Nicklas Erik Lidström (born April 28, 1970) is a Swedish professional ice hockey defenceman who has played his entire National Hockey League (NHL) career with the Detroit Red Wings, and is their team captain. In his 17 NHL seasons, Lidström has won 4 Stanley Cups, six James Norris Memorial Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman, and has been voted into ten NHL All-Star Games. To date, he is the only European-born and trained NHL captain to win the Stanley Cup, as well as the first European player named playoff MVP.
Representing Sweden, Lidström won the World Championship in 1991. At the 2006 Winter Olympics, Lidström was a major factor in Sweden’s win over Finland in the finals, scoring the gold medal clinching goal, thus earning him a spot on the Olympic All-Star Team. He also became the 17th member of the Triple Gold Club. The Hockey News selected Lidström as the “Best European-trained player ever in the NHL“.Sporting News selected Lidström as the “NHL Player of the Decade“.
Lidström is considered the top NHL defenceman of his era, having won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman three consecutive seasons from 2000–01 to 2002–03 and again from 2005–06 to 2007–08. He has been nominated for the award a total of nine times in the past ten seasons, the first three times finishing as the runner-up, and has won it in six of the last seven (2004–05 had no winner due to the NHL lockout).
Lidström began his career in Avesta, Sweden, playing with Skogsbo SK, before moving on to play with Västerås IK of the Swedish Elitserien. In three seasons with the team, he played in 103 games, scoring 12 goals and 30 assists. Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings 53rd overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Lidström joined the team in the 1991–92 NHL season, though he would return to play for Västerås IK for a brief period during the 1994–95 NHL lockout. Lidström scored 60 points in his rookie season, finishing second to Pavel Bure in voting for that year’s Calder Trophy. He was selected to the 1992 NHL All-Rookie Team along with fellow Red Wings defenceman Vladimir Konstantinov.
Known for his durability, Lidström consistently ranks amongst the top in the NHL in ice time per game. He averaged 28:07 minutes in the 2005–06 season, a career high. He won three consecutive Norris Trophies, from 2001 to 2003, becoming the first defenceman since Bobby Orr to win three straight. In the 2003–04 season, he played in his 1,000th game of his career, having missed only 17 games in 12½ seasons (1994–95 was shortened to 48 games instead of the usual 82 by a labor dispute).
Never a big and bruising defender, many experts say that the secret behind Lidström’s consistent game is his ability to read the game; this, combined with his excellent skating ability, allows him to be at the correct spot of the ice at the correct time. Instead of delivering a big body check, Lidström prefers to steal the puck and create a turnover. His reliance on brains rather than brawn might explain his lack of injuries, and also his low penalty minute totals. For most of his NHL career, he has studiously avoided drawing penalties, although the introduction of many new rules in 2005–06 saw him rack up his career high (50) in penalty minutes. The 2005–06 season also brought him his career high of 80 points (16 goals, 64 assists).
Lidström was set to make $10 million during the 2005–06 season, but because of the new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement created in July 2006, salaries on pre-existing contracts were reduced by 24%, which lowered his compensation to $7.6 million. That season, he posted career high 64 assists and 80 points to go with 16 goals.
On June 30, 2006, it was announced that Lidström had signed a two-year, $15.2 million contract with the Red Wings; instead of seeking more money elsewhere—certainly possible for a defenceman of his calibre, especially considering his stellar numbers in the past season—Lidström decided to remain with Detroit for the same annual salary as he earned during the 2005–06 season.
Lidström was an alternate captain of the Red Wings since the 1997–98 season, and was awarded the captaincy after the 2006 retirement of long-time Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman. It was an honour made more special by the fact that he became the first European captain in franchise history. In his first year of captaincy, Lidström led the Red Wings to the semi-finals, but lost to eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks. In the off-season, Lidström joined an elite group by capturing the Norris Trophy as the League’s outstanding defenceman for the fifth time. Lidström became the fourth defenceman in league history with as many as five Norris Trophy wins, joining Hockey Hall of Fame members Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey (seven), and Ray Bourque (five).
Near the beginning of the 2007–08 season, in an October 8 win against the Edmonton Oilers, Lidström registered two assists, passing Peter Forsberg as the second-highest scoring Swedish-born NHL player of all-time. He trails only Mats Sundin (as of the end of the 2008–09 season, Lidström has 997 points to Sundin’s 1,349). Later in the campaign, on December 26, Lidström signed a contract extension through to 2009–10. Several months later, on April 3, 2008, he assisted on a goal by Johan Franzén to tie Luc Robitaille at 42nd all-time with 726 assists.
Entering the playoffs as Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Red Wings met the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. Despite a game five, triple-overtime victory by the Penguins to stave off elimination, Lidström and the Red Wings defeated Pittsburgh in game six to capture the Stanley Cup. In doing so, Lidström became the first European-born-and-trained captain to win the Stanley Cup. In 1934, Charlie Gardiner, a goalie born in Scotland had captained the Chicago Black Hawks to win the Stanley Cup and in 1938, Johnny Gottselig, a left winger born in Russia also captained Chicago to a championship, but both players were trained in Canada.
Just over a week after winning his fourth Stanley Cup in eleven seasons, on June 12, Lidström won the Norris Trophy for the third straight season and the sixth time in seven seasons.
As the Red Wings opened the 2008–09 pre-season against the Montreal Canadiens, Lidström suffered a broken nose as a shot from Canadiens forward Christopher Higgins ricocheted and hit him in the face. From then on he began wearing a visor. He returned in time for the regular season and was selected to the 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal. However, in the midst of dealing with tendinitis that had been bothering him all season, Lidström chose to sit out All-Star weekend, along with Pavel Datsyuk. Consequently, Lidström and Datsyuk were both suspended one game by the NHL due to league policy for missing the All-Star Game without significant injury.
The Red Wings opened the 2009-10 season in Stockholm, Sweden. During the team’s trip in Sweden, Lidstrom was honored by his home county as an Ambassador of Honor. On October 15, 2009, in a game against the Los Angeles Kings, Lidstrom became the first European-born defenceman to reach 1000 points with 2 assists in the game. He is the fourth player to score 1000 points as a Detroit Red Wing (after Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, and Steve Yzerman), and the eighth defenceman to do so in the history of the NHL.On March 5, 2010 Lidström got his 800th career Assist.
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Following his rookie season with the Red Wings, he earned his first gold medal with Sweden at the 1991 World Championships. Three years later, he competed in the 1994 World Championships in Italy and won a bronze medal. Two years later, he participated in the inaugural 1996 World Cup of Hockey (successor of the Canada Cup) and contributed 3 points in 4 games. He made his Olympic debut with Sweden at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.
Four years later was his next international appearance, playing in his second Olympics at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where Sweden was upset by Belarus in the quarterfinal after being heavy favourites in the round-robin. Lidström made his second World Championships appearance in 2004, but only appeared in 2 games. That summer, he also competed in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey where he scored 1 goal.
In the 2006 Winter Olympics, Lidström helped Sweden avenge their quarterfinal upset to Belarus in Salt Lake City, scoring the game winning goal in the gold medal game against Finland. In doing so, Lidström became a member of the Triple Gold Club, adding an Olympic gold medal to go with his previous Stanley Cups with Detroit, and his World Championship gold medal in 1991. Lidström was also selected to the 2006 Olympic All-Star Team.
Lidström also played for Sweden in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver serving as team captain in what would be his final Olympics., with fellow teammate Henrik Zetterberg as an alternate captain. Lidström announced his retirement from Olympic competition following Sweden’s loss to Slovakia.