Lidstrom, now 42, is a four-time Stanley Cup champion and a seven-time Norris Trophy winner. He spent all of his 20 NHL seasons with the Red Wings and is a surefire lock for the Hall of Fame. The argument could be made, and has been made by yours truly, that Lidstrom was the best defenceman to ever play the game.
Lidstrom began his playing career in Sweden with Skogsbo SK. He moved to the Swedish Elite League shortly after, lacing the skates for VIK Västerås HK starting in the 1988-1989 season. He spent three years there before going 53rd overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. Lidstrom joined the club for the 1991-1992 season and scored 60 points as a defenceman, going toe-to-toe with Russian Pavel Bure for the Calder Trophy and finishing second in voting.
From that point on, Lidstrom worked to become synonymous with hockey in Detroit. He was named the team’s alternate captain in the 1997-1998 season and served in that post right up until Steve Yzerman retired and Lidstrom was named the captain. By giving him the captaincy in 2006, the Red Wings named the first European team captain in franchise history.
Lidstrom won Cups with Detroit in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. In 2002, he was awarded the Conn Smythe for his dominance in the post-season.
Lidstrom is also a 12-time First All-Star team member and a two-time Second All-Star team member. He won Olympic gold with the Swedes in 2006, becoming a member of the Triple Gold Club in the process.
Nick Lidstrom is also the man behind several records and NHL milestones. He is the first European-born and European-trained Norris Trophy winner, for one thing, and he is only the fourth defenceman in the league to have won the Norris three years running. He’s just the sixth blueliner to tag 855 career assists and the first European-born and European-trained defenceman to hit 1,000 points.
With 1564 games under his belt, Lidstrom retires as the league’s active player in games played. He has played in the most games for a European of any position in league history and also holds the NHL record for most regular season games played by a player in a career spent on just one team.
As for that team, Lidstrom clearly tops a veritable sea of statistics and milestones.
Much of what made Lidstrom a great player was what was done outside of the statistics, however. He was simply masterful as a defenceman, tying up opponents and getting his stick in all the right places without putting himself in the penalty box. In the pre-lockout days, Lidstrom was the master of what could best be termed “legal interference.” His penchant for taking the opposition out of the rush was astounding.
After the lockout, Lidstrom adapted. He didn’t complain, he didn’t whine. He grew his game and, just for fun, piled up four more Norris Trophies, including one when he was 41 years old.
Positioning was a big part of his game, too. For all the games and tape I’ve seen of Lidstrom, he was never out of place and never out of position. He was always where he needed to be, watching and waiting for the action to come to him. And it always did. He was a calm, resolute player with steely resolve. Lidstrom never quit on a play and never quit on his team. He was one of the Red Wings’ most durable players and wasn’t called the Perfect Human for nothing.
Hockey is worse without him, I can tell you that. They don’t make many players – if any – like Nicklas Lidstrom.