I don't know if Nick Lidstrom was better than Steve Yzerman, even though Stevie always insisted that Nick was the best player on the Red Wings. But far be it from me to call Steve Yzerman a liar: The greatest Red Wing I have ever seen retired from hockey today.
Nothing I type from here on out will feel like an adequate recap of Nick's career. I always feared for this day for the obvious reasons that it would be sad and the Red Wings wouldn't be as good of a team, but also because I didn't want to go insane. The latter is probably a lost cause since I just wrote the word "MAGIC" on a Ziploc bag of sugar and am throwing it at a pile of Lidstrom rookie cards. I'll update you on if this creates any dramatic change, but for now I appear to just be making a colony of ants extremely happy.
It's almost impossible to talk about this and not feel like a completely incoherent moron. It's like trying to sum up God or space or the majesty of mozzarella sticks. Any amount of praise heaped onto this man today will not feel like enough, and that in itself shows what a crazy level of personal and professional success he has climbed to.
Let's start with the absurd list of Lidstrom accomplishments: Winner of four Stanley Cups and appeared in two other Cup Finals (6 out of 20 years his team made the Finals. 30% of his career. How.) 1991 World Championships gold medal winner. 2006 Olympic gold medal winner, which made him a member of the exclusive Triple Gold Club (which, A: surprisingly isn't a titty bar owned by Patrick Kane, and B: includes Mikael Samuelsson. You know what, forget this one.) Was named by both Sporting News and Sports Illustrated as NHL Player of the Decade for the 2000s, which is mind-boggling when you consider he started the 2000-01 season at age 30. Winner of seven Norris Trophies, including one last year at age 41. 2002 Conn Smythe winner, becoming the first European to do so. Was the first European to captain his team to a Stanley Cup in 2008. Eleven All Star games. Ten times named to the All-NHL 1st team, another two times named to the 2nd team. Single-handedly made Jonathan Ericsson relevant just by breathing on him during the 2009 playoffs. Invented the anti-Lebda vaccine that kept the team from folding during the tumultuous 2009-10 season. Has never uttered a curse word. Became recognized by other living humans as THE PERFECT HUMAN.
How insane is that last one? How revered do you have to be for people of the same species as you to declare that you are flawless compared to them? And herein lies the inadequacy complex that comes with writing a Lidstrom retirement piece: The man is entirely unrelatable. He went 20 years without ever showing a hint of anger. I mean literally. Zero times. I think he frowned at Mike Ricci once, but by god, who hasn't. I haven't gone two days without getting angry since never. His example of calm, unwavering composure while playing a physically ridiculous sport is something that cannot be duplicated or even closely approached. So to think about the Detroit Red Wings being without THAT guy as the foundation is ..... difficult. I about melted down yesterday like the rest of you, and even with a Steve Yzerman retirement in the not-so-distant-past to draw from, it doesn't seem to matter.
For a guy who was a professional hockey player at 42 years old, it still somehow feels like a shock that he won't be coming back next year. And the press conference? Wow, was that tough. Just 24 hours earlier, the idea of this scene was nowhere to be found in my mind. Luckily though, I have some experience in
TTD: "Nick, what can I say. You've been a hero and a world class act. Is there anything specifically you want to say to the fans today?"
Lidstrom: "Well, it was time that I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I--"
TTD: "Take your time."
Lidstrom: "I-I-I-i=afd*(33^%$$##-I-I-Isiiixxxxtyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy (mechanical noises)"
(Tomas Holmstrom enters and sits next to Lidstrom.)
Holmstrom: /hits Lidstrom on back/
Lidstrom: "I-I-just want to say thank you for all of the support that you have given me, and I want you to know that my family and I could not have appreciated it more. Truly the best fans in the world, I'm grateful."
TTD: "OK what the hell was that."
Lidstrom: "What was what?"
TTD: "That thing where you just about had an aneurism and were making a whole bunch of weird computer noises and how your head just popped up like a Rockem' Sockem' robot."
Lidstrom: "Oh, I'm sure it's just a little virus, nothing my operators can't repair, right operators?" /looks at a picture of Igor Larionov/
Holmstrom: "Fer sher notting to see here volks haha, Nick jus a liddle nervis tooday is all, haha, boy iz it hot in here or vhat? Okay lets go, Nick."
Lidstrom: /smoke emitting from behind head/
TTD: "Whoa wait a minute, what is going on? Where is the real Nick Lidstrom?"
Holmstrom: "Vhat you mean? Tis Nick Lidsterm fer sher." /very obviously moving Lidstrom's mouth with his own hands/ "Hiiiiii evrybuddy, it is me, a Nick Lidserm. I am happy you came tooday to my pardy but I am veeeeeeeeeeerrrrrryy sleepy so off I go buh-bye--"
TTD: "Wait guys, just stop for a minute. Mike Babcock, can you explain what's going on?"
Babcock: "Explain these nuts."
TTD: "Super. Anybody?"
Ken Holland: "Okay, okay. Looks like the jig is up so let's just get everything out now: As you may be able to guess......... Nicklas Lidstrom is a cyborg."
(room gasps) (Larry Murphy chokes on a 24-inch veal kielbasa)
Holland: "Yes. Nick Lidstrom is a cyborg sent from the future to help guide our franchise through a sustained period of unrivaled success and to exterminate the evil Bettman Resistance. He is now being taken out of service and will be kept in a remote location to undergo further evaluation."
TTD: "You mean like Terminator?"
Holland: "No, not like Terminator. To continue: while we as a club experienced many championships under the N-800--"
TTD: "Oh come on."
Holland: "--it is now time to see him off. I'm sorry that the news had to be revealed this way, but hopefully, in time, this will all be just a blip on the radar of a very successful period of Detroit Red Wings hockey."
TTD: "What about his children, his family? They all look so normal, I don't get it."
Holland: "The eldest, the N-850 model--"
Holland: "--is being watched over in a 24-hour training capacity and should be set to join our forces in the near future. The others were mere decoys to create the appearance of a large, normal, blonde Swedish family. The youngest is actually a Tamagotchi."
Holmstrom: /nods/ /is eating a bucket of chicken/
Holland: "The C-100 Model of the Chelios Series also proved to be adequate to some degree but failed in bringing down the Resistance and is now living under surveillance at our base in San Fransisco."
TTD: "Is Ilitch aware of this?"
Holland: "Aware? Who do you think is funding this whole thing? Time travel is expensive, and the only way that this operation even had a chance of getting off the ground was with the wallet of a senile pizza tycoon. For the most part he stays to the outside of our operation, but he has made it known that he was not happy with our failure to go back in time and have eventual NBA commissioner David Stern killed in 1980."
TTD: "Fuck you."
Holland: "Bettman joined the NBA in 1981 as legal counsel and eventually rose to high ranks in the NBA chain of command. Stern highly recommended Bettman for the open position of NHL commissioner in 1993 and the rest is history. Our mission remains to exterminate the Bettman movement and we will not stop until we have done so."
TTD: "So what you're saying is this is pretty much Terminator."
Holland: "It's pretty much Terminator, yes."
To the great Nick Lidstrom, who we know will never see this:
Thank you. Whether human or futuristic cyborg, you are perfect.