Nicklas Lidstrom has announced his retirement from the NHL after 20 years. The 7-time Norris Trophy winner as top defenseman in the league and 4-time Stanley Cup Champion has played with the Detroit Red Wings since 1991. In a time when players in all sports are moving from city to city to chance better contracts, Lidstrom stayed with one team during his time in the NHL, helping the Red Wings to 20 consecutive playoff appearances. He's one of only 17 players in history to earn a membership in the 'Triple Gold Club' - 1991 World Championship Gold Medal, 2006 Olympic Gold Medal and 4 Stanley Cups.
Lidstrom will no doubt go down as one of, if not the, greatest defenseman the game of hockey has ever known. Traditionalists will always look to the great Bobby Orr as number one among all time defenders, but our generation, who never saw Orr play, can easily make an argument for the Lidstrom. At 42 years of age, Lidstrom was still at the top of his game. His teammates dubbed him the 'perfect human' citing his commitment to keeping in top physical shape and his unwaivering ability on the ice to make the perfect play every time.
In his 20 year career, Lidstrom amassed 1,142 points in 1,564 games. He finished with an even more astounding plus/minus of 450. In 263 playoff games he scored 183 points and a plus/minus of 61. He was the first European player to captain a Stanley Cup team and to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2002, and he leaves the NHL with the most games played by a player for a single franchise.
Lidstrom, for me, always represented everything that was good about hockey and sports in general. His dedication to his team and to the game he loved is something my generation doesn't see much of anymore. Lidstrom was also one of the classiest athletes to ever play the game, garnering similarities to Canadiens great Jean Beliveau and The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
WIll there ever be another player like Nick Lidstrom? Maybe. But no matter how skilled and patient a player may be, there will never be another athlete who carries himself on and off the ice like Lidstrom did. He was a fan favorite. He was much respected by his peers. He holds qualities as a human being that most people only read about in books. I hope he returns in some way to the NHL and passes on his legacy to the next generation of hockey. As a fan, I will miss him. As someone who plays hockey, I am still learning from him.
Thanks Nick and good luck in retirement.