The lifetime Detroit Red Wings defenseman announced his retirement Thursday morning during a news conference at Joe Louis Arena.
"Today, after 20 seasons as a defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings, I am announcing my retirement," Lidstrom said.
Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch called it one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history. He thanked the team's Swedish scouts for bringing Lidstrom to Detroit.
"I would like to thank Jim Nill," Ilitch said.
Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland said he had been dreading Lidstrom's retirement since he became GM.
"When you think about Nick, for me it's about class," Holland said. "I think he's been the most valuable player of his era. He's going to go down in history as one of the greatest Red Wings, as one of the greatest players at his position."
Lidstrom said he and his family are comfortable with his decision. He said it came down to how he felt about his level of play and how he felt in the offseason.
"I don't have what I feel like I have to have to play at my level," he said.
Lidstrom said injuries later in his career did make him feel slower and not as ready for the playoffs. Once he started his offseason workouts he knew he didn't have the drive to come back for another season.
"If I cheat myself and come back and don't play at the level I want to, I think that's on me and that's not something I want to do," he said.
The 42-year-old veteran said he and his family will move back to Sweden. He said the Detroit area has become a second home, but he wants to be closer to family. His son is already in Sweden playing hockey.
Long career was not on his mind from the start
Lidstrom didn't consider a 20-year career in the NHL. He said he was just happy to get the opportunity to play.
"I thought I was going to play for a few years. I had no vision of how long I was going to be doing this," Lidstrom said.
Twenty years later and he is a 7-time Norris Trophy winner and 4-time Stanley Cup winner. He has 1,142 points in 1,564 NHL games, all of which have been with the Red Wings. He recalled his first Norris Trophy as the most memorable because he was competing with someone he really looked up to, former Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque.
When asked if he would weigh in on who Detroit should choose as his successor as captain, Lidstrom said he believes the team management and coaches will make the right decision. Although he did mention Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula as good candidates in his mind.
Steve Yzerman had big influence on young Lidstrom
He said Steve Yzerman was a big impression on him when he joined the team. Yzerman's work ethic stood out to him.
"He took over in the playoffs. He was our best player in the playoffs," Lidstrom said of Yzerman.
He said Pavel Datsyuk is another example of a leader in the playoffs for the Red Wings and a player that has impact in the locker room.
Lidstrom was low draft pick in 1989
The 1989 NHL draft class will go down as one of the most notable. It included players such as Mats Sundin, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Vladimir Konstantinov and many more NHL standouts.
Lidstrom was selected 53rd overall in the third round by Detroit. The Wings passed up a lot of Canadian and American players for the tall, slim Swede.
They wouldn't have to wait long for Lidstrom to shine. He scored 11 goals and 49 assists in his 1991-92 rookie season and led all Red Wings defensemen with 60 points.
Detroit dug even deeper in the 1989 draft as they selected Fedorov 74th overall and Konstantinov 221st overall.
The low draft picks with big impact would become a trend for the Wings in the following decade.
Lidstrom as captain of Red Wings
Lidstrom was the first European captain to lead the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup championship (2008). He had big skates to fill when Steve Yzerman retired in 2006 after 20 seasons with the C.
Yzerman replaced Danny Gare who was captain for a few years in the 80s. Before Gare, there was a plethora of players who wore the C for Detroit between 1974 and 1982, including Danny Grant and Dennis Hextall.
Alex Delvecchio was captain from 1962 to 1974. He was the longest-serving Red Wings captain until Yzerman came to town.
The question is who will replace Lidstrom when he leaves? The current alternates are Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall.