By: Jeff Riger
Thursday morning was the announcement that Wings fans everywhere dreaded; the retirement of Nick Lidstrom.
As you may have expected, Lidstrom fought back the tears and was as classy in him calling it quits as he was throughout his magnificent time in Hockey Town. Nick talked about some of his fonder memories being the first Cup that the team won back in 1997 and of course winning a gold medal for Team Sweden in the Olympics as well. From 7 Norris trophies to becoming the first European captain ever to hoist a cup, Lidstrom no doubt was one of the best ever to play in the NHL.
During the presser Lidstrom was asked about his legacy and if he is indeed the best defensemen ever to play the game? As you might expect, the 42 year old would not judge himself and instead wanted others to do it for him. Well, I have no problem complying with his wishes as I believe that Lidstrom was indeed the best D-man ever to put on skates. Now, I never saw Bobby Orr play live, but I do know that his career was cut way too short because of some horrific knee injuries. Orr changed the game, but at some point I believe that the longevity of Lidstrom playing at such a high level overtakes Orr. That’s right, I think Lidstrom is the best ever and yes I realize that I am a complete homer when it comes to #5. But I still believe he is the best! I won’t win this debate, but neither will people arguing on behalf of Orr to me.
So I decided to go to a higher power and find out what Wings head coach Mike Babcock says about the comparison and believe it or not Babcock went to his own high power. “I called Scotty (Bowman) on my way in here today. Scotty coached him 10 and I coached him 7 (years).” Babcock went on to say that Bowman told him that “Orr changed the game. He said Doug Harvey and Nick Lidstrom were the two players that always made the right decisions every time and controlled the game. He has a much better read on that than I do so there is his input.”
Watch the Babcock video below and then decide for yourself who the best ever was?
Another mystery coming into the presser was when exactly did Lidstrom tell the Wings of his decision and how GM Ken Holland took the news? I wonder if Holland tried to talk Nick out of retirement, so I asked him. “I listened and he told me he decided to retire. I told him that a lot of athletes had made decisions to retire and made comebacks after they decided to retire. I told him when you retire, it’s for the rest of your life” Holland said. The GM gave Lidstrom the weekend to think over his decision and received a text on Tuesday saying that Nick will indeed hang it up.
But did Holland try to change his mind?
“I told him that I thought he was one of the 4, 5, 6 best defensemen in the world today even at the age of 42” said Holland. Lidstrom replied that he was comfortable with the decision to retire at which point Holland went to Chris Chelios to try to get Lidstrom to change his mind. “Chelly went paddle boarding with him yesterday and Chelly called me at noon and said that he couldn’t change his mind either” Holland Said.
“At the end of the day I feel good for Nick” said Holland. “He’s up there, he’s walking away on his own terms, his standards are very high and he’s decided he wants to move on to the next chapter of his life. He gave us 20 incredible years and you have to feel good about what he has done for us” Holland went on to say.
Watch the entire Ken Holland Video below for the complete explanation of how he learned that Lidstrom was calling it quits…
Owner Mike Ilitch claimed that he could not get a banner of Lidstrom’s name and number to the rafters at the Joe quick enough and I’m sure that many fans agree. The other thing that Ilitch and fans are in lock step with is that “there will NEVER be another Nick Lidstrom.”