Erik Nicklas Lidstrom was the ultimate low-maintenance hockey superstar.
Born in Krylbo—a copper mining town in south central Sweden—April 28, 1970, Lidstrom grew up in Vasteras, an hour west of Stockholm. After playing three seasons in the top Swedish amateur league, he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings with the 53rd pick of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. The Wings 1989 draft is considered the best in NHL history, as Detroit also selected Mike Sillinger, Bob Boughner, Dallas Drake, and Sergei Fedorov, who would go on to play 5,955 NHL games and become the backbone of a hockey dynasty in the Motor City. In spring 1991, Lidstrom helped Team Sweden capture the gold medal in the World Championships in Finland before joining the Red Wings for the 1991-92 NHL season.
Lidstrom scored 60 points in his rookie season, finishing second to Pavel Bure in voting for the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. He was joined on the All-Rookie Team by fellow Red Wings defenseman Vladmir Konstantinov. “From day one, he looked totally comfortable,” recalled Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman [Daily Dose, 10/22/15]. “He never had a bad day at the office.” After losing to the New Jersey Devils in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals, Lidstrom led the Wings to the first of back-to-back championships in 1996. In addition, he was named to his first All-Star Team, one of twelve times he was afforded that honor during his 20-year career. In 2001, the 6’2”, 190 pound defenseman earned the first of seven career Norris Trophies he would receive as best defenseman in the NHL. Only the great Bobby Orr [Daily Dose, 8/26/15]—who won the Norris eight times in twelve seasons—has won more. Detroit returned to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002, where Lidstrom and crew dispatched Carolina to hoist the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years. After Detroit closed out the Hurricanes in Game 5, Lidstrom was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, making him the first European player in NHL history to win that coveted award.
In 2006, Lidstrom skated for Team Sweden in the 2006 Olympics, scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over Finland to capture the gold medal. Lidstrom became the 17th player to join the Triple Gold Club [Olympics, World Championships, Stanley Cup].
Following Yzerman’s retirement in 2006, Lidstrom was made Red Wings team captain, an honor he retained for the final six years of his career. After Detroit outdueled the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup title in 2008, Lidstrom became the first European born-and-trained NHL captain to win the Cup. He played in 1,564 regular season games for Detroit and is the all-time league leader in games played with one team. Known for his durability, Lidstrom consistently ranked among the league leaders in ice time. He only missed 42 games in 20 NHL seasons, a dozen of them coming in his last year, when he was 42. Mr. Lidstrom has played in more NHL games than any European player in history. Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News named him “Player of the Decade” for the 2000s and Hockey News selected him “best European-trained player ever to play in the NHL.”
Plus-Minus is a hockey statistic used to measure a player’s impact on the game, represented by the difference between their teams’ total scoring versus their opponents when a player is on the ice. Legendary Montreal Canadiens’ defenseman Larry Robinson has the highest rating of all-time, at 730. Orr is next on the list, followed by Ray Bourque [Daily Dose, 12/28/15] and Wayne Gretzky. Nicklas Lidstrom has a career Plus-Minus of 450, tenth-best in league history. All nine players ahead of him are from Canada.
Nicklas Lidstrom was as close to perfect as any hockey player in history. Like the elements of modern Swedish design, Lidstrom’s game was all clean lines and efficiency. He was always in position and, because he avoided vulnerable positions, he rarely took a hit. He made defense look effortless. Lidstrom was so efficient and smooth that he often went unnoticed. “I always tell people,” said Detroit GM Ken Holland, “you’ll only miss Nick after he’s gone.” Lidstrom had a high hockey IQ and rarely took penalites. “Lidstrom doesn’t have an angry bone in his body,” observed hall of fame defenseman Denis Potvin [Daily Dose, 10/29/15]. Lidstrom won four Stanley Cups, was a twelve-time All-Star, and was nominated for the Norris Trophy in 12 of his final 14 seasons. Over the last ten years of his career, he won the Norris seven times while finishing second in the other three seasons. In 20 NHL seasons, Lidstrom’s team never missed the postseason. He retired in 2012 having played in 263 Stanley Cup playoff games, three fewer than Chris Chelios for most of all time. Nick Lidstrom retired with 1,142 points following the 2012 season. In 2014, the Red Wings retired his Number 5 and, one year later, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In May 2012, one weekend after announcing his retirement, Nicklas Lindstrom and his wife Annika took out a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Detroit Free Press newspaper giving thanks to the city of Detroit for making his family feel at home during his two decades as a Red Wing.