NEWARK, N.J. -- Old friend Henrik Tallinder spoke about countryman Nicklas Lidstrom with reverence this afternoon after the Red Wings legend retired this morning after 20 seasons. Lidstrom was the standard for all Swedes, particularly defensemen.
"He’s been an icon in Sweden for so long," Tallinder said. "Two decades is a long time playing in the best league in the world. The things he has accomplished is remarkable. In my eyes, he’s the best Swedish player we had over here. No offense to [Peter] Forsberg and [Mats] Sundin, but with four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies, that says it all."
Lidstrom was one of the classiest players I've ever been around in any sport. The way he carried himself and the respect he had for the game and the people around him will stand out as much as anything he accomplished on the ice. Lidstrom played 1,564 games and had 264 goals and 1,142 points in his career. He'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame with no questions asked.
“For me, growing up, he wasn’t my biggest idol because I was too young," Tallinder said. "Once he started to make it in this league, who doesn’t look up to him? He’s an icon and everyone wants to be like him, play like him, offensively, defensively, you name it. He does it all.
"Just watching him play is almost like – I think you described it once – is almost like a symphony.”
I did? Not exactly, but it's remarkable what players remember sometimes. Even I had to look it up.
Tallinder was referencing a column from May 2009 -- more than three years ago -- about the Red Wings in which I wrote, "Nobody is better than Detroit at its best. The Wings aren't a machine, but a symphony, an art form to be appreciated." It was about the Red Wings, but the same could be said about Lidstrom. They were one in the same.
Tallinder, by the way, is anxious to get into the lineup in the Stanley Cup finals. He's back to full strength after suffering from a scary blood clot behind his left knee that limited him to only 39 games. He researched the damage a blood clot could cause and had fears it could travel to his heart, which could be fatal. He has been skating for a while and is ready to play if called upon.
"I'm good," he said. "I'm ready. I don't know. The coach [Peter DeBoer] has to make the call, but I feel physically fine. I don't have any issues. I've been practicing for two or three weeks now and feel good. If I get the chance, it's a dream come true. This is where you want to play."
Tallinder laughed when I told him Sabres owner Terry Pegula suggested his and Toni Lydman's departure in 2010 was more devastating than when Chris Drury and Daniel Briere split town in 2007. He hadn't heard Pegula thought so highly of him.
"That's a compliment, but that's B.S.," Tallinder said. "When we lost Danny and Dru, that was a kick in the butt. That's where we lost it. Nothing against Pegula, but that's where Buffalo lost a lot as a city and as a team."
--- Bucky Gleason