Looking Back At The Career Of Nick Lidstrom

After 20 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings defenseman announced his retirement on Thursday. Ed Miller writes why he'll go down as one of the best.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

It’s the end of an era in Detroit, as perhaps the greatest defenseman of the past 20 years, Nik Lidstrom, announced his retirement on Thursday. 

The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman, held a press conference at Joe Louis Arena to announce that he had decided to hang up his skates, as the motivation to play was no longer there.

The 42-year-old played an NHL record 1,564 games with the Detroit Red Wings and had been contemplating retirement for awhile, signing one-year contracts each of the previous two years.  Lidstrom, who was known for his durability, missed a career-high 12 games this season and finished with 34 points and a plus-21 rating.

"Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me," said Lidstrom. 

Lidstrom was drafted 53rd overall by the Red Wings in the 1989 NHL Entry draft but didn’t make his debut until the 1991-92 season.  That season, he finished with 60 points and was second in Calder Trophy voting, behind Pavel Bure, as Detroit finished with the number one seed from the Western Conference.  It was Lidstrom’s first taste of playoff action, despite getting swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, but that was simply the beginning.

No Red Wings player has appeared in more postseason games than Lidstrom, who never missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Lidstrom was important in helping the Red Wings earn their first Stanley Cup championship in 42 years in 1997.

In 2002 he became the first player from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, after leading the Red Wings to their third cup in six seasons.  Lidstom won his final Stanley Cup in 2008 and did so as the first European-born captain in NHL history.

He had been a mainstay in Detroit, becoming just the sixth Detroit-based athlete in the four major sports to play at least 20 years, all in the Motor City. Red Wings legends Alex Delvecchio and Steve Yzerman, Detroit Tigers stars Al Kaline and Alan Trammell and Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson are the others.

His dominant play wasn’t just limited to the NHL.  Lidstrom was a four-time Olympian who had probably the biggest goal in Sweden’s history – the gold-medal winning goal over Finland in 2006. 

Last season Lidstrom was voted the league’s best defenseman for the seventh time, tying him with Doug Harvey and trailing Bobby Orr’s record by one.  In 2001 he became the first European-born player to earn the award and was a finalist 11 times in the last 13 seasons.

He finishes his career with 264 goals, 1,142 points and a plus-450 rating.

Ed is the lead hockey writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller, and subscribe on Facebook @ CraveOnlineSports.

Photo Credit: AP