Nicklas Lidstrom: The 12 Best Moments of His Hall of Fame Career
The Hall of Fame career of Nicklas Lidstrom is exhausting to comprehend. His accomplishments are so numerous that his Wikipedia page locks up my laptop computer. His perfection on the ice is surpassed only by his classiness off of it.
In a time when league parity reigned and dynasties were all but killed off, Lidstrom was an anchor for the most consistent team in pro sports.
Now at the age of 41, he is in the twilight of his career. While his play hasn't faltered much because of age, one has to believe that he's almost ready to hang up the skates and spend time with his family—much like former defensive partner Brian Rafalski.
Once he does step off of the ice for the last time, he will be leaving behind a legacy arguably greater than any other defenseman in league history. He's certainly a generational talent whose career achievements are remarkable.
Here are some of his best moments.
June 17th, 1989: The Detroit Red Wings Select Nicklas Lidstrom in the Draft
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Fans of the Detroit Red Wings love to point to players such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg as major draft-day steals. While both of them are just that, there may be no bigger draft-day hijacking in Wings history than Nicklas Lidstrom.
He was selected 53rd overall in 1989.
52 names were called out before Lidstrom made his way to the podium. If there had been an HFBoards in the late 80s (or an Internet for that matter), a post would have been made within minutes with the subject: "Has anyone even heard of this guy?"
The truth was that not many had, and his selection wasn't greeted with fanfare or expectation.
Not even in their wildest whiskey-induced dreams could Detroit's management imagine they had just stolen a seven-time Norris trophy winner who would help usher their team to greatness. Yet they had.
It wouldn't take long for everyone to realize it, either. Lidstrom posted 67 points in his second year in the NHL and has never looked back since.
Winter Olympics in 2006: Becoming a Member of the Triple-Gold Club
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Nicklas Lidstrom and all of team Sweden went to 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino with a simple goal in mind: revenge.
It had been four long years since the heavily favored Swedes were ousted in shocking fashion by Belarus in the quarterfinal of the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. They had a chance to right their previous wrong in Torino.
Sweden didn't fall short of its mark.
It downed arch-rival Finland in the gold medal game—guess who was right at the center of it all, scoring the game-winning goal for his home country. Sporting his usual No. 5, Nicklas Lidstrom capped the victory off for his team.
In doing so, he became a member of the prestigious Triple-Gold club. Membership is reserved only for those players who have won the Stanley Cup, a World Championship gold and an Olympic gold.
Check, check and check.
December 15th, 2010: Nicklas Lidstrom Scores His First Hat Trick
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By 2010, Nicklas Lidstrom had accomplished just about everything a player could in the NHL. His records and achievements were spellbinding. If he had retired before that night against the St. Louis Blues, no one would have thought less of him for never scoring a hat trick.
At the age of 40, he proceeded to do just that, however. An early Christmas present to himself and to the fans in attendance, Lidstrom beat Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak three times to become the oldest player in NHL history to record his first hat trick.
The feat is special enough for forwards. Sometimes, grinders get lucky and stash three goals. Elite centers and wingers can secure a few of these throughout their careers, but Lidstrom got his goals from the blue line.
That's far from ordinary—fitting for a player who has been anything but for the Red Wings.
June 17th, 2003: Nicklas Lidstrom Wins His Third Consecutive Norris Trophy
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As impressive as three goals in a game are, winning three consecutive Norris trophies is a mind-numbing accomplishment.
In a league swarming with outstanding defensemen, Nicklas Lidstrom has dominated Norris trophy voting for the better part of his career. After finishing second in voting for three seasons in a row, Lidstrom finally took home the hardware in 2001 for the first time.
He didn't relinquish the Norris until 2004, becoming the first player since Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr to win the trophy three straight times upon winning again in 2003.
June 12th, 2008: Nicklas Lidstrom Wins Third Consecutive Norris Trophy (again)
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My favorite author, Orson Scott Card, wrote about a character named Andrew "Ender" Wiggin in a lengthy series of sci-fi books. Ender didn't speak a whole lot, but when he did, he had the tendency to say things that were spot-on. One of his quotes has stuck with me since I first read Ender's Game back in high school.
He said, "If you can't do it twice, you can't do it at all."
After Nicklas Lidstrom won his third consecutive Norris trophy in 2003, I am sure one would have been hard-pressed to convince him of that. Sweeping the votes for three years a single time is an outstanding accomplishment that propelled Lidstrom's name into the same sentence as Bobby Orr.
In June of 2008, any question and qualm about including Lidstrom in the conversation about the greatest defender of all time was erased when he won his third consecutive Norris for a second time.
The win gave him six Norris trophies in seven years—a feat almost as impressive as Orr winning the trophy eight times in a row. Dominating a trophy so thoroughly during a period of time where there were 30 teams competing league-wide is phenomenal.
October 15th, 2009: Nicklas Lidstrom Scores His 1,000th Career Point
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I haven't been around long enough to claim to have seen some of the best defensemen in NHL history. Sadly, names like Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin are names of legend to me, and not names that bring back distinct recollection.
While I am young, and there is only so much time in the day to watch classic games on the NHL Network, I feel confident in claiming that no player in the history of the league has been better at doing what Nicklas Lidstrom did when he scored his 1,000th career point.
The point came on an assist. The goal he set up was on the power play, and the helper came after Lidstrom surveyed the ice and found a player in good position to tip the puck towards the opposing net.
He had become the 74th player in NHL history to be involved in 1,000 goals. Take a second to fathom that. Consider all the goals that Lidstrom has been responsible for stopping, and then think about the goals he's contributed to.
True greatness indeed.
Since 1991: Nicklas Lidstrom Plays over 1,500 Games While Missing Only 28
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Many refer to Nicklas Lidstrom as a robot—I don't think that comparison does him justice, however. Machines break down over time. They require some maintenance and oil here and there. They malfunction and cause assembly lines to lock up.
Machines may be consistently operational 95 percent of the time. Lidstrom breaks down less than one percent of the time. He's missed nearly a statistically irrelevant amount of games: Lidstrom has missed 0.019 percent of possible games played to be precise.
If car manufacturers built vehicles like the hockey Gods constructed Lidstrom, Motor City would be in even more financial turmoil than it already is and Chevrolet Impalas would still be in and roaming the streets.
The U.S. Navy's fleet of nuclear warships has a more youthful average age than Lidstrom.
The trophies and personal accolades are impressive. What may be most astonishing is how consistently remarkable Lidstrom has been across such an expansive period of time.
April 23rd, 2010: Nicklas Lidstrom Plays in His 237th Playoff Game
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All the personal accomplishments on the planet wouldn't mean a thing if Nicklas Lidstrom couldn't get the job done in the postseason.
In 2010, the Detroit Red Wings took on the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs. April 23rd was Game 5 of the series—Detroit won 4-1 for the record. That particular game was Lidstrom's 237th postseason contest.
That's nearly three full 82-game seasons played in the playoffs, and is good enough for third all-time in postseason games played in the history of the NHL.
Detroit Red Wings' 1996-97 Stanley Cup Run
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The Detroit Red Wings finished third in the Western Conference in the 1996-1997 season. After years of postseason heartbreak, pressure was at a boiling point for the talented squad to finally bring the Stanley Cup home after more than four decades without a finals victory.
Nicklas Lidstrom was steady throughout the playoffs, pitching in 12 points and helping the Wings shut down the mighty Philadelphia Flyers offense en route to the team's first Stanley Cup in over 40 years.
It would be Lidstrom's first Cup, but it wouldn't be his last.
October 5th, 2006: Nicklas Lidstrom Takes over as Team Captain
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This particular night is what makes me a little less worried about losing Nicklas Lidstrom to eventual retirement.
People seem to forget who Lidstrom replaced (for lack of better word) as captain of the Detroit Red Wings. Steve Yzerman is just as irreplaceable and just as important to the franchise. Granted, the captain was decimated late in his career by various injuries and saw his role dissipate.
The same can't be said for Lidstrom.
Yet this is a team that has built a collective identity on standing strong while those around them hurry to predict the downfall of the giant. But I digress.
On this night in 2006, Lidstrom received the captain torch from one of the greatest there has ever been, and he's worn the C and been an outstanding leader for the Red Wings. This was an important night for his legacy, both as a Red Wing and as an individual.
June 13th, 2002: Nicklas Lidstrom Wins the Conn Smythe
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Nicklas Lidstrom is undoubtedly the greatest European player who has ever laced up a pair of skates.
That was just a buzz phrase until 2002. That year, Lidstrom won the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP. Just managing to win the hardware on this particular version of the Detroit Red Wings is impressive enough.
The team boasts nearly half a roster of players who could end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Dominik Hasek and Sergei Fedorov all skated around with the Stanley Cup after the Wings won it in '02.
Noteworthy as that achievement was, in winning the Conn Smythe this year, Lidstrom became the first European-born-and-trained player to take the trophy home.
There will be more players from Russia or Sweden or wherever to win the Smythe.
Lidstrom will always have been the first.
June 4th, 2008: Nicklas Lidstrom Captains a Stanley Cup Champion
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Winning the Conn Smythe trophy in 2002 was one thing.
However, captaining the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup victory means far more than the playoff MVP award.
Leading up to that particular finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Europeans carried with them a stigma. They didn't have the guts and determination needed to win a championship in the NHL. Euros, the line of thinking went, didn't have the gall to win the whole thing.
Not like the North Americans did!
Nicklas Lidstrom is the name that was scrawled across the final iron stake that was buried into the chest of that BS manifesto. And, if for no other reason, Lidstrom will live in infamy for that reason.
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