DETROIT – More than three months since his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Red Wings honored the greatest defenseman in club history on Tuesday.
Nicklas Lidstrom, who has played in more games in a Red Wings’ uniform than any other defenseman, participated in a ceremonial puck drop before the Wings hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets at Joe Louis Arena.
Before the game, the former Wings’ captain held a new conference in the Alumni Room, where he talked about his illustrious career, the current state of the Red Wings, the upcoming alumni game in Colorado, and his role in helping assemble Team Sweden for the World Cup of Hockey that will be played in Toronto in September.
Lidstrom will play in this Friday’s alumni game against former Avalanche players at Coors Field in Denver.
Here is a transcript of Lidstrom’s news conference:
What makes this night special for you?
“It’s always special coming back here to the Joe, especially game night, get a chance to get back on the ice and looking up in the stands again. So I’m looking forward to tonight’s game and the ceremony beforehand, too.”
What do you miss the most about playing?
“Pretty much the same for me, too, I miss the camaraderie in the locker room, being with your teammates, the guys you have a special bond with. I also miss the game situations, where the game’s on the line and you’re up a goal or down a goal, when it really matters. I miss those moments, too, when you have to compete.”
What was it like this morning talking to guys at the skate?
“It was fun being back and just feeling that atmosphere again, being in the locker room, seeing the guys after the morning skate, just getting a chance to say hi to everyone was very nice.”
When you watch a game, do you still process it the same as you did when you played?
“Sometimes it happens, you’re looking at different situations and how players will solve that problem or situation and whether I would have done it differently. I think it was harder my first year, being retired. It’s been a few years now. I still cherish the game, still enjoy watching games, still enjoy being back here again, maybe not to the point I did my first year out of retirement.”
What are your thoughts on the current Wings team?
“I think they have a very good team, a very fast team. The league is so close now, you look at the standings, if you lose a couple games you can drop, if you win a couple games you move up. It’s such a tight race. It makes it real exciting. It’s almost like playoff hockey now. You got 20-some games left and every game matters, every point matters. That makes for exciting hockey.”
What are you most proud of about your career?
“I always think about the championships, winning Stanley Cups. You set up a goal in September, in training camp, and you reach that goal the following year in June. Those are some of the good memories I cherish. But also being able to play for a lot of years, not missing many games and being part of such a great organization, being part of the Red Wings throughout my whole career, that’s something I cherish as well.”
Do you look back on your individual accomplishments?
“Probably more now than when I was playing, because when you were playing you’re always thinking about the next game, the next season, always focusing on what’s ahead. Now you can look back and enjoy it in a different way. You can enjoy winning the first Norris Trophy, you can enjoy come of the accomplishments I did as an individual. But what it really comes down to, you’re thinking of when you won with the team, winning as a team, winning with the guys you battled with for 80-some games and the playoffs.”
What did the fans mean to you throughout your career?
“They meant a lot. It meant a lot playing for such a great organization but for the fans as well. Pretty much always playing in front of a sold-out crowd here at the Joe. The fans demanded a lot and I think that helped us kind of set the standard for our team because they wanted us to succeed, they wanted us to have a good team, they wanted us to play well. And I think that helped us as a team to move forward and play well.”
Looking toward Friday’s alumni game, what did the rivalry mean, especially the March 26 game?
“You know we lost to the Avalanche the year before in the playoffs. We had a tough … we lost in six games and then we came back and played real well the following season and that game could have been a turning point (with) how we played against them. Nothing was really said before the game and everything that happened sort of just happened. I think we showed to ourselves that we could beat them, we could be a team that can take that next step and that game was a big stepping stone to beat them the way did, I think in March, and then set us up for a good run in the playoffs.”
Fans are hoping for an alumni brawl, what do you think?
“I don’t think anything like that’s gonna happen but I’m sure both teams will have a laugh about what happened and talk about the rivalry and talk about how good of the teams we both had. We had some great teams with both organizations but I don’t think you’ll see anything like that, not when we’re 20 years ago.”
Kyle Quincey said you look like you can still play; did anyone try talking you into coming out of retirement today?
“No, no one asked me about coming back. I think they’re smart enough not to ask me because the answer would have been no.”
Is there any player you enjoy watching?
"I think (Dylan) Larkin is sticking out, the season he's had so far and how well he's played, being a rookie, being a 19-year-old in the league and playing so well. And continuing to play so well, too, throughout. We're 60 games into the season and he's still playing well. As a rookie, you can play real well in the first half and then you kind of hit the grind of an NHL season but he's just been plugging along and playing well so I'm just looking forward to watching him live tonight."
|Red Wings fans check out the Hall of Fame display for Nicklas Lidstrom that included the Conn Smythe Trophy, Clarence Campbell Bowl and Norris Trophy. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
What do you think of Seth Jones for Columbus?
"A real strong defenseman. The trade that happened, I thought was good for both teams. Both teams were looking to improve and I think both teams did. I'm looking forward to seeing him have a strong and good career in the NHL, too. It'll be fun to watch him up close."
How many hours have you had on ice preparing for Friday?
"Well, I've been skating with my son's team, I'm helping out as a coach there. But it hasn't been all too serious, I haven't broken many sweats in the last little while. But it'll be fun being back on the ice again, especially with the guys that you played with for so long and had so much success with. Now you're older but you're going to have just as much fun, I think."
You were on the ice during the 1997 brawl, what was your perspective?
"I think I was a little bit surprised that Larionov and Forsberg started that brawl, of all people. Then things just escalated from there. Probably not the two guys you would think of when you think of the brawl between the Avs and the Wings."
