Detroit Red Wings: The 10 Most Memorable Moments of Nicklas Lidstrom's Career
Does the date June 17, 1989, have any significance to you?
I know I may have inadvertently just made mention of your birthday, or perhaps the date of your high school graduation or wedding anniversary, but that's not what I was getting at.
If you are a Detroit Red Wings fan, June 17, 1989, should forever be a red letter date in your smart-phone calendar.
This is the day the Red Wings drafted a slight, quiet, Swedish kid named Nick 53rd overall at the NHL Entry Draft.
There were no "ooo's" or "aw's", no promises of greatness to come, no sweeping sense that, with that pick, the team was actually helping define two decades of unparalleled excellence.
Such is the case with many dates of significance.
At the time, we often don't know how important the events of a single day will turn out to be.
Add some years between then and now, and all of a sudden what was a totally forgotten space on the calendar becomes a day we never forget.
This is not to say that Nicklas Lidstrom's draft day is the most important moment of his career, it isn't even on this list.
However, in hindsight, it is one of the most important moments in Red Wings history.
Compiling a list of those moments is something far to daunting for a relatively lazy writer like me to take on.
But, as he is about to enter his 20th year in a Red Wings uniform, looking at the top 10 moments of Nicklas Lidstrom's career is something I can attempt to tackle as many of these aren't only memorable, but utterly unforgettable.
That said, let's take a look at No.10.
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No. 10: First Career Hat Trick: Dec. 15, 2010
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Despite all of his accomplishments and greatness through 19 NHL seasons, Nick Lidstrom had not once scored three goals in a single game.
Last December, against the St. Louis Blues, Lidstrom decided that retiring with zero hat tricks on his resume wasn't acceptable and lit the lamp behind Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak three times.
At 40 years old, the feat was unlikely and certainly unexpected.
Additionally, even an offensive defenseman rarely finds the net three times in 60 minutes.
But Nick Lidstrom is not an ordinary 40-year-old, nor is he an ordinary defenseman, which makes this unlikely feat something we've come to expect from Lidstrom, but one that will not be soon forgotten.
No. 9: Becoming a 20-Year Man: June 20, 2011
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I recall shortly after the Wings' second straight Cup win in 1998, a growing, and very real fear that we had perhaps seen the end of Nicklas Lidstrom in Detroit.
Though he had only played six seasons in the NHL, he mentioned that even that was longer than he originally expected to play in North America.
The desire for him to move back to Sweden so his (then, just two) sons could grow up in their father's native land was considered strong enough to make him say goodbye to NHL hockey all together.
Honestly, with two Stanley Cups in tow, no one could really blame him had the guy bolted for a quiet life back home.
As it turns out, Nick decided to stay, but how long he'd stick around became a legitimate question from then on.
Here we are, 13 years later, and we still can't get rid of this guy.
Though it has nothing to do with his on-ice career, the one-year deal Lidstrom recently signed with Detroit will make him a 20-year-man with the organization.
Forget hockey, in business of any kind today, that's almost a ridiculous display of loyalty on both the employee's and employer's part.
No. 8: 1,000 NHL Points: Oct. 15, 2009
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For any player, on any team, scoring 1,000 points in the NHL is always going to be a memorable moment.
For Nicklas Lidstrom, it not only cemented his already legendary status, but his rightful place in Detroit hockey royalty.
On Oct. 15, 2009, the Red Wings were on a power-play against the Los Angeles Kings.
As we've seen 1,000 times before, the Wings won the face off and got the puck to Nick at the blue line.
He backed up, surveyed the ice, spotted Henrik Zetterberg at the bottom of the right circle and fired a perfectly deflectable shot deliberately wide of the net.
Zetterberg was equally perfect in his reading of the play and successfully directed the puck past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
I'd guess about 200 of Nick's points have come the same way, and I can't wait to see him do this a few more times next season.
No. 7: 2001 Norris Trophy Win: June 21, 2001
After being a bridesmaid for three straight seasons, Nicklas Lidstrom finally walked down the aisle with the James Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman in 2001.
It had become such a sore point with the Wings that Nick was continually passed over for the award that some wondered if there was an outright bias against honoring a defenseman who used his brain more than his brawn to stop opponents on the ice.
Whatever the reason for him missing the dance with Norris three years in a row, all was made right when he finally ended the year as the NHL's undisputed best blueliner.
No. 6: Captain Nick: Oct. 5, 2006
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I am certainly not unique in stating that, as heroes go, Steve Yzerman will always be one of mine.
In hockey, and in life, Steve Yzerman exemplified a commitment to excellence that inspires and motivates me to this day.
Though it was long in coming, when he finally retired in 2006, I found it impossible to imagine the Red Wings with out him.
The question of who would, or even could possibly take over as the Red Wings captain was hotly debated for months.
Kris Draper was a popular choice, and even (then-) youngster Henrik Zetterberg, whom GM Ken Holland had placed next to Yzerman in the dressing room for three seasons, was getting a fair number of nods.
However, in hindsight, there really was only one right choice for captain and on Oct. 5, 2006, the reins of Red Wings leadership were officially passed over to Nicklas Lidstrom.
The first European captain of the franchise had a lot of expectations placed on him immediately after and following in the skate tracks of a hockey god was a prospect some felt could be too daunting for the quiet and reserved Swede.
I will always think of Stevie Y as "The Captain," but damn if Nick didn't pick up right where Steve left off in 2006.
No. 5: 1998 Stanley Cup Champion: June 16, 1998
Don't let the picture here throw you off, this wasn't taken in 1998.
No, this photo is of two young kids named Nick and Vladimir shortly after they were drafted by the Red Wings in 1989.
One from Sweden, the other from Russia, both were supposed to round out into solid NHL defenders for the Red Wings.
Vladdie, being the older and stronger of the two emerged a bit quicker and, by 1997 was considered one of the best rearguards in the game.
In fact, he helped his team win the Stanley Cup, with his buddy Nick, in 1997.
The future was going to be glaringly bright for these two players, their team and the entire city of Detroit.
Then, in a tragic turn of events no one in Detroit will ever forget, the team was robbed of one of its brightest lights just days after winning their first Stanley Cup in 42 years.
With Konstantinov unlikely to walk, let alone play hockey again, the onus was on Lidstrom to become his team's blueliner of the future.
He led all Red Wings defenders in points the next playoff year and helped keep the Stanley Cup in Detroit to ensure his friend Vladdie could hold it at least one more time.
"Believe" was the mantra the Wings used to win a second straight Stanley Cup in 1998, but friendship was as much a motivator as anything.
No. 4: 2002 Conn Smythe Win: June 13, 2002
There's a myriad of reasons the 2002 Stanley Cup Championship was one of Detroit's most memorable.
From the "Dream Team" line up including Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, to Scotty Bowman's last game as an NHL head coach, to Steve Yzerman defying all physical laws and skating on just one leg through the entire playoffs, 2002 has gone down as a legendary year for the Red Wings.
Sometimes lost in the mix of all the star-studded hoopla that surrounded the 2002 Championship in Detroit was the fact that, for the first time in NHL history, a European-born and -trained player emerged as the playoff MVP.
Lidstrom's Conn Smythe win in 2002 was, in many people's minds, the pinnacle of his career.
Already owning three titles, and a Norris Trophy, the Smythe was literally all Lidstrom had left to win in the NHL.
Good thing for us he didn't agree with this sentiment.
No. 3: 2003 Norris Trophy Hat Trick: June 17, 2003
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At this point in his career, most consider Nicklas Lidstrom to be second only to Bobby Orr in all-time greatness.
However, 2003 marked a significant occurrence that united these two men forever inasmuch as Lidstrom emerged as the first defenseman since Orr to pull of a Norris Trophy Hat Trick.
From settling as the runner up for three straight years to beating out all his competitors three straight years after that, Nicklas Lidstrom solidly affixed his place in the pantheon of Hockey Gods that warm night in Toronto in 2003.
Now, Bobby Orr did go on to win the trophy the next five years after pulling his first Norris Hat Trick, a feat we'll likely never see repeated.
But, as Lidstrom repeated the hat trick feat from 2006 to 2008, the common placement of his name in close proximity to Orr's in hockey discussions all over the world.
No. 2: Seventh Norris Trophy Win: June 22, 2011
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It's safe to say that this one may go down as a little controversial, maybe a little suspect, I get that.
First, Lidstrom ended the 2010-11 regular season with a minus-two rating, the first time ever in his career that he was not a plus-player at the end of 82 games.
If someone wanted to say that Lidstrom's most recent Norris Trophy win had more to do with sentimentality than objective hockey analysis, I could see their point.
Still, they'd be wrong.
True, Nick was the sentimental favorite heading into the awards, but, minus-two or no, there is no mistaking the fact that he turned in a jaw-droppingly solid season on Detroit's blue line and, at 40 years old, looked to be even better than he was the year before.
He'll have another shot to tie Orr with eight Norris wins in his career next season, and I won't be a bit surprised if he actually pulls it off.
No. 1: 2008 Stanley Cup Champion: June 4, 2008
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For my money, there will not be a better moment in Lidstrom's career than winning his fourth Stanley Cup title, this time, as captain of his team.
In addition to delivering on the promise embodied in him when he assumed the captaincy from Steve Yzerman (you know, a few slides ago?), he also went down in the record books as the first European born and trained player to captain a team to a Cup title.
It was in the post-game comments, after the Wings beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh in Game Six, that one understood that this team was 100 percent Lidstrom's that way the teams in 1997, 98 and 2002 had been 100 percent Yzerman's.
Veterans like Kris Draper talked about Nick saying the right things at the right times and giving the team direction.
Youngsters like Valtteri Filppula referred to Lidstrom's dedication to training, as well as his effort on the ice, as their primary motivation to exhibit the same commitment to winning.
To a man, the 2008 Red Wings believed in Nicklas Lidstrom and, had the Stanley Cup Playoffs been played in Hell, would have followed him straight there (though, I'd imagine the ice would be terrible).