I grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan. I have been a fan as long as I can remember and I spend more time than I probably should reading articles and watching games. Bella doesn’t get it, but she indulges me when I ask her to go to a game. I just have to promise to buy her a beer. When I told her I got to see the Wings play in Buffalo when Dominik Hasek’s number was retired she just said “good”. Ah, well.
One of the biggest honors that can be bestowed upon a hockey player is to be inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Guess who just happens to live down the street from the sacred Hall?
The Red Wings have been one of the most successful franchises since the mid-1990s. They have won four Stanley Cups, the pinnacle of the sport, and they have pretty much had a parade of players entering the hall since they won the Cup in 1997. The names are legendary:
Mark Howe (Gordie’s son, of course)
Mike Modano (well, he ended his career in Detroit)
Scotty Bowman (14 Cups as a coach. Three with Detroit)
This year, two more players will be fêted on November 9: Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom. Every one of those names above, 14 players and one coach, tasted success as a teammate of Nick Lidstrom. Every one.
I sat 22 rows from the ice and watched my beloved Wings beat their former coach in overtime. Pretty cool. I wasn’t the only one wearing the winged wheel in attendance, either. There were a lot of #5s in the crowd.
Sunday I wandered down to the Hockey Hall Of Fame and got to see the sweater Lidstrom wore when he won a gold medal for Sweden in the Torino Olympics in 2006, the skates he wore for the Winter Classic in Wrigley Field in 2009, and the sweater he wore to win the Stanley Cup in 2002. That was the year he became the first European born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs. He would later become the first European born player to captain a Cup winning team, too. He never missed the playoffs. He played in the most games of any player who played on only one team. Seven times awarded the best defenseman, and runner up for three. Simply astounding.
I know, it’s pretty geeky, but I loved seeing it. Everybody who can put together a long list of successful seasons and awards eventually gets inducted to the HHOF, but not everybody is as highly regarded as a person as Lidstrom. He’s half-jokingly referred to as the Perfect Human in articles about him and he seems to live up to the nickname. He’s so highly regarded by his peers and fans that I have never seen a derogatory comment written about him. Seriously. Check out this article from the Toronto Sun, or this from ESPN, or even Wikipedia, which is never wrong.
Here’s the stage for which the speeches will be made. I’ll be glued to my TV.