Nicklas Lidstrom Undeniably One Of The Best

RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 29: Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings is introduced during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement isn't just a loss for the Detroit Red Wings and their fans. It's a loss for the entire hockey world.

There aren't many people who can claim the kind of hockey career Nicklas Lidstrom has enjoyed.

The iconic defenseman didn't just hang around on four Stanley Cup championship teams. He didn't serve as a healthy scratch the whole tournament and con his way into Olympic gold. He didn't spend over 1,500 NHL games serving as a fifth defenseman who doesn't get any special teams time.

Lidstrom is one of the best to ever play this game, and you're going to be hard-pressed to find a player more decorated than the legendary defenseman.

That he will announce his retirement Thursday probably don't surprise at least some. Lidstrom is 42, does not have a contract for next season, and can't possibly accomplish anything playing this game that he hasn't already.

However, it's a shocker at least to this hockey fan. Lidstrom has been a fixture in every key situation imaginable for the sport's most visible franchise -- the Detroit Red Wings -- for as long as I can remember. If Detroit needed to prevent a goal in the last minute of a game, Lidstrom was likely out there. If Detroit needed to score a goal in the last minute of a game, well, you get the point.

Lidstrom won seven Norris Trophies, honoring the best defenseman in the NHL. He was nominated for that prestigious award an incredible 12 times in a 14-year stretch. He didn't exactly win these awards during a dead period at the position, either. Lidstrom beat out guys like Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara, Scott Niedermayer and many others.

Commissioner Gary Bettman handed Lidstrom the Stanley Cup in 2008, as he captained the Red Wings to the title. He became the first European-born captain to win the Stanley Cup.

If the four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies aren't enough, Lidstrom won Olympic gold with Sweden in 2006, as well as IIHF World Championship gold in 1991.

Oh, and the always-classy Lidstrom was nominated for the Lady Byng six times, though he never won the award. The fact he was nominated that many times should show exactly how revered he was around the league.

From a fan's standpoint, you didn't have to be a Detroit fan to appreciate Lidstrom. Frankly, if you were a hockey fan, you didn't have a choice.

Lidstrom never did anything to make you dislike him, unless you can manage to hold "playing for the Red Wings" against someone. He wasn't a cheapshot artist. He didn't start a fight because his team was losing. He wasn't a chippy or dirty player by any stretch of the imagination. He didn't showboat, gloat, or do anything to draw negative attention to himself.

He played. He played great. And he was a superb leader for the Red Wings, both before and after Steve Yzerman retired.

The void this leaves for Detroit is immeasurable. Even if the Red Wings sign Ryan Suter as a free agent, which has been mentioned by about 8 million people, he can't replace Lidstrom by himself. Detroit will need a new captain, and while someone will wear the "C," it's hard to imagine anyone being as respected or admired as Lidstrom.

Surely, the Wings will retire No. 5, which Lidstrom has donned for two decades in Detroit. Undoubtedly, the Hockey Hall of Fame will come calling in due time. He will continue to be an iconic figure in his homeland.

But hockey loses on Thursday. Hockey loses a player and a man that the sport simply can't duplicate. Somewhere out there, a player of similar ability and disposition will develop. But even if that happens, there's no guarantee that he will ever become the player Lidstrom did.

For more on Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement from the NHL, stick with our StoryStream. Get local reaction from Red Wings fans at Winging It In Motown and SB Nation Detroit.

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