By Darian Somers
Nicklas Lidstrom wanted No. 9 when he arrived in Detroit. That number belonged to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena with the name Howe above it, so the Red Wings' equipment manager handed him the No. 5 instead.
Now, some 20-plus years later, the No. 5 and the name Lidstrom hangs right next to Howe's.
Lidstrom, the former captain of the Red Wings, had his No. 5 retired Thursday evening before Detroit's game with Colorado.
"This is something different," Lidstrom said of the honor in comparison to his other accolades. "This is all about being a Detroit Red Wing."
In 20 seasons in the NHL, all of them in Hockeytown, the Swede was an 11-time NHL all-star, a four-time Stanley Cup winner and a seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's best blueliner. He also won the Conn Smythe in 2002 as playoff MVP, and when he won the Stanley Cup in 2008, he became the first European captain to accept the Cup.
Lidstrom finished his career in 2012 with the fourth most points in franchise history (1,142), the highest plus-minus rating (+450) and second most games played (1,564). His plus rating and points total are the sixth best among NHL defensemen ever and he ranks fifth among NHL defenseman and most among European players in games played.
He also won a gold medal with Sweden in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
While with the Red Wings, Lidstrom helped Detroit reach the playoffs each of his 20 seasons. Those postseason appearances with the same team is also an NHL record.
Lidstrom becomes the seventh Wing to have his number retired, joining Howe, Sid Able, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk and Steve Yzerman.
Throughout much of his speech, Lidstrom thanked long-time teammate Yzerman and other former teammates, coaches, manangers and the Red Wing's owners', the Illitch family.
The Red Wings ownership group presented Lidstrom, who served as captain for six years, with a new Dodge RAM truck. The current Red Wings, including former teammates, chipped in to buy him and his family an African safari trip.
During the ceremony, which feature a red No. 5 stretched out on the ice, all current Red Wings watched on, wearing the No. 5.