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Catching up with Nicklas Lidstrom

Red Wings icon busy coaching sons, serving as adviser to Team Sweden for World Cup

by Cutler Klein @CutlerKlein / Staff Writer's "Catching Up With" series features notable NHL alumni, including reflections on their careers and lives after hockey.

After Nicklas Lidstrom retired from a storied career highlighted by winning the Stanley Cup four times, the Norris Trophy seven times and being voted to play in the NHL All-Star Game 12 times, he knew he would have to adjust to life without hockey.

It took him a little while.

"I think I felt the first few months after you retire, you feel some relief that you don't have to get ready for another season and you don't have to work out as hard as you used to do every summer," Lidstrom told "So, that was kind of nice, but when the fall comes around, you're missing something. I think that's from being used to playing hockey for so long and going to training camps and being part of the new season. The first couple years, I felt that I had that feeling that something was missing when fall came around."

Lidstrom, 46, has settled into his new lifestyle since retiring in 2012. He lives with his wife and four sons in his native Sweden. His two oldest, Kevin and Adam, are playing elite-level hockey, but neither feels compelled to mimic his father on the ice.

"I think they're trying to form their own play," Lidstrom said. "I have four sons, and my oldest one [Kevin] is a defenseman, but the other ones are playing forward. They're playing different positions, and I think they're trying to form their own way of playing hockey, not necessarily the way I did."

The former defenseman is widely regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the position, and he has the numbers to back it up. He ranks fifth all-time among NHL defensemen in games played (1,564) and sixth in points (1,142), behind Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Phil Housley and Larry Murphy, each a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Video: CBJ@DET: Lidstrom talks about his playing career

Lidstrom was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. Looking back on his 20-season NHL career, all with the Red Wings, Lidstrom's fondest memories are Detroit's Stanley Cup titles in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

"Winning the Cups are right up there, especially the last few seconds on the ice and the celebrations," he said. "Those are some great memories and the ones that stick out, especially being part of the parades in Detroit and seeing how happy the fans in Detroit were when they had the chance to celebrate with us."

He said his first Stanley Cup title in 1997 was momentous because it was Detroit's first in 42 years.

"I've been part of four Stanley Cup-winning teams, and they're all different in their own way," he said. "The first one was special because it had been over 40 years since the last time they won it. (The one in) 2002 was also special when I won the Conn Smythe and Norris Trophy in the same year. Same thing with the last Cup, in 2008, when I became the first European captain to hoist the Cup. They're all a little bit different, but they're all special in my mind."

Since Lidstrom's retirement, his former position has evolved in the NHL. In 2011-12, Lidstrom's final season, the top five scoring defensemen averaged 57.4 points. Last season, the average was 68.6.

Electrifying players like P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators have tremendous offensive talent and provide a boost from the blue line. In a new era of analytics and high-octane offense, Lidstrom says modern defensemen need to be very skilled.

"I think the position has embraced more puck-moving defensemen that are mobile and can make a good first outlet pass but also join the rush," he said. "To be an elite defenseman, I believe you have to be a strong skater and be very mobile on your skates. I think that's what you see with the elite defensemen of today's hockey."

In retirement, Lidstrom spends his time coaching his kids and working for an asset management company he co-owns and in real estate. This year, he has been working as an adviser to Team Sweden as it prepares for the World Cup of Hockey 2016. He played for Sweden in the 1996 and 2004 World Cup tournaments and is excited to be involved again.

Video: A deep statistical look at Nicklas Lidsrtrom's career

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It'll be a little bit different when you're sitting up in the press box and not on the ice and being part of it that way. It'll be one heck of a tournament. The best players in the world are going to participate, so it'll be a real fun tournament to be a part of."

This summer, Pavel Datsyuk, Lidstrom's former teammate in Detroit, left the NHL to play in the Kontinental Hockey League in his native Russia. Lidstrom respects his decision and said there's a different side of Datsyuk outside of his "Magic Man" abilities.

"He was a blast to play with," Lidstrom said. "He was so talented and he worked so hard. You kind of put that aside sometimes, but he was a very hard worker with world-class talent and had all the moves and could be a slick player but a hardworking player too. I'm sure he'll have some great success continuing his career in Russia."

This will be the Red Wings' final season playing at Joe Louis Arena, which Lidstrom called home his entire NHL career. He's going to miss the old rink but hopes the new Little Caesars Arena will capture the same intensity and feeling of The Joe.

"There was always a special atmosphere playing at the old Joe Louis," Lidstrom said. "I played in some old rinks around the League in Chicago, St. Louis and Toronto, and I think The Joe has that same kind of atmosphere. Of course, when it's your home rink, it turns into your favorite because you're so accustomed to everything there. I really enjoyed playing at The Joe. It'll be missed. I know the new arena will be a beautiful new building, and I hope they can bring that electricity and atmosphere that we felt at The Joe."

Even though Lidstrom is around hockey every day with his kids and with Team Sweden, it's not quite the same as suiting up and competing for the ultimate prize.

"It still hits me sometimes that I miss being part of a team or being part of game situations where it really matters," he said. "I remember how fun it was to be a part of that.

"I miss that feeling of being part of something special."

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