TORONTO -- Those that played with Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov have three overriding emotions as those two prepare to be officially inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight.
Those former teammates are not at all surprised, very proud and incredibly grateful to have been a part of two illustrious careers.
"I was able to have probably the best seat in the house for a lot of years for those guys," Kris Draper said after Sunday's Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. "To be able to go out and play in a Hall of Fame game and be on the ice with Nick and Sergei is very special.
"Sergei was a guy who played in every situation. You read the articles about him, so good in his own end, so responsible in his own end, just a dynamic hockey player. And then Nick Lidstrom, you know the stuff that he was able to do obviously with the puck, the way he managed it, his hockey sense. Obviously, played so many games with those guys and saw what those guys did. I was probably one of the guys that reaped the benefits the most by playing with those kind of guys. Just an opportunity to win Stanley Cups with them, three with Sergei and four with Nick. Certainly stuff I’ll never forget."
Igor Larionov, who came to the Wings as a 35-year-old in a trade with the San Jose Sharks for Ray Sheppard, got to mentor a young Fedorov, who already had a Hart Trophy under his belt.
"He was actually kind of second-wave generation of Russian players who came into the National Hockey League after us. Like (Pavel) Bure, (Alexander) Mogilny, Fedorov, Sergei was a new-generation kind, bringing the bridge together between North American and old Soviet mentality," Larionov said after the Legends Classic. "When we played with the Red Machine, everybody thought we were kind of boring, scoring a goal without any emotion but Sergei was the guy who was a flashy guy, white skates, scoring beautiful goals. It was fun to watch. That's the players you want to come and watch play every night."
Fedorov went on to be a mentor to other players like Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green when he was with the Washington Capitals from 2007-09.
"He was a clutch player," Green said. "He was a big influence for us in our dressing room with his experience and what not. I remember a Game 5 I believe in came down the wing and scored an OT winner. He was that kind of player. For us young guys at the time we learned a lot from him.
Dino Ciccarelli was a witness to a special season in 1993-94 when Fedorov had 56 goals and 64 assists while finishing plus-48.
"I was fortunate to play with Sergei his MVP year," Ciccarelli said. "I was his right winger and (Slava) Kozlov was on his left side. He remembers we always talked, when I got the puck I wasn’t a stick handler so when I got the puck I was looking for Sergei all the time. I said, ‘you take it and I’m going to go find a hole by the net,’ and he always found me. Just an explosive skater. So graceful. I would say there’s only a select few players who could attract players to you in the offensive zone. A guy like (Wayne) Gretzky, (Mario) Lemieux and he had 2-3 guys trying to chase him down and that would leave 2-3 guys open by the net and fortunately I was one of them when I played with him."
Current Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan joked that the Wings' power play breakout was give Fedorov the puck and get out of the way.
"He was one of the most talented players I've ever played with, naturally gifted," Shanahan said. "Sergei was maybe the one player I played with that I could say he could really sort of take the puck by himself and go through a whole team if he wanted to."
Larionov spoke of what it meant to see Fedorov enter the Hall of Fame.
"It's special," Larionov said. "The player, the kind of man, the way he played, the way he carried himself, the way he made a huge impact on the National Hockey League in Detroit, so obviously well-deserved. I'm so happy."
While Larionov expressed great joy for his fellow countryman, he also spoke of what playing with Lidstrom was like.
Lidstrom was just 25 when Larionov came to the Wings.
"Nick, it's once-in-a-lifetime when you get a chance to play with a guy like that," Larionov said. "He's all-around. I don't think there's any weaknesses in his game. He's not flashy like Sergei but you know what, he's very efficient and it's so easy when he's on the ice, it's so calm. When the team is in a situation when you have to make a statement, Nick was always there, defensively and offensively.
"He was the guy who can make a tremendous pass, he's the guy who can stay back, he's the guy who can jump to the offense when nobody expect that and score a goal. To me, he's one of the best in the new generation of players."
Shanahan echoed Larionov's words when speaking about Lidstrom.
"Nick made the game simple," Shanahan said during the Legends Classic. "He made what is a very fast-moving, often confusing game very, very simple not only for him but for the rest of us. He's a great example to all players about just making the right play and the simple play and doing it consistently, day after day after day. Best thing you can say about a teammate is that you could count on him.
"We just always counted on Nick to be excellent and he was."
Lidstrom was also known for his durability, missing just 44 regular-season games in 20 seasons, many of which occurred when the Wings had already clinched a playoff berth and they were resting him.
"I was telling guys I played with Nick for 4-5 years and this guy was like Gretz. Never got hit," Ciccarelli said. "That’s the way he played. He’d move around and you couldn’t catch him. Just a smart player, put people in position and that’s how he stayed injury-free for 20 years."
Lidstrom won seven Norris trophies as best defenseman during his career and there are some who believed that Fedorov could have reached that level had he played his entire career as a defenseman.
"Scotty put him on defense for a couple games, he was my partner," Larry Murphy said after the Legends Classic. "Did an excellent job. He's such a strong skater and such a smart hockey mind, he made the adjustment when I was playing with him and played quite well playing defense. I don't know if I could say he'd win the Norris. I wouldn't be shocked, that's for sure. He came back and played with me and he didn't miss a step, he fit right in."
As Murphy knew from experience, it was much better to play with Fedorov than against him.
"He's the kind of guy that if you're not on your toes, you're in trouble," Murphy said. "There's no margin of error when you play against Sergei because of how quick he is, how sharp he is. If he gets a half a step on you, you're not getting it back, no one's getting it back, the type of skater he was. He's one of those guys when he was on the ice you always had to be aware."
Murphy also had the pleasure of having Lidstrom as his defense partner.
"Nick was always in the right place, Mr. Reliable, played at a high level every game, every shift," Murphy said. "That was the one thing about him, he was a great player but there seemed to be no peaks and valleys in his game. He was there (holds hand even at head level) and stayed there constantly. That's the most incredible thing about him. We talked about it earlier, great all-time defenseman, but the level of consistency was just amazing.
"Every shift you'd get the exact same thing out of him. I played with him and you always knew where he was. There was never a time, I can't think of a time when he was ever out of position. That never happened."
While every hockey fan will remember Lidstrom and Fedorov for what they accomplished on the ice, Shanahan said he won't forget what they were like off the ice.
"I think the one thing about Sergei that a lot of people don't know and same with Nick, they were just good people and good teammates," Shanahan said. "They were thoughtful and caring guys. Everybody knows how great they were and they were All-Stars and international stars but they were just really good people to travel with and to go to dinner with and to build a team with."
Now both players join a very special team, a team of legends in the Hockey Hall of Fame.