DETROIT – Nicklas Lidstrom walked into Joe Louis Arena this week for the first time as a retired defenceman and acknowledged it was a little odd.
“It’s different walking in here and coming into this locker room when you’re not a player anymore,” Lidstrom said Friday after the Detroit Red Wings practiced for a game against the Anaheim Ducks. “You’re used to sitting in your stall, used to getting dressed and putting gear on. It’s a different feeling, but it’s good to be back in here again.”
The seven-time Norris Trophy winner insisted he has no regrets about choosing to end his NHL career last May following his 20th season with the Red Wings.
The 42-year-old Lidstrom could still be playing, making several million dollars a year. Lidstrom turned down a chance to return for another year, and after the lockout ended he rebuffed an opportunity to resume his career during the 48-game season.
“If you come back and play in a shortened season it’s easier, even though it’s a lot more intense,” he said. “But you have to stay in shape to be able to play at this level, so even if I knew there was going to be a lockout, my decision was already made.”
The four-time Stanley Cup champion doesn’t look like he’s put a pound on his 6-foot-2, 190-pound body.
Lidstrom is enjoying a slower pace in life with his wife and children back home in Sweden, where he is an assistant coach for his 12-year-old son’s hockey team and occasionally scouts prospects for the Red Wings.
“Just the everyday of being home with the family, helping out with kids’ practices and taking them to school in the morning, picking them up in the afternoon,” he said. “Just the everyday things you weren’t around for in the past. Being able to travel — with the family.”
He misses playing in front of 20,000 people, but doesn’t miss the day-to-day grind of being a professional hockey player.
“I know what it takes to be there and that’s something I can’t be up to that level of play where I want to be,” Lidstrom said. “That was the main reason I retired and why I’m still retired.”
Lidstrom could’ve stuck around and settled for being a good player, but he got used to performing as one of the best on the blue line in the world.
“There’s no doubt he be among the top 10 defencemen in the league if he wanted to keep playing,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Lidstrom was named the NHL’s best defenceman in 2011 for a seventh time in a decade, matching Doug Harvey’s total and trailing Bobby Orr’s league record by one. He became the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008, six years after being the first from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP.
He scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden over Finland in the 2006 Olympics, but ruled out any chance of him competing for his country next year at the Sochi Games.
“That’s not a possibility,” he said. “I’ve been part of four Olympics and it’s a blast but it’s not something I want to play in.”
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage