DETROIT – For a man who usually let his actions on the ice speak for him, Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom was Uncharacteristically chatty as he thanked former coaches, teammates and fans for more than nine minutes during Thursday’s pregame ceremony to retire his iconic No. 5 before a jam-packed crowd gathered at Joe Louis Arena.
Here is the full transcript of the speech Lidstrom gave prior to the moment his number was lifted to the rafters where it will forever reside the Red Wings’ legends – Abel, Delvecchio, Howe, Lindsay, Sawchuk and Yzerman.
“On behalf of my wife Annika and my sons, Kevin, Adam, Samuel and Lukas, thank you. And thank you Ken (Daniels), Babs, Kenny and Chris for the kind words. I like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch for me as a player, for this team, for this city. We all owe our success to their leadership. Their commitment allowed us to win four Stanley Cups and the team is still striving to get more, so thank you.
“I like to thank Ram Truck. That will be a great ride to have back in Sweden and as I was walking back here my four kids were holding out their hands, they want to grab the keys right away. So there will be a challenge keeping the keys away from the kids. Thank you.
“I’d like to welcome my parents and my family. There are over 30 in total who flew over from Sweden for this ceremony. (applause)
“In the spring of ’91, the first time I walked into Joe Louis Arena, I had my agent Don Meehan with me and I was here to sign my first contract. I didn’t know much about the history of the team. I knew that Steve Yzerman was the captain and had played here a long time, but besides that I didn’t know a whole lot about the team. So when the trainer at the time ask me what number I would like if I made the team, I told him ‘I wore No. 9 in Sweden and it would be great if I could get No. 9 again.’ He just said, ‘Kid that just ain’t going to happen.’
“So I came back here in the fall of ’91 and just kept my mouth shut. No. 5 was handed to me. (applause). It’s really special for me to have No. 5 hang in the rafters next to the other guys that are up there. And one of them was my captain for 15 years, and one of the reasons I’m standing here today, Steve Yzerman. (applause)
“Stevie really showed me and the rest of our team what it’s like to be a leader and what it takes to win. His dedication and his will was something I’d never seen before and I think that’s the main reason I had a lot of success and that’s why you see players like Zetterberg and Datsyuk leading the team now. Steve Yzerman set the tone and I followed, and I believe the current team is following Stevie’s footsteps as well. So thank you very much, Stevie.
“I remember my first goal that I scored in the NHL. It happened here at Joe Louis Arena. Jimmy Carson and Brad McCrimmon assisted on the goal. Now Brad was my first D-partner and he once told me, ‘to be a pro you have to show up for work every day. Now if you do it well you can be a star.’ So I would like to welcome Brad’s wife Maureen, and his daughter Carlin, and son Liam for being here tonight.
“When Ken Holland told me that Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch wanted to retire my jersey I tried to put the honor in context. It’s not like winning a trophy for a successful season or playoff. It’s not like winning an individual trophy. This is something different. This is all about being a Detroit Red Wing.
“Everything that I learned from the first time I stepped on the ice until tonight I owe it to Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, and Steve Yzerman, as well, leading the way. Now Bryan Murray was my first coach in the NHL. Now he helped me get into the door, he gave me an opportunity to play and I’m thankful for what Bryan did early in my career. Scotty Bowman came after Bryan and Scotty took my game to another level. Now Scotty gave me lots of confidence by playing me a lot. He pushed me to become a better player and helped me excel my career. Thank you very much, Scotty.
“Along side Scotty, Dave Lewis and Barry Smith were very important to my career as well. Lewie taught me how to play my position right and to be solid in my own zone. So thank you very much, Lewie, especially early on in your career that if you play your D zone right you’ll have a lot of success in the offensive zone, so thank you.
“Mike Babcock came along with Todd McLellen and Paul MacLean and Keith McKittrick and later on Brad McCrimmon. Now Babs showed me and helped me become a leader on this team. Played me in key situations, helped me stay at the high level that I wanted to play at and I’m very grateful for that. Thank you very much, Babs.
“I’d also like to thank Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Jimmy Devellano and Ryan Martin for their support over the years. Always putting the better teams together and always striving to win another Stanley Cup. Thank you.
“Now I played with great teammates over the years as well as great friends. Several are here tonight that made a big impact on my career. Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Mathieu Schneider, Robert Lang, Igor Larionov, Darren McCarty, Bob Rouse, (Chris) Ogood, (Kris) Draper and (Kirk) Maltby, (Anders) Eriksson and (Yves) Racine and so many others that couldn’t be here tonight. (Dominik) Hasek, (Sergei) Fedorov, (Luc) Robitaille, the list goes on (applause). And of course my good friend, Tomas Holmstrom (applause).
“Now Homer, I’m not sure how many shots you blocked or how many goals that I scored that were disallowed because you were standing in the crease. But I do know one thing; if Homer wasn’t standing there I wouldn’t have scored as many goals. So thank you very much, Homer (applause).
“Another thing that made me better was you, the fans. Your passion for the team and this city helped us perform every night. Even on the road the Wings have a lot of followers so thank you very much (applause).
“In closing, I’m very thankful that my family is here tonight. It’s just not my name; it’s our name on the back of my sweater. For my parents to drive me to different rinks in Sweden when I was young in supporting me, to my wife for taking care of raising four boys when I was traveling with the team. Having my jersey retired is something very special so I’m very happy that my family is here to celebrate this with me tonight.
“On behalf of my wife Annika and our four boys and the rest of the family here and in Sweden, thank you for this tremendous honor. Thank you.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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