SAN JOSE, Calif. — Steve Yzerman joked that as he did as a player, Nicklas Lidstrom will have to earn the “perfect” honorific in front of his new title.
Yzerman welcomed Lidstrom as the Detroit Red Wings’ vice president of hockey operations on Tuesday, adding the former teammate to the rebuild’s front office. Lidstrom, who won four Stanley Cups with the Wings and served as captain from 2006 until retiring in 2012, will be based in his native Sweden.
“He’ll organize his schedule as he sees fit,” Yzerman said. “He’ll get an opportunity to decide for himself where he feels most comfortable and what he wants to do. But we encourage him and have asked him to get involved in every aspect. Typical of Nicklas, he’s very humble, he’s going to quietly go about his business and do his job. One thing I do know after being around him and playing with him for such a long time, he knows the game, he knows hockey players, and for all of us in the organization, to be able to pick his brain, to ask his opinion, and get his viewpoint on whatever it is we’re doing, it’s a tremendous resource for us.”
Lidstrom, who joined the conference call from Sweden, said that at 51 years old and with only one of his four sons and his wife, Annika, still living at home, the time was right to get back to work.
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“I’m super excited to be back with the Wings,” Lidstrom said. “It’s be on my mind for a little bit of time, I wanted to get involved with hockey again. It was good timing for me, for my family.”
Lidstrom and Yzerman, 56, won Cups together in 1997, 1998, and 2002. When the Wings won the Cup again in 2008, Lidstrom had succeeded Yzerman as captain and Yzerman was a member of the Wings’ front office. Talk of reuniting germinated at November’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction for former Wings general manager Ken Holland.
“I know Nick will add tremendous value to our organization,” Yzerman said. “With him being a Red Wing his entire career, I thought it was very important for us, I thought it was good for Nick, if he wanted to come and join us. I played with him the majority of his career and we had a lot of success together. I not only relied on him to lead us on the ice but he was always a great teammate and resource for me as the captain of the team to bounce ideas off. He was a tremendous voice of reason for me.”
Lidstrom attended a couple Wings game at Little Caesars Arena at the time, and otherwise has kept up watching games remotely. Lidstrom played for the Wings from 1991-2012, and ranks as the highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history, amassing 1,142 points (264 goals, 878 assists) in 1,564 career games. The Wings never missed the playoffs during Lidstrom’s days, and he sounds confident that it won’t be long before the Wings are back in the playoff picture.
“I’ve seen progress throughout the season so far. I’ve watched bits and pieces of games and I’ve seen the improvement in all aspects, whether it’s goaltending, defense or the forwards,” Lidstrom said. “I think there’s progress. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, right away, they stepped in and played well for the team, and that shows that the team is on the right track.”
The Wings drafted Lidstrom in the third round in 1989, benefitting at the time from a bias against European players. He retired having won seven Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman, and was known to teammates as “the Perfect Human” for his seemingly effortless style of play and calm demeanor.
Asked if Lidstrom might become known as the Perfect VP, Yzerman laughed.
“That remains to be seen,” Yzerman said. “He had to earn the other one, he just wasn’t given as the perfect human being. Now he has to earn that one. I’m sure he will.”
Adding the voice of one of the game’s all-time greats was one of the easiest decisions Yzerman has made in nearly two years as Wings GM.
“Our job ultimately is watching hockey, whether it’s the Detroit Red Wings, Grand Rapids Griffins, pro hockey in North America, in Europe, amateur hockey,” Yzerman said. “I’d like Nick to be involved in every aspect of it. We’ve talked about it. He can be a resource not only for myself but for Shawn Horcoff, Danny Cleary, Nik Kronwall, who oversees our player development, or for our coaching staff in Detroit and in the AHL. He can be a resource in all aspects, provide his insight and his opinions from watching and from viewing and getting to know our organization and from watching players all around the world.
“He’ll be involved in all aspects of me doing my job and being in charge of running the Detroit Red Wings.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.