Flashback: Nick Lidstrom gets the ‘C’

Lidstrom salutes the crowd at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dave Reginek/DRW)

Nick Lidstrom announced his retirement Thursday during a press conference at Joe Louis Arena. To look back on and celebrate a tremendous career for the Red Wings’ captain, we have pulled articles and photos about No. 5 from our MiHockey archives.

Here’s an article from the start of the 2006-07 season, when Lidstrom was named captain of the Red Wings:

By Dave Waddell – 

There’s nothing gaudy about Nick Lidstrom but his trophy case.

Three Stanley Cups, four Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe Trophy, an Olympic gold medal and a world championship are serious hockey bling.

However, the NHL’s quietest superstar now faces the unique challenge of filling the skates of Detroit Red Wing deity Steve Yzerman.

“It’s a tremendous honor to get the captaincy after Steve,” said Lidstrom after skating out with the C stitched to his jersey for the first time during the Wings season opener Oct. 5 at Joe Louis Arena. “You see a few European captains now. It shows what the Europeans have done in the league and how they are respected around the league. It’s not going to change what I do on the ice.”

Wings fans showed their approval of Lidstrom’s selection by giving him a minute-long standing ovation prior to the game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Lidstrom finally raised his stick and turned to the various sections of the arena to acknowledge the passing of the torch from one retired legend to one still adding to his Hall of Fame resume.

For nearly a decade Lidstrom has been the Wings best player, toiling quietly in Yzerman’s shadow.

But with Yzerman’s retirement this summer, the 36-year-old becomes not only the face of the franchise but the voice.

“My role will change a bit as I’ll have more communication with the coaching staff,” Lidstrom said. “I’ll be more of a link between the players and the coaches. There’ll be more responsibility being a captain. You have to be more responsible for the team and have a lot more discussions with the coaching staff.”

Often thought of as a silent partner in a Wings’ dressing room filled with strong personalities, Lidstrom commands great respect from his teammates. Some have also shared that he’s not so silent either.

While Yzerman’s reputation was been built on the occasional fiery, rallying call such as before Game 3 of the opening round of the 2002 playoffs versus Vancouver when the Wings were in an 0-2 hole, some players said the most important pre-game speech given that night was by Lidstrom.

He tweaked coach Scotty Bowman’s strategy by laying out a plan to try and get Canuck stars Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi frustrated by luring them deeper into the zone and having them chase the puck more.

The strategy worked as a frustrated Bertuzzi wound up the most penalized player in the series and the Wings won the next four games enroute to taking the Stanley Cup that spring.

“Yeah, that’s more me,” recalled Lidstrom, who also scored that infamous goal from center ice on goalie Dan Cloutier that proved the Game-3 winner.

“I’ve never been like that (fiery speeches) and we don’t have many guys in the room that are like. Steve wasn’t like that either.

“I think I always tried to lead by example. The best way to do that is play well on the ice.

“I think I can be more vocal, but we have players in the locker-room who have been captains before and that’s going to help our team.”

Joining Lidstrom with letters on their chests are assistant captains Kris Draper and Henrik Zetterberg.

Zetterberg was given strong consideration by coach Mike Babcock, but the Wings collectively decided a veteran needed to be the one to follow in the footsteps of Yzerman.  To do otherwise would’ve been a slap in the face to Lidstrom and a public relations disaster for the Wings.

Zetterberg, who now moves into the role of heir apparent to Lidstrom as the Wings next captain, added his strong support for the ultimate decision.

“He was the obvious choice,” Zetterberg said. “He’s our best player on the ice every night. He controls the game and always keeps his cool. He leads by example just like Steve did. And he speaks up in the room when he has to do that. I think it’s a great choice.”

Chris Chelios, a former captain with Chicago and the U.S. national team, unofficially announced Lidstrom’s selection during training camp. Though the Wings held out making the formal declaration until opening night, Lidstrom has been destined to wear the C since Yzerman announced his retirement.

“It’s been the worst kept secret in Detroit,” joked Chelios. “Nick was the best choice. He’s so consistent and he has tremendous respect from the guys in the room.”

Chelios added he knows the challenges Lidstrom faces following Yzerman’s record reign as captain. However, the entire load of leadership won’t rest entirely on Lidstrom’s shoulders.

“Nick’s not doing this alone,” Chelios said. “We still have a lot of great leaders left in this room. Draper, Schneider, Robert Lang . . . they’re all veteran guys who are going to be there to help.”

Though he didn’t mention himself, Chelios will be as important as any player in the room in assisting Lidstrom.

In discussing Lidstrom’s selection as captain and his style of leadership, many of the Wings players couldn’t remember the last time they saw the Swede lose his temper or his self control during a game.

When told of the gaps in his teammates’ memories, Lidstrom chuckled and assured reporters he indeed gets mighty peeved on the ice from time to time.

“I’ll make a signal to the press box next time to let you know,” Lidstrom joked.

MiHockey Staff

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