DETROIT _ Fans talked about it. The media speculated over it. Even the players spoke of it.
But it wasn't official until just prior to Thursday's season-opener when Nicklas Lidstrom
pulled the jersey, with the newly sewn on "C", over is head for the first time.
"It's not going to change my game at all," said Lidstrom, following the Wings' 3-1 loss to Vancouver. "I'll be communicating more with the coaches and management, but no changes on the ice at all."
The change that did occur on the ice Thursday was during a pre-game ceremony as Lidstrom was introduced to the Joe Louis Arena crowd as the new team captain. He replaces long-time captain Steve Yzerman, who retired in July, and is now a vice president in the organization.
Lidstrom, who has spent his entire NHL career in Detroit, joined the team in the 1991-92 season, and is the club's longest serving player. In June, Lidstrom won his fourth straight Norris Trophy, after leading all NHL defensemen with 64 assists and 80 points. Both are all-time team records by a defensemen.
Leading up to Thursday, Lidstrom remained mum when asked about the captaincy, though in the past he has indicated that it would be an honor to be named captain. But like his predecessor, Yzerman, the longest serving captain in league history, Lidstrom is a quiet leader, who leads by example.
Center Kris Draper, who's been a teammate of Lidstrom's since the 1993-94 season, believes the Swedish-born defenseman has the credentials to be a superb leader for the Wings, both on the ice and in the locker room.
"In prior years everyone would obviously look to Stevie," said Draper, who along with Henrik Zetterberg
are the Wings' alternate captains. "I think the biggest difference for Nick this year is that when there is a little adversity, when things aren't going that well for our hockey club, Nick is going to have to say some things. I think with Nick being around Stevie for as long as they have, I think that Nick realizes when he has to say something.
"I think Nick is looking forward to the situation, and looking forward to being a leader on this hockey club. Everyone realizes that he's a world-class hockey player. He's a world-class individual and we're obviously very lucky to have a guy like Nick Lidstrom on our team night in and night out."
Lidstrom, who grew-up in a small town called Vasteras in central Sweden, is among six Swede captains currently in the NHL, joining Los Angeles' Mattias Norstrom, Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson, Philadelphia's Peter Forsberg, Toronto's Mats Sundin and Vancouver's Markus Naslund.
Arguably the best defenseman in team history, Lidstrom holds the Wings' mark for most points by a defensemen in a single playoff year when he totaled 19 points in the Wings' run to the Stanley Cup in 1998.
Since then, Lidstrom has been annually recognized as one of the league's top defensemen, and he's been a tremendous role model for the younger players in the Wings' organization.
"As a defenseman, I think you can just sit there and watch him and learn something new every day," Wings defenseman Brett Lebda said. "The guy is one of the best players in the world, and just that in its self makes him a leader. The way he goes out there and does his business everyday, I think that's something that people can look up to; that's something that I look up to. I think that every defensemen wants to model himself after Nick Lidstrom."
Fellow Swede Niklas Kronwall
added, "Nick doesn't have to say a whole lot. He goes out there every night and gets the job done. He's been the best player in the league for six, seven years now. He's been there and has a lot of respect."
Lidstrom, 36, becomes the second oldest player to be named Wings' captain. Defenseman Ted Harris was 37-years old when he captained the Wings for a few games during the 1973-74 campaign.