Do you remember who you were tied up with?
"I think it was (Valeri) Kamensky that was with me there."
Many people consider you one of the top five defensemen of all time, do you think of yourself like that?
"No, I let other people talk about that and compare the players. I haven't had a chance to watch or play live, I watched some tapes and videos and his (Bobby Orr's) position, the way he played it revolutionized it, the way he could carry the puck and kind of breaking the barrier for an offensive defenseman. I don't see myself as that type of player so I'll let other people compare all the defensemen."
You were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, what does that feel like?
"It meant a lot, especially the days leading up to the actual induction. I believe it was on a Monday night. Just the whole weekend, the experience of the treatment we got, the Hall of Famers that weekend and just the buildup to that Monday night was very special and the induction itself. Stevie being the guy handing me the plaque, Stevie meant so much to me as a player and as a teammate. That was very special. But the whole night was kind of an ending to a career. The press conference I had here when I announced my retirement was special, the jersey night was very special for me but the Hall of Fame is more hockey as a whole. The other two were more within the organization, within the Red Wings but this was more for hockey as a whole, so that meant a lot to me."
What are your memories of the Joe?
“I go back to the Stanley Cup wins, especially the first one at home, seeing the fans, seeing how crazy it was in the locker room. Those types of moments are special, but just how the fans got into games. When we’re playing well and winning you can feel the team’s got momentum going the fans really help get to the next step. It’s a special building to play in. You played in so many newer arenas, they’re sort of the same. This has a special feel to it, being an older arena. It’s been a special place to play in.”
Is part of that also due to the ice and boards?
“That’s part of it, too. When you play in a rink for a lot of years you kind of know the tendencies, some of the spots where the bounces are. The ice has always been good here. Al Sobotka’s done a tremendous job, having great ice for us.”
What role have you had in building Team Sweden’s roster for the World Cup?
“I’m part of Team Sweden as an advisor, along with Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson and we’re helping pick the team, 16 players announced in early March, along with other countries. It’s been a lot of fun to be part of management, picking the team. Playing so long you’re focused on games and tournaments but now you’re kind of sitting upstairs and kind of have a say in who’s playing and putting the team together. I’ve been traveling a little bit here last couple weeks watching some of the Swedish players.”
Don’t have to watch the Wings’ Swedes do you?
“I’ve seen them play on TV. It sure helps having played with some of the guys who have a chance to be on the team.”
Have you been to the site of the new arena?
“I was by the site last June. I saw the presentation of what the arena is going to be like. I’m anxious to go back by it because I hear it’s almost changing daily, lot of stuff happening.”
Does it seem that the alumni game is drawing more interest than regular game?
“I haven’t been around all that much, haven’t skated with the guys, having skated here. Once I get out to Denver, get close to it, you see some of your teammates, you’re going to feel a lot more of that build up.”
Is Kris Draper pumped for this game as much as he was for the Toronto game?
“He’s pumped for that game, he’ll be a little more pumped for this one. I hear he’s been skating the guys hard. I’m sure he’s in great shape.”
What does it mean to you to be part of such a rich team history?
“It’s a special organization to be a part of, just the history of the team. Look around the locker room or hallways you see a lot of the faces that played in the 30s, 40s and 50s. A lot of history here. The run we’ve had for over 20 years has been something special, too. The team takes a lot of pride in being in the playoffs. The fans almost demanding to be there. As a team and an organization we set the bar high every year. That shows what kind of team we’ve been for a long time.”
Where does the Red Wings tradition come from?
“I think it comes from the history. When I first joined the team we had Gordie Howe walking through the locker room, Ted Lindsay would stop by. Even today, the former players would come by. I think it means a lot to the current players that you have former players, they're hall of famers, they've won Stanley Cups in the past, and they're still coming back and being part of the team. I think that tradition, that history, is such an important thing for this organization.”
Do you plan to get more involved with scouting?
“We'll see once the World Cup is over. If I enjoy the role that I've had with Team Sweden, being an advisor, being part of picking teams. I guess I have to wait and evaluate that tournament and go from there.”
Who's a player that you like to watch?
“There are a lot of players. I think Larkin is one of them on the Wings. Just the speed he has and some of the youth you see around the league, too. I've been retired coming up on four years now and it seems like the pace is even faster than when I retired. It seems like the game is getting faster and faster. The players are better. They're all in great shape. There aren't any lines where you can say that's a fourth liner, because they all can play against the top lines. There's so much parity in the league. Even going back four years we didn't see that.”
Do you see a comparison between Larkin and Yzerman?
“I didn't see Stevie when he was that age but I've heard how good he was. I've heard the comparisons, too. When I came, Stevie was an established captain here. He was in his mid-20s. Larkin's got a bright future in front of him It's going to be fun to watch him in years to come.”
Are you the guy now who walks through that dressing room and people look at you and say I'd like to do some of the things he achieved?
“I hope so. I hope players feel that way. I played with a lot of those guys in the locker room. I think down the road when the locker room has changed and there's guys that I've never played with, I think they might look at it differently. I hope players look at not only me but other former players that have been part of the team for a long time and have had success with the team and they want to have that same success as we had.”
Do you expect to see Fedorov's number retired?
“I think there's a great possibility for Sergei to have his jersey retired. He had a tremendous career, not only here but with the other teams he moved on to. But he played here the longest, so I think it's a great possibility that it's going to happen.”
DetroitRedWings.com editor Dana Wakiji contributed to this report.