Detroit Red Wings coach
Babcock might have been talking about Lidstrom's extraordinary level of play, which has defined him, without argument, as the best NHL defenseman since
Yet as indispensable as Lidstrom is on the ice, it is his impact on more mercenary matters that Babcock was talking about. Lidstrom earns a salary of $7.45 million, a sweet sum to be sure, but also millions less than he could have commanded from Detroit, or on the open market. That does two things: It gives the Red Wings additional room under the salary cap and it sets a precedent. Other players figure that if the world's best hockey player will accept reduced pay to be a Red Wing, then they can do it too. Several teammates --
In a parity-stricken league, Lidstrom has ensured that the Red Wings remain in a class of one, and in June he crossed into hockey's final frontier when he became the first European captain in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup. "I'm very proud to be the first," he said, and in the next breath, "I'm very proud of the whole team too."
What makes Lidstrom so Sportsman-like is, well, his sportsmanship: his humility, his professionalism. He is intuitive on the ice and equally so in the locker room. Earlier this year Babcock told me that he had never coached player this good. "In what way?" I asked. Replied Babcock: "In any way you can think of."