After 20 seasons in the National Hockey League, Lidstrom has announced his retirement from the game of hockey. ¬†It is a decision that was born from his realization that his body could no longer recover as well as he wanted from the grind of an 82-game regular season plus playoffs.
I have had the privilege of watching Lidstrom through his entire career. ¬†I watched as he finished as a runner-up to Pavel Bure for the 1992 Calder Trophy for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. ¬†Although not a Red Wings fan, I couldn’t help but be impressed at his poise, his hockey intelligence, and his humility.
It’s often been said of a defenseman, if you don’t hear their name throughout the game, they must be doing something right. ¬†This statement must have been tailor-made for Nicklas Lidstrom. ¬†It was very rare anyone even noticed him on the ice, yet the Red Wings never had any problems with clearing their own zone. ¬†He was rarely caught out of position, rarely made a bad decision, and rarely caught the crowd’s attention with a big hit. ¬†He was physical, but always in control. ¬†One or two passes and the puck was always out of the Detroit zone.
Nicklas Lidstrom has seven Norris trophies, four Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal, and a Conn Smythe trophy on his list of accolades. ¬†He finishes with a career +/- of +450. ¬†He finished with a +36 in his very first season, unheard of numbers for a rookie, let alone a rookie defenseman.
So now comes the debate…where does Lidstrom rank among defensemen all time? ¬†None will dispute the reign of Bobby Orr as the greatest defender the game has ever seen. ¬†But I would dare to rank Lidstrom number two on the all time list. ¬†Lidstrom didn’t dazzle offensively like Orr, but Lidstrom was without the doubt the most consistent defenseman in the NHL over the last twenty years. ¬†Agree or disagree, I know I have been privileged to have had the chance to watch this once in a generation player for his entire career. ¬†There’s no doubt the Hall of Fame awaits this talented player.
Lidstrom was always the epitome of class and humility. ¬†How the Red Wings will fare after his retirement remains to be seen; they haven’t had to play without him for twenty years. ¬†He is irreplaceable. ¬†No free agent or trade will ever fill the spot he leaves behind.
Again, in the past, I have compared the sports world to a universe, with each league being a galaxy in that universe. ¬†The players are the stars of their respective galaxies, shining brightly, some brighter than others. ¬†The superstars are the shooting stars of their galaxies, lighting up the skies with their talents. ¬†But like shooting stars, their careers are brief and fleeting compared to the passage of time. ¬†Here today, gone tomorrow.
Nicklas Lidstrom was one of those shooting stars. ¬†His talents natural and God-given; his attitude beyond reproach. ¬†His talents brought joy to all who watched him, players and fans alike. ¬†Now it is time to say farewell to another player who thrilled us all…and in the galaxy of the National Hockey League, another shooting star goes by.