'Journey ends here': Niklas Kronwall retires after 15 seasons with Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall announced his retirement Tuesday.

Detroit — Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall is retiring, he announced Tuesday.

In a video from the Red Wings, Kronwall said, "They say every journey has to come to an end. Well, my journey as player for the Detroit Red Wings ends here."

Kronwall will stay with the team and take over a role as special adviser to general manager Steve Yzerman.

Kronwall, 38, played 15 seasons in the NHL, all in Detroit. He had 432 points (83 goals) in 953 games and had a reputation of being one of the hardest hitters in the league, especially during his prime.

“I was a 22-year-old kid when I came over from Sweden,” Kronwall said in the video posted on Twitter. “Now at 38, I have my own family here. Detroit has become home for us.

“There have been ups and some downs during my time here. Wearing the winged wheel on my chest was and always will be a huge honor.”

Kronwall will address the media Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena.

Yzerman, who played with Kronwall as he was ending his NHL career and Kronwall was beginning his, spoke to Kronwall’s impact on the organization.

“It was evident from his first season what a special player and person he would become,” Yzerman said in a statement. “He was among the NHL’s best two-way defensemen of his era and will go down as one of the greatest at his position in Red Wings history.

"Niklas has a sharp hockey mind and is highly respected in the hockey world. He has the makeup and work ethic of someone who will have a very successful career in management, and I am thrilled that he will remain with the franchise on the hockey operations staff.”

Kronwall had been troubled with an arthritic left knee the past several seasons that made Tuesday’s announcement expected.

At the end of last season Kronwall said retirement was a distinct possibility, noting he wasn’t sure he could mentally and physically commit to another summer of working out and preparing for the upcoming season.

The Wings have been preparing for Kronwall’s announcement, having signed defenseman Patrik Nemeth, a defensive defenseman capable of taking over Kronwall’s minutes, in free agency.

Kronwall completed a seven-year contract worth $33.25 million ($4.75 million salary cap hit) last season and was an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Kronwall was adamant he wanted to retire as a Red Wing and wasn’t interested in testing free agency or going to another organization.

In his video, Kronwall thanked the Ilitch family, and former general manager Ken Holland for “believing in me” and enabling Kronwall to play for just one team, the Red Wings, throughout his NHL career.

“Every great organization has great leadership," Kronwall said. "We’re spoiled with that in Detroit. Thank you so much to the Ilitch family and Kenny Holland for believing in me, and giving me a chance to stay with the same organization throughout my whole career.

“That is something I will always put a big price tag on, and I can’t into words how grateful I am for giving me that opportunity for keeping myself and my family around.

“Not only are you great leaders, more than that, you are great people.”

Said Christopher Ilitch, the Wings’ governor, president and chief executive officer, in a statement: “I’d like to congratulate Niklas on a wonderful career and thank him for exemplifying what it means to be a Red Wing for the past 15 years. His impact on our organization has been immeasurable, from his stellar on-ice play which helped us win a Stanley Cup, to the legacy he built off the ice as someone who was always proud to give back to the Detroit community.

“It gives me great confidence in the future of the team knowing our young players have been able to learn from him, and I know that Niklas will find success in the next chapter of his career in our front office.”

In Tuesday’s video, Kronwall said he cherished the games and emotion at Joe Louis Arena, particularly the fans who “created an amazing atmosphere I will forever cherish.”

Kronwall noted his favorite moment was “when we all got to hoist the Stanley Cup” after the Wings won it all in 2008.

"We’re going to get back there,” Kronwall said. “I just won’t be a player when it happens next time.”

Also in the video, Kronwall thanked the different coaches he played for, his mother, wife and kids for their support, and teammates.

“Win or lose we always did it together,” Kronwall said of his teammates. “I’m going to miss the locker room, the dinners on the road, so many great memories. And you guys, together with our trainers, are the ones I’m going to miss the most.”


Twitter: @tkulfan