Flashback: Even a gruesome injury wouldn’t stop Lidstrom

Nick Lidstrom in the 2009 playoffs. (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.

The following is a column written by USA Today’s Kevin Allen for MiHockey after the 2008-09 season, on whether Lidstrom would return for the following year:

By Kevin Allen – 

Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom is 10 months away from his 40th birthday, and three weeks removed from a gruesome injury that almost forced the surgical removal of a testacle.

But those who watched Lidstrom perform in the NHL playoffs don’t seem to believe he’s anywhere close to being ready to retire.

“Of course, he will be taking his family into consideration, but I could see him playing until he is 45, 46 or 47,” said teammate Kirk Maltby. “His skills haven’t diminished at all…it seems like he just finds it easy to play.”

After the Red Wings lost the Game 7 to Pittsburgh, it was revealed that Chicago’s Patrick Sharp’s stick had struck Lidstrom in the groin during Game 3 and while the Red Wings were preparing for Game 4, a doctor was telling Lidstrom that he didn’t know whether the testicle could be saved or not. He had practiced Saturday, but woke up Sunday in excruciating pain. The doctor had informed Lidstrom that he could awake from surgery with one testicle gone.

“It was painful, I can tell you that,” Lidstrom said.

Lidstrom told the Detroit Free Press that he wasn’t angry about what happened, and hadn’t even sought out a replay to see what happened. He said sometimes these things happen accidently as players try to lift another player’s stick.

That kind of reaction is a typical for a player who rarely lets any anger show.

However, those who believe that Lidstrom never allows his excitement to show has never heard him discuss Liverpool soccer.

One day, Windsor (Ont.) Star hockey writer Dave Waddell, who also writes for Michigan Hockey, mentioned to Lidstrom that he seen a game in Liverpool and had spent time with its famous player Kenny Dalglish.

“He told me to pull up a stool and he wanted to hear everything about it,” Waddell said. “It was just like he was a fan…one of his dreams is to attend a game at Anfield Road, the famous stadium. We talked 10 or 15 minutes about Liverpool soccer.”

The Lidstrom animation that Waddell witnessed isn’t often seen on the ice because Lidstrom has spent 17 seasons developing a reputation as the calmest superstar in hockey.

“The first time I ever met Lidstrom what I remember is how quiet he was,” said Detroit’s Kris Draper who has played with him since 1993. “I’ve been very fortunate to see the evolution of Nick Lidstrom first hand.”

Maltby recalls that the first time he heard Lidstrom speaking Swedish it surprised him.

“He doesn’t even really have an accent, so the first he started speaking Swedish, I said, what the…oh, I forgot about that,” Maltby said, laughing. “…it was a funny…you almost took it for granted he was North American. He’s the same way now. He’s quiet and he goes about his business.”

Although he was a coach’s dream defender early in his career, his quiet demeanor, coupled with Detroit’s high profile dressing room, stunted his national attention.

“For a while, he was the best-kept secret in the league,” Draper said.

But with six Norris Trophies, Lidstrom now has the best defensive credentials in the game. He isn’t expected to win the Norris again, although he is nominated.

“He is so poised with the puck,” rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “I just try to do the things that he does out there. I learn just by watching him.”

During the playoffs, Lidstrom was among Detroit’s most consistent high level performers. He scored the winning goal with 50 seconds remaining in Game 1 of the conference final against Anaheim.

“I think (Lidstrom’s) greatest skill is that he doesn’t make things complicated,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “…he can play big minutes because he’s an effortless skater.”

Lidstrom has one season left on his contract, and he has said previously that he could see himself playing beyond that. He admitted before Game 6 of the Finals that he has thought about the possibility that this could be his last opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.

“I thought about it last year too,” Lidstrom said. “You can’t take it for granted about winning a Stanley Cup or even being in the Finals. I learned that early on. You have to take advantage of your opportunities.”

His durability is unprecedented. He missed only two games after testicle surgery, and those were the first two playoff games he has ever missed. That’s not exactly an indication of an athlete breaking down.

“You don’t see anything going in his game,” Draper said. “He still skates well. He shoots the puck extremely well. He is so smart. He has a great stick. He is always in position. If he wanted to do it, he could certainly go into his 40s. It will be a sad day for Detroit when No. 5 walks away.”