Nicklas Lidstrom retires from Detroit Red Wings

      May 31, 2012 @ 19:04:57 PDT

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Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired from the NHL today after 20 years, all of them with the Wings.

For the last few seasons, Lidstrom's future with the team seemed to be 50-50, so this is by no means completely out of the blue. However, sometimes, even when you see things coming from a distance, they still have a way of hitting you as subtly as a brick to the forehead.

After 20 years with the Detroit Red Wings, Nicklas Lidstrom hung up the skates

Over the past two decades, Lidstrom became my favorite player across all sports. He was what you want a sports hero to be: A hard worker, a great team guy, a leader, great for the community and did everything asked of him on the ice night after night.

I sadly feel like part of my enthusiasm for sports retired along with him, too.

For as long as I can remember, hockey has been a big love of mine. I've often built my schedule around Red Wings' games, especially playoff season. Lidstrom has been a key reason why.

Some of my fondest memories go back to the early '90s when I would make the quick trek to my grandfather's house to watch Red Wings games with him a few times a week after my grandmother passed. It was our bonding time over a couple root beers and cups of Jell-O with the television so loud you could hear it two blocks away. My grandfather, being the old timer he was, thought good hockey players only came from Canada; Lidstrom, born in Sweden, quickly made him change his tune.

Years later when I had moved to San Diego, my grandfather would call me often wondering if I saw the tremendous block, steal, shot, goal or all-around awesome Lidstrom-like play that he seemed to pull off game after game. Steve Yzerman, another Detroit great, started as our guy, but Lidstrom quickly took over that role. While my grandfather unfortunately isn't still with us, I can confidently say: Lidstrom is still our guy twenty years later.

Of the defensemen in the NHL I've had the joy of watching, Lidstrom is hands down the best I have ever seen play. Yes, I know the arguments of some of the greats from way back when, but I'm talking the past 20 to 25 years (I just realized I'm getting old, too). There were many times he single handedly carried the team on his stick, playing at both ends of the ice so effortlessly while double-shifting throughout the game. Rarely out of position, out-smarted or beaten, Lidstrom was poetry on ice, made other players around him better, and is what all young defensemen should aspire to be.

Lidstrom's resume is long and decorated. He had 1,142 points (264 goals and 878 assists) in 1,564 games, won seven Norris Trophies (top defenseman in the league, which he was nominated for 12 times!), 12 NHL All-Star selections, a first-team All Star 10 times and he tucked away four of those little things known as the Stanley Cup title.

In the playoffs, Lidstrom was golden and a rock the Red Wings could always rely on. He never missed the playoffs, playing in a Detroit team-record 263 games. With 54 goals and 129 assists (183 playoff points), he had an amazing plus-61 rating during the post season while winning 11 games with the game-winning goal.

Thank you for the past 20 years, Nick; I wish you all of the best in the future. Watching Red Wings' games will never be the same for me. His autographed No. 5 jersey hanging in my office just became my most cherished sports possession....

You can keep up with Ryan's shenanigans on Twitter by following him @RyanBonini; don't forget to also hook up with KFFL's outstanding football and baseball coverage @KFFL and @KFFL_Baseball. If you want to kick ass in your fantasy leagues, you need to follow KFFL.

What did Lidstrom mean to the Red Wings?

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About Ryan R. Bonini

Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the FSWA, received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.

His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports,, and many others. He has also been featured on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA, FSWA and FSTA.

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