One of the most revered and winningest players in the storied history of the Detroit Red Wings is returning to the organization to help architect the next era of championship hockey.
Nicklas Lidstrom, a Hockey Hall of Famer who guided the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008) during his playing career, was named the organization's Vice President of Hockey Operations on Tuesday. Lidstrom, who captained the Red Wings from 2006-12, joins a front office headed up by Executive Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman, who wore the "C" in Detroit for nearly two decades.
Lidstrom will primarily be based in his native Sweden, and be involved in "all aspects of hockey operations," according to Yzerman. That includes the evaluation of prospects in North America and Europe, and serving as a resource for the front office, scouting and coaching staffs, both with the Red Wings and Detroit's AHL-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.
Video: Nick Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman Press Conference 1/11/22
Yzerman and Lidstrom first began discussing the arrangement at the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in Toronto last November. With Lidstrom expressing interest in returning to hockey, Yzerman wanted to make sure it was in Detroit.
"With his career being a Red Wing, I thought it was very important for us. I thought it was a good thing for Nick if he wanted to get back in, to come and join us," Yzerman said. "Obviously, I played with him for the majority of his career, and we had a lot of success together. I not only relied on him to lead us on the ice; he was always a great teammate and resource for me as the captain of the team to bounce ideas.
"So for the Detroit Red Wings, it was an opportunity not only to bring a former great player in, but a first-class person with great character and tremendous knowledge and a wealth of knowledge of the game. For me, it was a very easy decision and a great opportunity. I know Nick will add tremendous value to our organization."
With his kids getting older and starting to move away from home, timing was right for Lidstrom to get back into the game. And as it turns out, the itch has been there for a while.
"I'm super excited to be back with the Wings again and like Steve mentioned, we've had discussions over the last month and a half or so about me joining the team again," Lidstrom said. "And then it's been on my mind, to be quite honest, for a little bit of time.
"I wanted to get back and get involved with hockey again, especially with the Wings. And when the opportunity presented itself, I thought it was good timing for me, for my family. So I'm really excited to have this opportunity."
Lidstrom, one of the most decorated players in NHL history, remains the Red Wings' highest-scoring defenseman of all-time. Detroit produced 20 consecutive winning seasons with Lidstrom roaming the blue line, making him one of just two players in NHL history to play in at least 20 seasons and never miss the playoffs. He was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the 2002 Playoffs.
Lidstrom was the first European-born and trained player to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman and claimed the trophy in six seasons (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011), including a run of three straight awards from 2006-08. He was named to the NHL All-Star Game 12 times and tallied 60 or more points nine times throughout his career.
Lidstrom joins a front office and scouting staff which now includes nine former Red Wings, including Yzerman, Pat Verbeek (Assistant General Manager/Grand Rapids Griffins GM), Kris Draper (Director of Amateur Scouting), Niklas Kronwall (European Player Development), Jiri Fischer (Associate Director of Player Personnel), Dan Cleary (Assistant Director of Player Development), Chief Amateur Scout Jesse Wallin and Pro Scout Kirk Maltby. Assistant Coach Doug Houda was also a defenseman for Detroit from 1985-91 and 1998-99.
"I think we all want to see the team and the organization make progress and become better, and start making the playoffs again," Lidstrom said. "I think that's a goal for everyone. If I can be a small piece of helping out in different areas, whether it's in amateur scouting or watching the prospects that we have here in Europe and overseas, and in the U.S. and Canada as well. Just help and chip in, help out to make this team better again."
Along with Yzerman, Lidstrom is also one of three former NHL captains in the front office, as Shawn Horcoff (Director of Player Development and Assistant Director of Player Personnel) also wore the "C" for the Edmonton Oilers from 2010-13.