Lidstrom, Fedorov had huge impact on Wings, NHL

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

When Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov grew up in Europe, they nurtured fanciful dreams of going to North America to play in the NHL.

The Hockey Hall of Fame? They had barely heard of it, the former great Red Wings say.

Monday, the august Hall announced Lidstrom and Fedorov will be inducted in November, a further tribute to the great Wings teams of the 1990s and 2000s and to their impact, especially as European players, in the NHL.

In a big day for hockey in Michigan, joining them will be the pioneering women's player and Olympic gold medalist Angela Ruggiero, formerly of Harper Woods; and Peter Karmanos Jr., an owner of the Hurricanes whose Compuware youth hockey programs have been intrinsic to the growth of the sport in the United States for five decades.

"I decide to move on to leave the country for the dream that I experience in the NHL," Fedorov said of his decision to defect by walking away from the Russian team at the Goodwill Games in Seattle in 1990 and flying to Detroit to join the Red Wings.

"And that was a hard decision.

"But I was very, very young, 20 years old. I don't think I knew fully what I was doing, but my dream was to play in front of 20,000 people in the stands, because I experienced that in a super series with the Russia army team a couple of years before that.

"So, it was very exciting."

Induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame is exciting, too, Fedorov said.

"Thank you very much," he told officials. "Very happy to be in the lineup."

Lidstrom has said that when he arrived, his only thoughts were trying to stay on the roster, and in North America, playing hockey.

Role models helped, he said.

"When I first came to Detroit, Steve Yzerman was the captain, and he was a player I looked up to before I joined the Wings. So he was big influence," said Lidstrom, who succeeded Yzerman as captain, and went on to be the first European captain of a Stanley Cup winner in 2008.

"Being close to Steve and watching him and how hard he worked every day and showing up in games and playing even better in bigger games.

"You know, Sergei and I were roommates for quite a few years when he was playing in Detroit, so Sergei helped me a lot, too, seeing how he played and prepared every day."

Also on the list, Lidstrom said, his boyhood idol, the fine Swedish defenseman Borje Salming, who played for the Maple Leafs and, briefly, the Wings.

"I'm very excited and proud and honored to be going into the Hockey Hall of Fame along with all of the other great players," he said. "I'm actually really looking forward to going to Toronto in the fall (for the induction ceremony, in November)."

Lidstrom's accomplishments make him one of the greatest defensemen in history.

■He won four Stanley Cups, including the first in 42 years in Detroit, in 1997.

■He won the Norris Trophy as outstanding defenseman seven times, was runner-up three times and nominated in 12 of his last 14 seasons

■Lidstrom also was the first European to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP in the playoffs in 2002.

■He was an All-Star 12 times.

■He played for 20 seasons, all with the Red Wings. It is the most for one team by any European player.

Along the way he shattered many prejudices against European players, including assertions they lacked courage and strength. His durability was astounding, never missing more than six games in a season until he was 41 years old.

He missed 12 that season, with a broken bone in his leg — which he continually described publicly as "a deep bruise" until after he retired.

Fedorov won three Stanley Cups with the Wings and the 1994 Hart Memorial Trophy as MVP.

He was the first Red Wings MVP since Gordie Howe, 31 years earlier.

For a 12-year stretch beginning in 1990, Fedorov was considered among the best players in the world.

"You know, Sergei was such a dynamic player," Lidstrom said. "To be able to skate at that speed, but stick-handle at the same time and have excellent vision, too.

"He was a very smart player.

"And I know he was hard to play against, too," Lidstrom said, remarking on Fedorov's seasons after he left Detroit.

"It was a treat to play against Sergei.

"And looking at the team that we had in '01 and '02, you know, we had an All-Star team put together. Ken Holland did a great job of signing that team and signing all of the free agents that he was able to sign. And we had a great coach in Scotty Bowman, being able to coach that team and making sure everyone was doing all their best.

"So it was very exciting to be on that team. That was a special team."

Both men will be remembered as key elements of the nucleus of teams that returned hockey glory to Detroit after four decades.

The Red Wings won three Stanley Cups in the six seasons from 1997-2002.

Along with Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan, who are already in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Bowman, who is there, too, they were the essential elements.

"We had fun, man," Fedorov said. "We were getting, I don't know, as high as we possibly can."

At one point during a long conference call organized by the Hockey Hall of Fame, Fedorov stopped in the middle of an answer and said, simply, "Nick, I love you."

"When I was coming to the Red Wings, I was 20 years old. I had no idea what was going to happen to me, other than playing hockey.

"I have 20,000 people cheering for me. And, I must say, that was all I can resort to," he said of the encouragement of the fans, the motivation and the sheer excitement of playing in Detroit.

"And, I don't know, I'm in Detroit right now, with my mom," he said. "And we're hanging out. And we heard the news, and it was exciting."

An arch-nemesis of the Red Wings in that era is also a 2015 inductee, Chris Pronger.

Pronger lauded both Lidstrom and Fedorov.

"I think for Nick, obviously, his hockey sense and his awareness on the ice, his passing ability. You know, deadly accurate shot," Pronger said, listing Lidstrom's attributes.

"And, with Sergei, obviously, the first thing you think of is his skating ability. But, I think, again, his hockey sense and his innate ability to have the puck follow him around. He was always in the right spot, always in the perfect outlet position.

"And, one-on-one, with his skill level, talent and skating ability, he was tough to handle."

"Playing against those guys, you had to rise to the challenge and be cognizant of those guys because, again, they were so good."

Class of 2015

Induction: Monday, Nov. 9, Toronto

Builders: Bill Hay, Peter Karmanos Jr.

Players: Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, Angela Ruggiero

Champions to Hall

Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov became the 11th and 12th people associated with the Red Wings' 2002 Stanley Cup champions to join the Hockey Hall of Fame:

Scotty Bowman, elected 1991

Slava Fetisov, 2001

Mike Ilitch, 2003

Igor Larionov, 2008

Brett Hull, 2009

Luc Robitaille, 2009

Steve Yzerman, 2009

Chris Chelios, 2013

Brendan Shanahan, 2013

Dominik Hasek, 2014

Nicklas Lidstrom, 2015

Sergei Fedorov, 2015