Detroit Red Wings
Clear Bag Policy Follow @DetroitRedWings on Twitter! Follow the Red Wings on Facebook! Follow @DetroitRedWings on Instagram! Follow OfficialDRW on Snapchat! Get Red Wings Email Updates Get Red Wings Text Updates Get the Detroit Red Wings Official Mobile App

  • RSS

Nick had smooth-as-silk personality

Frustration was never a part of captain's game, teammates say

Friday, 06.1.2012 / 4:33 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor |
Share with your Friends

Nick had smooth-as-silk personality
Joey Kocur and Nicklas Lidstrom celebrate a goal in Game 1 of the 1997 Stanley Cup finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – Dave Lewis played in over 1,000 games as a defenseman with four different NHL teams. But it was the teaching that he did from behind the Red Wings’ bench, which garnered praise from a shoo-in Hall-of-Famer as he made his retirement speech on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.

“I think Lewie was my assistant coach my first year – actually my first 13 years – and he taught me how to play D, how to be a solid two-way defenseman,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, as he delivered his 2,100-word speech. “Not just thinking about the offense and being part of the power play, but playing sound defensively in your own zone, not being overly physical, but doing the job to get it done.”

Lewis, who was the Wings head coach for two seasons after Scotty Bowman retired following the 2002 Stanley Cup season, was humbled by Lidstrom’s comments, saying, “The only thing I did was make sure the door was open for him to get on the ice.”

Modesty aside, hockey has taken Lewis around the world from the NHL to the international stage when he was an assistant coach for Belarus at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But while his coaching scenery has changed over the years, one thing has remained constant.

“Since I left Detroit, I coached in Boston, L.A., Carolina, Belarus at the Olympics and the Ukraine,” Lewis said. “Everywhere I go the players ask me about the level of play of Nick Lidstrom and how does he do it. It's a world-wide phenomenon, not just an NHL thing.”

Lidstrom’s even-keel personality is what Lewis – and quite honestly everyone who has ever met the seven-time Norris Trophy winner – considers as one of his greatest strengths.

Even in the locker room, Lidstrom’s teammates rarely, if ever, saw him frustrated, and certainly never angry.

“Maybe I heard him swear two or three times over 20 years,” former Wings center Kris Draper said. “We couldn't believe it. Nothing from banging his stick, getting frustrated or anything like that. It was amazing how composed he was in all situations. That was that calming effect he had on all of us. When things got a little bit out of control you'd look down the bench and see him sitting there and be like, 'All right, it's not that bad.’ ”

The coaching staff never saw that level of disappointment, either.

“I don't know if frustrated was the right word, he never explained his emotion like Steve (Yzerman) would come back to the bench and shatter his stick,” Lewis said. “All the years I coached behind the bench with Nick Lidstrom, I never saw him do that once, so his level of composure was second to none.”

What Lewis did noticed early on was Lidstrom level of commitment to getting better.

“Each year or half-year, you saw growth and improvement,” Lewis said. “That was a big part of his success. He was never satisfied with a certain level. He wanted to push his level to the maximum. It's one thing to get to the Norris Trophy level, it's another to stay there all those years.”

The consistency that which Lidstrom played with night in and night out is something that resonates with everyone whoever played with the man, who will forever be considered the best defenseman of his generation.

“As great as he was talent-wise and determination and skill and everything else, he was never put in a bad position,” said Joey Kocur, who played four seasons with Lidstrom. “Even when he didn't have the puck he controlled where that puck was going; just so much fun to watch him.”

For the Wings’ younger players, these last few seasons spent with, not only a legendary player, but a terrific human-being, has made their development special.

“Whenever we did two-on-one drills and you pass the puck he was swatting it down every time with that stick,” Wings center Darren Helm said. “Forwards bringing it down the wall, trying to chip it in, he'd just bat it out of the air. His hand-eye coordination was amazing.

“Getting a chance to play with him you realize how special he was to this team and the city. Amazing player and amazing person. I'm privileged to have had the chance to play with him.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose




1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 BOS 55 30 19 6 163 150 66
5 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
6 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
7 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 56 28 21 7 124 124 63
10 PHI 54 24 20 10 128 140 58
11 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
12 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47


D. Larkin 54 18 20 25 38
H. Zetterberg 55 10 28 5 38
T. Tatar 54 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 55 14 16 -1 30
P. Datsyuk 40 9 21 14 30
J. Abdelkader 55 14 15 -2 29
M. Green 47 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 41 5 11 6 16
D. DeKeyser 51 7 8 12 15
P. Mrazek 21 10 5 .933 1.94
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89