By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – The day before the Detroit Red Wings retired Nick Lidstrom’s No.5, the team released a statement from team owner Mike Ilitch that he and wife Marian would not be in attendance due to a recent medical procedure undergone by Mike.
“His statement pretty much said it all,” said Mike and Marian’s son Chris, who filled in for the couple at Thursday’s ceremony. “He’s doing great. Thanks for asking.”
Chris had attended the number retirement ceremony of Steve Yzerman, but this was the first time he had spoken at such an event, which he did on his parents’ behalf.
“I was proud to represent the owners of the team, my parents,” Ilitch said Thursday. “Would have been better if they could have been here themselves, but they couldn’t , and I was happy to stand in for them.
“It’s incredible to be around a player like Nick Lidstrom for all those years,” Ilitch added. “To be honest with you, it’s bittersweet, right? Because we lose one of the greatest Red Wings ever, but it’s a proud moment for our franchise, for Nick, it’s special, but there’s no doubt about it – the Detroit Red Wings are going to miss Nick Lidstrom in a big way. We already are.”
On a night of celebrating the illustrious past of the Red Wings, which won four Stanley Cups just in Lidstrom’s recent 20-year tenure, Ilitch made it clear the team intends to build on what it has already done.
“I think anything, in life, in sports, in business, it’s dynamic and you need to keep reinventing yourselves, and I think it’s no different with the Detroit Red Wings,” Ilitch said. “We have to, I guess, honor our legends – the Stevie Yzermans, and the Nick Lidstroms and the Brendan Shanahans and all the great players we’ve had for decades, and look to the future and re-engineer our team, and I think that’s exactly what [general manager] Kenny Holland and [head coach] Mike Babcock are looking to do, and it’s work in progress, but that’s the way it goes, and I think our guys are going to get there.”
The Red Wings showed their commitment to getting there this season by trading away a young player, a prospect and a pick for a veteran center at the trade deadline Wednesday. Ilitch deferred to the discretion of Holland and Babcock as far as whether the move – which some have characterized as desperate and short-term-oriented – was a good one.
“I leave the X’s and the O’s and the trades to Mike Babcock and Kenny Holland,” Ilitch said. “I know our general manager’s very pleased. There was a need there, certainly, through injuries, and got an established centerman to help our club down the stretch here.”