DETROIT – Nicklas Lidstrom is excited about the upcoming season.
No, the legendary defenseman isn’t coming out of retirement, however, he does plan to put on a Red Wings’ sweater at least once more.
Lidstrom, who leads the franchise in virtually every statistical category for defensemen, has told the Red Wings that he will play in the Alumni Showdown against alumni players from the Toronto Maple Leafs at Comerica Park on Dec. 31.
“I will be part of that game,” Lidstrom said early last month in a phone interview from his home in Sweden. “I’m really looking forward to the Winter Classic and being a part of something like that again, and to play with some of my former teammates when I played back in 90s and early 2000s. It’ll be exciting. I’m looking forward to the big game too when the Wings and the Leafs lace them up.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to play again.”
The Winter Classic alumni game has become so big over the last few years – particularly among former players and fans – that the Wings and Leafs scheduled a doubleheader to accommodate the demand. The alumni games will be played at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the home of the Detroit Tigers on New Year’s Eve.
The Red Wings announced this month that they will retire Lidstrom’s iconic No. 5, sending it to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena during an on-ice ceremony prior to the March 6 game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Lidstrom will become the seventh player to have his jersey number raised to the top of The Joe, joining Terry Sawchuk (1), Ted Lindsay (7), Gordie Howe (9), Alex Delvecchio (10), Sid Abel (12) and Steve Yzerman (19).
“I’m really excited about that evening too and leading up to it,” Lidstrom said. “I know my parents want to be there and my (three) sisters have been talking about getting off from work for a few days to be there and be a part of it. I’m looking forward to walking onto the ice again, even though I won’t have my skates on (or) sitting on the bench. I’m sure it will be an exciting night for me, and it will probably be an emotional night too. But I’m really looking forward to be back there again.”
One of the coolest customers on the ice during his 20 NHL seasons, Lidstrom has somewhat of an idea of what to expect in March as he had a front row seat to Yzerman’s retirement night in 2007.
“I don’t recall talking to Steve a whole lot about it, though I know that I asked him if he was nervous about his speech,” Lidstrom said. “I thought he did an excellent job through his speech. He didn’t look too emotional when he was out there, but I know that he was.
“I’m really going to go out there and just try to enjoy the moment, enjoy the fans and enjoy the chance to say goodbye to the fans again and watch that jersey go up to the rafters.”
Besides the alumni games and his retirement night, Lidstrom said he’s looking forward to seeing what Daniel Alfredsson can bring to the Red Wings in his final NHL season. Alfredsson, who signed a one-year contract with Detroit last month, has made it known that this season will be his last in the NHL. Lidstrom and Alfredsson have been Team Sweden teammates in several international tournaments, including four Olympics.
“He can be a playmaker, he can be a goal-scorer, he can be that hard worker,” Lidstrom said of the former Ottawa Senators’ captain. “In Daniel I see the total package where even though he has all of the skill in the world he’ll be one of the hardest working guys out there. I see a lot of similarities with him in both (Henrik) Zetterberg and Pavel (Datsyuk). As hard as they work, Daniel is that hard worker too, and if you have a superstar that works that hard it’s going to lift the whole team.
“I think he’ll be a great addition to the team with just the type of person that he is. And then if you look at the things that he brings on the ice, being a right-handed shot, he can play the point on the power play, he can be the playmaker on the half wall. I see him being a great addition for the team.”
It’s that dedication that will help Alfredsson assimilate to the Red Wings’ dressing room and should help him quickly bond with his new teammates in Detroit, Lidstrom said.
“He’ll fit right in and it won’t be a long feeling-out period before he feels comfortable,” he said. “Certainly, it helps that he’s played in the league for a lot of years and a lot of players look up to him, but still there’s that feeling of walking into a brand new locker room. He’ll adjust real well and I know the guys will take good care of him too.”
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