Lidstrom ‘comfortable’ with decision to retire

DETROIT — Even a last-ditch paddle-boarding trip wasn’t enough to change Nicklas Lidstrom’s decision to retire.

Citing a lack of motivation and a knowledge that he no longer had the drive needed to play at the only level acceptable to himself, Lidstrom retired from hockey Thursday after 20 seasons with the Red Wings.

“I felt a relief once I made the decision,” Lidstrom said. “This year, it’s painfully obvious to me my strength and energy level are not rebounding. My drive and motivation is not where it needs to be to play at this level. It’s been a great ride.”

Lidstrom met with general manager Ken Holland a week ago to deliver the news. Holland told him to think some more about it, to take the long Memorial holiday weekend. Tuesday morning, Holland sent a text to Lidstrom.

“First thing, like 9:30, saying that I thought about him all weekend, that I hadn’t slept very much, that I thought he had another good year in him. I thought that if he came back and we make two or three moves, that we could have the potential to have a tremendous year. Flattery and a guilt-trip.

“He sent me a text back saying he was comfortable with his decision.”

Once at the office, Holland talked to Chris Chelios, a former teammate of Lidstrom’s who is now a front-office adviser.

“I wanted Nick back. I wanted to make sure that Nick was totally comfortable with his decision. And so when Cheli told me he called him, and that they were going to go paddle-boarding … I was at the general manager meetings in New York, and a text came through from Cheli to call as soon as I can.”

Unfortunately for the Wings, the news was the same. Chelios knew it 30 seconds into their outing on Orchard Lake.

“Looking in Nick eyes, he looked like he’d just gone through a game, I’m sure from all the thinking he’s already the past two weeks – I didn’t even have the heart to try to convince him otherwise,” Chelios said.

Lidstrom was flanked at his farewell news conference by Holland and team owner Mike Ilitch on the dais at the Olympia room at Joe Louis Arena. Ilitch likened Lidstrom to the Rock of Gibraltar, saying “the word perfect comes up.”

Lidstrom, 42, retires with four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy. He’s irreplaceable, but the Wings, as coach Mike Babcock put it, plan to “be aggressive” in trying to forge another competitive team by adding via free agency in July. They have their sights on Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, first and foremost.

While no one would say anything officially, Henrik Zetterberg is the No. 1 candidate to take over the captaincy. Lidstrom called Zetterberg a good leader, citing his growth, especially over the past few seasons.

For his own future, Lidstrom plans to move back to Sweden with his wife and their four sons, the oldest of whom is already there. He’ll remain with the team in some capacity, probably as an ambassador of sorts.

Many teammates were at the announcement. Tomas Holmstrom looked emotional as his best friend and a teammate of 15 years retired. Holmstrom said he hadn’t decided about his own future yet, but it’s hard to think he won’t also retire.

Over and over today, Lidstrom said he was comfortable with his decision.

“It was a combination of mentally, and I started working out and exercising, and it was a combination of not being that motivated, of not being able to do things the way I wanted,” he said. “I felt a relief once I made the decision. Cheli took me paddle-boarding yesterday, kind of questioned me again, making sure that I was 100 percent committed, and I told him I was. Not having to go through that back and forth, it’s a relief knowing that I made my decision.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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