Dear Nick Lidstrom,
It was a retirement that sent shock waves throughout the sports world. It was inevitable, but it was also sad to see you leave the game that you loved. Most of all, you were revered by many as one of the best in your sport in spite of the position that you played. You assumed the role of Red Wings captain after Steve Yzerman retired in 2006 and led Detroit to two straight Stanley Cup appearances (One of which they won in 2008).
Nick, you called it quits on Thursday after twenty seasons with the Detroit Red Wings as a defenseman (Which, by the way, is one of my favorite positions in any sport except baseball). You won a gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics with Sweden, a World Championship in 1991, four Stanley Cups, the Conn Smythe in 2002 and seven Norris trophies. You're a 12-time all-star who was also named by Sports Illustrated and Sporting News as "The NHL Player of the Decade" and was the first European-born captain of an NHL team to win a Stanley Cup in 2008.
I remember how tough and durable you were, ending your NHL career with a +/- rating of over 450. You were also a smart, level-headed player, accumulating 514 penalty minutes his entire career. But many of your most lauded attributes never showed up on the score sheets, but rather on the ice and in the locker room.
"Like Steve Yzerman in the captain role, being that he was quiet and unassuming," Mickey Redmond, color commentator for the Red Wings on FSNDetroit, said of you. "He always led by example."
You were never a big, bruising defenseman during his career. Many hockey experts believe that the secret to your success and defensive prowess can be contributed to your ability to read the game; this, combined with excellent skating ability, always allowed for you to be at the right spot at the right time. This also made you one of the best players on a penalty-killing unit of any team ever. Instead of delivering a hard check into the boards, you preferred the Allen Iverson style of defense (only with hockey): Steal the puck and create turnovers. Mr. Lidstrom, your mind over matter approach can be attributed to the small amounts of sustained injuries throughout your career. You've also been in the playoffs for every season that you've played since your rookie season in 1991-1992. Not even Yzerman could say that.
It only seemed like yesterday that you won his first Stanley Cup going into his fifth season. But, boy does time fly by, eh? Thank you Nick Lidstrom for the many little things that you did to help one of my favorite teams win four Stanley Cups. Thank you for doing these things in the most professional manner and for upholding the integrity of the NHL. It'll never be the same not seeing you steal the puck in your own zone anymore.
Jacob Walters (Long-time Red Wings fan)