Cup four times. He was the first European born-and-trained captain of a Stanley Cup-winning team in 2008. He played in 12 NHL All-Star Games. He never missed the playoffs. He score the gold medal-winning goal for Sweden in the 2006 Turin Olympics. He met the President of the United States, and presented him with two Red Wings jerseys for him and his father. He played in a Winter Classic. He scored a total of 1325 points for the Detroit Red Wings over a twenty-year career. In today's day and age of free agency and big money, he was one of the few to play his entire career in one city for one franchise. In short, Nicklas Lidstrom was someone special.

Nicklas Lidstrom went from this fresh-faced kid, pictured with Vladimir Konstantinov, in 1991...
... to one of the NHL's all-time best rearguards to have ever played the game. The respect he earned from his teammates and opponents can be clearly seen.
A new era begins in Detroit in 2013. It is an era where #5 will not take the ice in training camp or exhibition games as players begin to work off any rust from the off-season. It is an era where a new player will be forced to hold the torch high and continue the excellence that Nicklas Lidstrom forged in Detroit. The past era, forever known in Hockeytown as the "Lidstrom Legacy", will be a benchmark all future eras can be measured against for all of time.

When a player like Nicklas Lidstrom leaves the game, the game itself changes. And for all that Nicklas Lidstrom did in his career, he is certainly a living legend amongst the hockey community. There may never be a better defenceman to pull on the Winger Wheel sweater, and, if that's the case, I'm happy to have lived to see Nicklas Lidstrom play the game beautifully in his gifted way.

Heroes get remembered, but legends, especially those of Lidstrom's status, never die. Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Lidstrom, and may you and your family experience many more great moments after hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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