DETROIT – Following a week-long family vacation in Miami, Nicklas Lidstrom is in Detroit today, where he’s expected to get some great news.
It is here – a town that he spent 20 remarkable NHL seasons – that he’ll receive a call on his cell phone from a 419 area code informing him to make plans to visit Toronto in the first weekend of November.
It is there that the seven-time Norris Trophy winner and the best all-around defenseman in Red Wings history will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The announcement – which everyone one the planet has expected since the four-time Stanley Cup winner retired after the 2011-12 season – will be made at 4 p.m. EST today.
“Just an incredible player, who set a standard in the modern era that I don’t think will ever be measured up to,” said Mike Babcock, who coached Lidstrom during the defenseman’s last seven seasons. “He was just that good of a player. But he’s a better man than a player and he was a lot of fun to be around.”
Undoubtedly, Lidstrom made everyone around him better, especially his defensive partners.
“Certainly come playoff time in big playoff games, and we knew if things weren’t going our way, the momentum wasn’t going our way, you kind of throw Nick out there with his calming presence, his calming influence,” Kris Draper said. “He’d just go out, no matter what it might be, a good first pass, just settled things down. He had an uncanny ability of doing that. He had many strengths, but he was a guy that no matter what the situation was he went out there very composed and always seemed to make the right decision.”
An 11-time All Star, Lidstrom produced 1,142 regular-season points throughout his career, fourth on the Red Wings' all-time list behind Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Alex Delvecchio. He's sixth all-time in points among defensemen in NHL history, behind Ray Bourque (1,579), Paul Coffey (1,531), Al MacInnis (1,274), Phil Housley (1,232), and Larry Murphy (1,216). All but Housley are enshrined in the Hall.
“From the first game in Detroit it was like, ‘Wow, this guy is really good’ and he never changed,” Yzerman said. “His demeanor never changed from Day 1 until the day he retired. He just shows up every day. He was the most reliable person you could ever meet.”
The 45-year-old Lidstrom is a first-ballot hall of famer, who surely will be an unanimous selection today. But will another Red Wing join him in the Class of 2015?
The Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee can elect a maximum of four players, who must receive the minimum 14 of 18 votes to be officially certified as immortal stars of the game.
In his first year of induction eligible, Sergei Fedorov has some tough competition, including defenseman Chris Pronger, who is also a first-time candidate. Others who will receive consideration will be Housley, Dave Andreychuk, Rod Brind’Amour, Vincent Damphousse, Theo Fleury, Eric Lindros, and Jeremy Roenick.
Fedorov will end up in the Hall of Fame one day soon. But will it be this year?
There’s certainly a strong case for Fedorov, who claimed the Hart Trophy in 1994 following his only full NHL season when he produced a career-high 120 points, which was second in the league only to Wayne Gretzky’s 130.
Every modern era Hall of Fame-eligible Hart Trophy winner – with the exception of Lindros and Chicago goalie Al Rollins – are among the enshrined stars of the game.
“He had a fabulous career,” Yzerman said of Fedorov. “Looking back we wish he could have spent the entire career in Detroit, but things change along the way. One of the most-talented athletes I’ve ever been around. A really, really nice guy and I hope he gets inducted.”
In a time when Gretzky and Mario Lemieux roamed NHL rinks, Fedorov was developing into one of the league’s most exciting two-way centers. A swift skater and gifted stick-handler, Fedorov was equally potent as a high-scoring center or puck-moving defenseman.
“Sergei to me was one of the most dynamic players that the game has seen,” Draper said. “There were so many different ways that he could impact a hockey game. Obviously, just an elite skaters, an elite goal scorer, probably straight out one of the fastest skaters that I’ve ever played with, and just the ability to turn on a dime, the agility that he had down low on a cycle, the strength that he had. He was almost a freak of nature with the kind of condition he was in. He was a guy that could do a lot of great things. He was a great face-off man and he could score short-handed. He could score on the power play, so a guy who could impact the game in many, many ways.”
Besides being a six-time NHL All Star and helping Detroit win Stanley Cup titles in 1997, 1998 and 2002, Fedorov is third in franchise history with 163 points in 162 playoff games. He still ranks among the franchise’s top five all-time leaders with 400 goals, 554 assists and 954 points from 1990-2003. He finished an 18-season career with 483 goals and 1,179 points in 1,248 regular-season games.
Fedorov was part of perhaps the greatest draft classes in hockey history. Selected by Detroit with the 74th pick of the 1989 NHL draft, he was joined by Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov that summer.
“The guys who had the most impact on our team were obviously Sergei, Vladdie and Nick,” Yzerman said. “Had (Konstantinov) not been injured in the accident we got three Hall of Famers there in one draft. That set our franchise up for the four Stanley Cups.”
Should Fedorov also field a call today from Toronto, the Wings will have nine players from the 2002 Stanley Cup team in the Hall. Already enshrined are Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull, Igor Larionov, Luc Robitaille and Brendan Shanahan.