DETROIT - Former Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom may have been the last of seven inductees to be welcomed into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Friday night, but he was certainly not least.
One by one the MSHOF Class of 2014 was introduced and celebrated: Lions offensive end Dorne Dibble, Lions kicker Jason Hanson, Detroit Catholic Central football coach Tom Mach, Major League Soccer star Alexi Lalas, broadcaster Jim Brandstatter, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz.
Then it was time for the former Wings captain, seven-time Norris Trophy winner and four-time Stanley Cup Champion to take the stage, and no one was more excited than his NHL and international teammate Niklas Kronwall.
“For us to be able to be here and be a part of this is obviously very special,” Kronwall said. “Anytime you get a chance to be around a guy like a Nick it’s a privilege. You always learn something.”
Lidstrom and the six other inductees were part of the 58th MSHOF induction event, and it was clear that the defenseman’s classmates were honored to receive such a prestigious honor alongside a living legend.
“I watched him like everyone from afar with awe,” Lalas said of Lidstrom. “I grew up playing hockey and I grew up idolizing the Red Wings. I didn’t have soccer players on my wall I had Red Wings posters on my wall and to be able to go in with not just a Red Wings or Michigan legend but a hockey legend is awesome and it’s a real honor.”
The class was unique in that it included two players who spent their entire professional careers in Detroit spanning at least 20 years. Lidstrom wore the Winged Wheel for 20 years, while Hanson spent his entire 21-year career with the Lions.
“It’s kind of interesting that Detroit had two players that played for the organizations for so long and obviously he was at the very top of his profession with teams that were at the top, too,” Hanson said. “It’s exciting to see the guys that accomplished so much and it’s fun. It’s fun to stick my name in there with the same sentence as these guys.”
And he definitely wouldn’t be above asking for an autograph, either.
“I take pride in what I did but to meet one of the greatest hockey players ever?” Hanson asked. “I mean I’ll take his autograph any day of the week.”
Lidstrom is the 23rd member of the Red Wings' organization in the MSHOF, which already has enshrined legendary coach Jack Adams (1955); Gordie Howe (1957); Ted Lindsay (1966); Sid Abel (1967); Ebbie Goodfellow (1968); Terry Sawchuk (1974); James Norris (1976); Alex Delvecchio (1977); Bill Gadsby (1986); Budd Lynch (1994); Red Berenson and Bruce Martyn (1996); Red Kelly (1998); Scotty Bowman (1999); Jack Stewart (2000); Mike Ilitch (2004); Jimmy Devellano (2006); Norm Ullman and Steve Yzerman (2007); Marian Ilitch (2010); Marcel Pronovost (2012); and Mark Howe (2013).
“It means a lot, especially because I knew about the Hall of Fame here in Michigan but I wasn’t aware of all the details about who has been inducted in the past and I didn’t know I was on their radar either, so it makes it very special for me,” Lidstrom said.
The induction kicked off a historic week for the former defenseman, who will watch his No. 5 be lifted high into Joe Louis Arena’s rafters alongside Steve Yzerman, Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe at his Jersey Retirement Night next Thursday when the Wings host Colorado.
The ceremony will feature speeches by Mike Babcock, Ken Holland and Christopher Ilitch, and be attended by Wings legends Howe, Lindsay, Delvecchio, Yzerman, Scotty Bowman, Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, Tomas Holmstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov, among others.
Although Lidstrom was never one to lose his composure, he anticipates the event will be as emotional as his retirement press conference nearly two years ago.
“Well if you watched that press conference, that was very emotional trying to keep that together,” Lidstrom said. “I’m sure it will be the same thing on Thursday night. I think it’ll be very emotional going through everything and especially being on the ice in front of all the fans again and seeing all the former players and former coaches and the team that’s there now so it’ll be very emotional for me.”
LIDSTROM NIGHT: Doors to Joe Louis Arena will open at 5:30 p.m. for Lidstrom’s Jersey Retirement Night on March 6, and fans are encouraged to arrive early for the game, as the pre-game ceremony will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. The ceremony will conclude by 7:20 p.m., and the game against Colorado will begin at 8 p.m.
VIEWING PARTY: Although the game is sold out, fans can still enjoy the celebration by attending the official Nick Lidstrom Jersey Retirement Night viewing party at Detroit’s City Theatre.
The event will show the jersey retirement ceremony in its entirety and feature a private appearance by Lidstrom during the first intermission, and all ticketed guests will receive the same commemorative mini-banner and game day program distributed to fans at Joe Louis Arena.
Please click here for more news and information about Listrom’s Jersey Retirement Night.