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Nicklas Lidstrom makes retirement official, ends remarkable 20-year career

Harrison Mooney
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Nicklas Lidstrom (via @DetroitRedWings)

"I've been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997," said Detroit Red Wings' GM Ken Holland.

As expected, Nicklas Lidstrom, the seven-time Norris trophy winner, four-time Stanley Cup winner, and Red Wings' captain of the last five seasons, announced his retirement Thursday, closing the chapter on a 20-year career that will be remembered as one of the best ever by a defenseman.

"I take a lot of pride in what I've done over the last 20 years," he said, admitting that he never expected to play in the NHL for so long. "I first came over in 1991 and thought I was going to play a few years."

Two decades later, at 42 years of age, we're wondering if he couldn't play a few more. So what led to his decision to retire?

"I can't cheat myself," said Lidstrom. He explained that the process for making this decision was the same one he'd undergone the past two seasons.

"The last two years I waited until after the season was over to assess my ability to play another year. I needed to let a few weeks go by to get a reading on my body's ability to recover from the grind of an NHL season."

But this time around, he got a different result. "Not where it needs to be to play at this level," he said. "That's why I feel that it's time to retire.

"Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me," he added.

Who can say that at 42 years of age?

Now the Red Wings have to continue on without him. Lidstrom suggested Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Valteri Filppula as candidates to replace him as captain, though he said it was a managerial decision.

He spent most of the time at the podium thanking those that had contributed to his career along the way, from Scotty Bowman, whom he said took his game to another level, to the staff at Joe Louis Arena. His retirement presser was a lot like his game. He made smooth transitions, he kept his head up, and he was in control the whole time, though he had to fight back some tears when discussing the dedication of his wife and family.

"It's one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history with Nick retiring and all you people showing your respect for such a high-quality individual," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said.

But this likely won't be the last we see of Lidstrom. He'll be heading into the Hockey Hall of Fame soon enough, and he admitted that there have been some preliminary discussions with Ken Holland about joining the Red Wings' front office in some capacity.

And let's not forget that he just made himself eligible for the Alumni game at the 2013 Winter Classic.

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