Count Detroit Red Wings
captain Nicklas Lidstrom
among the European players excited by Thursday's announcement that the National Hockey League finalized a broadcast rights deal with Modern Times Group (MTG) that allows access across Scandinavia to every NHL game live via television, mobile and broadband for the next five seasons.
"I know my dad is very happy -- he's been calling me there the last few weeks and asking, 'We can't find our hockey games.' He follows all our games, even though they start sometimes in the middle of the night. They'll get up and watch the games," Lidstrom said while appearing as a guest on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman."
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Lidstrom continued: "When you're back in Sweden, and you're talking to kids and you're signing autographs, it's hard to believe how knowledgeable they are about the NHL. They all go online, they follow, they know our stats, they know how many games we've played in each season. They know a lot more than I would think that kids back home in Sweden would know, but they follow NHL very closely over there."
Fans of the Red Wings, whether in the United States, Canada or overseas, have to like what they've seen from Lidstrom and his teammates through the first two weeks of the season. Detroit is off to a 4-0-0 start heading into Friday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets
. Although a number of the core players have gotten older, Lidstrom, who turned 41 in April, believes they remain a Stanley Cup contender.
"I think we're hungry as a team, even though we might have some older guys, myself included," he said. "We're still a hungry team and we still have a solid core group of guys. We're not doubting ourselves in our locker room. We still believe we can be one of the elite teams in the League, and we are off to a good start so far."
If the biggest question in Detroit is whether the Red Wings have what it takes to win the fifth title of Lidstrom's illustrious career, the next one probably revolves around how much longer the seven-time Norris Trophy winner plans on playing. There was concern Lidstrom might retire this past summer and move his family back home to Sweden, where his oldest son returned to pursue his own hockey career, but he elected to come back for his 20th NHL season.
Lidstrom, who in addition to lifting four Cups also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2002 and became the first European ever to captain a championship team in 2008, credited his training program as a major contributor to his longevity. While he takes two-to-three weeks at the end of each season to rest the bumps and bruises that pile up over an 82-game regular season and the Wings' annual playoff run, after that it's back to work in preparation for training camp to start in the fall.
"I think I've been lucky enough not to have any major injuries throughout my career," said Lidstrom, who is set to play his 1,500th NHL game Saturday in Washington. "I've been taking care of myself in the offseason -- I know that's one of the things I have to do. As you get older, you have to train harder. You can't cut any corners. You can't be cheating in the summertime when you're working out, because that's going to slow you down during the hockey season. So I know it's very important to stay in shape."
When asked by Bettman to name the teammates who had the biggest impact on him over the years, Lidstrom was able to single out three in particular: Steve Yzerman
, who preceded him as captain; the late Brad McCrimmon
, who served as Lidstrom's defense partner his first season in the League and helped acclimate him to North American life; and Chris Chelios
, a blueliner who played well into his 40s and whose work habits even Lidstrom found impressive.
"I know my dad is very happy -- he's been calling me there the last few weeks and asking, 'We can't find our hockey games.' He follows all our games, even though they start sometimes in the middle of the night. They'll get up and watch the games." -- Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
Lidstrom was also asked to compare his current coach, Mike Babcock, with Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, who coached the Wings to three Stanley Cups with earlier in his career.
"I think you see a lot of similarities to how intense they are as coaches," Lidstrom said. "I think Scotty, he had a lot more experience where he could let the assistant coaches run practice sometimes and he would stay off the ice, whereas Babs wants to be hands-on all the time, he wants to make sure everything is working the way it should be.
"But the similarities, I think, are just the way they coach, too. They both are hands-on when they coach, whether it's matchups or how you prepare for a game. … Scotty, I think he was the mastermind of knowing who to match up against, who in a different situation. I had a lot of fun with him as the coach. He didn't talk a whole lot to me when I was playing, but he played me a lot, so I took that as a good sign that I guess I was doing something right."
The many seasons -- as well as the individual and team accolades -- that followed would suggest Lidstrom's assumption to be right.