Wings see Sweden trip as Lidstrom reward
"When we got approached by the League, one of the first people or first reasons for going that I thought of was Nicklas Lidstrom," Wings GM Ken Holland told NHL.com. "For Nick to go to play real NHL games in his country at this stage of his career -- he's still a premier defenseman in the game, our team is good, and six Norris trophies and four Stanley Cups speak for themselves -- will make it an incredible week."
Lidstrom already has purchased 40 tickets for the weekend games against St. Louis and is searching for more. He predicts the Wings' week-long stay in Stockholm will go onto his long list of great memories to savor from his NHL career.
How could it not? The opportunity is just so unique and, to boot, he could hit the 1,000-point milestone when he's over there. Lidstrom is three points away from becoming only the eighth defensemen in NHL history to record 1,000 points.
"It's just another thing that you can look back at when you're done playing," said Lidstrom, who is from Vasteras, a city of more than 100,000 people located roughly an hour west of Stockholm. "It's something I thought never would happen. It's tough to compare it to winning Stanley Cups or winning Olympic gold, but it will be a good memory for me and my family as well. It gives them a chance to watch me play in Sweden, and with the Wings."
And how badly does he want to reach the 1,000-point milestone in front of his Swedish friends and family in Stockholm?
"You know, it would be nice," the soft-spoken veteran said. "I'm going to have a lot of friends and family at the games, both games, so it would be nice if it happens there."
Wings veteran Kirk Maltby said Lidstrom's teammates are curious to see how he will be embraced by his countrymen considering he is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, European-trained player to ever play in the NHL.
Lidstrom has brought the Stanley Cup back to Scandinavia four times and was an alternate captain on Sweden's gold medal-winning team at the 2006 Olympics. As a 21-year-old in 1991, he won gold at the World Championships.
"I can only imagine he'd be received over there like someone like Wayne Gretzky is in Canada," Maltby said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock has the same opinion.
"If you're Nick Lidstrom and you are flat out the best player of all time from Sweden and one of the best to ever play hockey, it's got to be a proud moment for him," Babcock told NHL.com. "And then to bring his team -- and we're a pretty good team -- I think it will be a fun thing for the people of Sweden, and fun for our guys, too."
Dan Cleary, who knows a thing or two about homecomings (see his celebration with the Stanley Cup back home in Newfoundland two summers ago), expects Lidstrom's welcome to be off-the-charts amazing, too.
"No one is bigger over there," Cleary told NHL.com. "(Henrik) Zetterberg is big, but Nick obviously is the king."
Hence Holland's motivation to pack his team up and head to Europe.
Bringing "the king" home is the least Holland could do after 17 incredible seasons in Hockeytown.
"It's Nick's only chance," the GM said. "I can't tell you we're not going back to Sweden in 10 years, but this is it for him. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."