The ’12 Days of Christmas’ was first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
The Detroit Red Wings have won the James Norris Memorial Trophy nine times, and today’s countdown to Christmas looks at the three players who have been honored as the league’s top defenseman while wearing the winged wheel.
Red Kelly Was the First Winner
The Norris Trophy, whose namesake owned the Red Wings from 1932 until his death in 1952, was first awarded after the 1953-54 season. Hall of Famer Red Kelly, who spent 13 seasons with the Red Wings, won the first award after posting 49 points in 62 games in the team’s championship season. He stood out that year, finishing as a first-team All-Star, winning the Lady Byng Trophy, and placing second in Hart Memorial Trophy voting.
Kelly won eight Stanley Cups in his 20-year career, four with both the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, four Lady Byng Trophies and was voted as a first or second-team All-Star eight times. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969 after a career that saw him compile 823 points in 1,316 games.
He retired in 1967 and moved on to coach the Los Angeles Kings in their first two seasons of existence. After stints with the Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Maple Leafs, he ended his coaching career following the 1976-77 season, having compiled a career coaching record of 278-330-134 and spending 30 seasons as either a player or coach in the league. Though he never won a Stanley Cup as a coach, he is fondly remembered for helping to usher in an era of success for the Penguins.
Paul Coffey’s Last Norris Trophy Came in Detroit
Paul Coffey’s 21-year NHL career spanned nine teams, including a four-year stop with the Red Wings from 1992-93 through 1995-96. He won the last of his three Norris Trophies in the 1994-95 season after helping lead Detroit to the Stanley Cup Final and posting 58 points in 45 games in a season that was shortened to 48 games due to the lockout. His other two Norris wins came in back-to-back seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, 1984-85 and 1985-86, after posting 121 and 138 points, respectively.
In all, Coffey won four Stanley Cups, three with the Oilers and one with the Penguins, three Norris Trophies, and was selected as a first or second-team All-Star eight times. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 after concluding his 1,409 game career with 1,531 points on 396 goals and 1,135 assists.
Nicklas Lidstrom Was a Seven-Time Winner
Nicklas Lidstrom is the most decorated defenseman in Red Wings history, having won the Norris Trophy seven times between the 2000-01 and 2010-11 season. He was the runner-up for three consecutive seasons before he went on to win his first Norris, all while being a part of one of the most successful eras in franchise history. He twice won the award in three consecutive seasons and compiled 466 points and a plus-161 rating in the 560 combined games he played in each of his award-winning years.
Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, Lidstrom won four Stanley Cups, was the Conn Smythe winner in the team’s 2002 victory, and was named a first or second-team All-Star 12 times – this in addition to his seven Norris Trophy wins. He last won the award in 2010-11 when he was 40 years old, making him the oldest recipient. He finished fifth in voting in his final season in the league.
Though the hardware earned throughout his career is impressive, Lidstrom’s steady presence in his later years was arguably more valuable to the franchise. He was named captain upon Steve Yzerman’s retirement after the 2005-06 season and made the transition as smooth as possible. Two seasons later, Lidstrom helped guide the Red Wings to their 11th Stanley Cup, becoming the first European-born captain to win it, and he continued to lead by example until his retirement following the 2011-12 season.
The Red Wings have raked in the hardware over the years, and the three team members who have captured the Norris Trophy all had an impact on shaping the organization for years. Detroit has skilled defensemen waiting in the wings to be their next potential Norris candidate, with Moritz Seider, William Wallinder, Filip Hronek, and Albert Johansson, who highlight the system’s depth, and that list may grow in the future. Fans are eager to see the next Red Wing step up and earn the award as the league’s top defenseman.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.