Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Detroit Red Wings

Notes: Nik Kronwall's winding path to 800 games played

Veteran defenseman has endured numerous injuries and treatments, including using stem cells

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

DETROIT - Defenseman Niklas Kronwall played his 800th career game with the Detroit Red Wings Friday night against the Washington Capitals.

It is an impressive milestone, but when you consider the injuries he's had to battle along the way, it's downright incredible.

From breaking his leg on a rut in the ice in Los Angeles to tearing his ACL in Colorado in a game he wasn't supposed to play in and everything in between, Kronwall is the living definition of perseverance.

"Nik's one of the best warriors I've ever been around. He's an incredible professional. He's been a great, great player in this league,'" Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after Friday's game. "This year, he's worked himself back into that spot. I thought by the end of last year, he was a real impactful player. He's an absolute, absolute, one of the best warriors I've ever coached."

Blashill's effusive praise of Kronwall is not a surprise. Kronwall loves playing hockey, but has always put the Red Wings first.

"It's obviously something I'm very proud of and extremely grateful and thankful to the Ilitch family and this organization that they've given me a chance to be in the same spot for all these years," Kronwall said about playing in 800 games with the Red Wings.

As far as the extraordinary number of injuries go, he is reflective.

"Injuries are part of the game as any sport and you just find a way to deal with it," he said. "Regardless of what happens, you learn a little bit about yourself every time and regardless of what happens, you just try to do what you can to put yourself in a better spot for tomorrow.

"The games are obviously the most fun part, let's be honest, but in saying that, if we're talking about injuries, that's a challenge itself, not only with your mind, but trying to push as much as you can, get back as soon as possible.

"(When) the doctors say six weeks, obviously your goal is to get back within that six-week frame. So, it's kind of always find a way to compete regardless if you're on the ice or not."

At this point, Kronwall's left knee is essentially bone on bone with very little, if any, cartilage left. He has done extensive research about treatments for his knee and has ruled out having an osteotomy (knee-realignment surgery), like former Wings captain Steve Yzerman had back in August 2002.

"Once you get bone on bone, all the research that's out there, it seems like there's not too many things you can do without having to jeopardize your career." Kronwall said. "You find a way through it."

Yet, he has sought out various treatments seeking relief, including using stem cells, which is still a somewhat controversial procedure.

"I've tried the stem cell route, not just Mexico," Kronwall said. "There's a bunch of different treatments out there. When you get to this point you basically try everything.

"There's a number of athletes in different sports that have tried different things and I'm not different, just trying to find a way to stay in the game."

He would not elaborate about treatment with stem cells, but Kronwall did say he would address it later because the conversation would be lengthy.

"That's for a different time to discuss," he said. "That's definitely something that's out there and I think it's becoming more and more, I don't know if popular is the word, there's a lot of different things coming out that's proven to work."

When he was asked if he ever felt his body was trying to send him a message that his mind wouldn't accept -- that he was too broken to continue playing -- Kronwall was candid.

"I don't know if I ever let myself go that far," he said. "Sure, there's been rougher times than others. There's no doubt about that. In saying that, at the end of the day, you just want to get back on the ice and you try to do whatever you can.

"When that day comes, when it just doesn't work anymore, then you say that's it, it's been a fun run. But I'm not there yet."

LARKIN HAPPY TO HAVE ATHANASIOU BACK: Now that Andreas Athanasiou's contract stalemate has been resolved, it's just a matter of time before the flashy forward is reunited with his Detroit teammates.

Although the exact date hasn't been determined when he'll arrive in Detroit and there isn't a timeline of when he'll actually see his first game action, Athanasiou's teammates are extremely pleased he'll be on the roster soon, especially Dylan Larkin.

"I was happy. Obviously, we get back a key player, one of our best players. It's going to help our team," Larkin said. "We won't be worried about him skating. We're excited to have him back."

Larkin and Athanasiou played on the same line in Detroit's final 20 games last season. The pair seemed to jell together because they each bring bursts of speed to the line.

"He (Athanasiou) has that once or twice, or maybe handful of times in a game, where he takes off and beats his guy and creates open ice for himself or other players on the ice," Larkin said. "You don't see that very often. When he's on and skating hard, he's fun to watch and fun to have on your team."

Larkin admits that Athanasiou is faster than him, but with him missing training camp and the first dozen or so games of the regular season, will Larkin issue a race challenge?

"Yeah, maybe," Larkin joked. "I've had a couple games on him, so maybe right now I can beat him, but he's quicker for sure."

FRK GOES WITH THE CLEAN-CUT LOOK: During Saturday's practice at Little Caesars Arena, a few media members were trying to figure out who the new Detroit player was participating in the team's drills.

It turned out it was forward Martin Frk, who had shaved off his scraggly beard.

"I just got my hair cut so I decided to clean shave, too," Frk said. "That's why I did it, nothing special."

Frk was noncommittal about whether he'll continue to remain clean shaven, but he was direct when he said he will not try and emulate teammate Luke Witkowski, who has a flowing beard.

"I just do how I wanted," Frk said. "I don't like it (Witkowski's beard), I mean I don't like it on me, I like it on other persons, but not on me. It's probably too much work to take care of it."

View More