Tag Archives: nick lidstrom

Brian Rafalski’s former coach Jeff Sauer: “He was a player that always was involved in the play.”

DETROIT >> When former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski announced his retirement from professional hockey following the 2010-2011 season with one year and $6 million left on a contract, it came as quite a shock.

Conversely, the announcement made Wednesday was no surprise.

Rafalski was among four people elected to the class of 2014 of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

“He was a player that always was involved in the play,” said his former coach at Wisconsin Jeff Sauer, who was also named as part of the class of 2014. “He was a guy that you could count on in all situations and circumstances along the way. He was the type of player that you looked down the bench and who’s the next guy that you need out there to kill a penalty or work the power play or be out there in a critical situation in a game? He certainly was the first guy you would pick.”

Rafalski ranks 10th all-time amongst American-born NHL defenseman with 515 points (79 goals, 436 assists) in 833 regular season games, while totaling 29 goals and 71 assists in 165 playoff games.

“I remember him telling us you come to college as a boy and you want to leave as a man,” Rafalski said of his former coach. “He gave you responsibility to grow up and learn what it took to be a professional athlete. You come to the rink every day, work the 3-4 hours and when you came out of there, you were ready to work hard and try to make a career out of hockey if you wanted to. It really allowed us to grow up and to go on to better things in our lives. It was something all the guys appreciated.”

Rafalski also finished in the top 10 in voting for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman, three times, twice with the Wings.

Rafalski, who reached the playoffs all 11 seasons of his career, played in three Olympic Games, winning silver medals in 2002 and 2010, where he was named the best defenseman at the Vancouver Games.

“For me it was just that I got the chance to play with a lot of guys I grew up watching,” Rafalski said of playing in the 2002 Games. “It was a very high-profile team, a lot of great players. It was a great opportunity for us to perform well on home soil. Getting the opportunity to play for Herb Brooks was a great honor, something that I’ll cherish and remember. It’s a fond memory for me.”

In 2007, Rafalski, a Dearborn native, signed a five-year, $30 million free-agent contract to come to Detroit as the Wings lost Mathieu Schneider after he signed with Anaheim.

“I remember growing up in the 80s when the Wings were in the Norris Division and they had no chance of winning,” said Rafalski, who also won a bronze medal at the 1992 world juniors. “You’d get into Joe Louis (Arena) no problem and sit wherever you wanted. They really changed through the late 1980s and 90s with Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom. They developed a great program there through great ownership with the Ilitches.

Rafalski won three Stanley Cups in his career, two with the New Jersey Devils and one in Detroit (2008).

“It was great to play in front of family and friends and have the opportunity to play with other great defensemen like Nick Lidstrom and Chris Chelios,” Rafalski said. “Throughout my whole career I had the opportunity to be coached and play with some of the best defensemen of all-time, going to back to Slava Fetisov, Larry Robinson, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko in New Jersey.

“Going to Detroit, there was Mark Howe and Larry Murphy,” Rafalski continued. “Just being around the locker room when those guys would come through and playing with Chelios and Lidstrom, I’ve had so many different influences and people to learn from. I just tried to absorb all that.”

Rafalski, who played four seasons in Europe after four years at Wisconsin, attempted a comeback last season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades which didn’t last long.

Also elected were Karen Bye Dietz and Lou Vairo. The induction ceremony will take place Dec. 4 at the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame in Minnesota.

Mike and Marian Ilitch won’t be able to attend Lidstrom ceremony

DETROIT >> Here’s a statement released by the Wings from owner Mike Ilitch:

“While Marian and I would love to be there, we won’’t be at tomorrow’’s jersey retirement for Nick Lidstrom. This past year, I had a medical procedure that has kept me out of the spotlight for awhile. I feel much better now, and I’’m stronger every day. While we may not attend every event, we never miss a game on TV and are very involved in all our businesses every day from home and the office.

““We want to congratulate Nick, his wife Annika, and their family on this honor. He’’s very deserving and we’re so proud and fortunate to have had him as a part of the Red Wings family for more than 20 years. We thank him with all our hearts.””

Johan Franzen has been anointed to replace Tomas Holmstrom on Detroit’s first power play unit

PLYMOUTH – The Wings think they’ve found their new net-front presence on the power play.

Johan Franzen has been anointed to replace Tomas Holmstrom on Detroit’s first power play unit.

“Mule has been waiting to be out on the first unit since he got here,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after day two of training camp at Compuware Arena in Plymouth. “He thinks he should be. We think he should be too. So it’s a natural fit.”

Holmstrom, who will have his retirement officially announced at a press conference Thursday or Friday at Joe Louis Arena, spent 15 seasons providing that service with the Wings.

Detroit is also dealing with the retirement of the power play’s quarterback, Nicklas Lidstrom.

“Homer was a star at what he did,” Babcock said. “He was the best in the National Hockey League in my opinion. And Nick Lidstrom was the best defenseman, so you’re not getting Homer and you’re not getting Nick. But Mule, net-front, is as good as anybody. Now I’m telling you, Kronner is a hell of a player, but I’m not trying to tell you that he’s Nick Lidstrom. So I don’t know what we do about that.”

Colaiacovo looking forward to playing with ‘world class’ forwards

TROY – Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo wants to get one thing straight … he’s not here to replace Nicklas Lidstrom.

“I want to make one thing clear, obviously the big hole is Nick Lidstrom not being here and I need to let everyone know I’m not coming in here to be Nick Lidstrom, no one can come in here and replace Nick Lidstrom,” Colaiacovo said after skating Friday morning for the first time with teammates at Troy Sports Center. “He was one of the best players to ever play this game.

“If there’s one thing I can bring to this team is a complement of what they already have,” Colaiacovo continued. “A guy that can move the puck, play the power play, play in all types of situations.”

The Wings, who also lost Brad Stuart this offseason, signed Colaiacovo late in the free agency period, to a two-year deal with $2.5 million a season.

“If I can even help our young guys and be a good complement in all situations because at the end of the day we just want to put the puck in our forwards’ hands,” said Colaiacovo, who turns 30 on Jan. 27. “They’ve got all the skill and are world class players. That’s what I’m ultimately going to try and do.”

Colaiacovo was not the top-tier defenseman the Wings were looking for this offseason, but he was the best option left on the free-agent market.

The biggest concern is his health. He has yet to play more than 67 games in any season.

And he starts camp with a shoulder injury he suffered in the championship game of the Spangler Cup.

Coincidently, it was another new Red Wing, Damien Brunner, who caused the injury.

“It was a tough play at the end there, kind of a stupid play,” Colaiacovo said. “I’m hoping to be ready by the start of the season. Each day it keeps getting better and keeps getting stronger. To be honest with you to this point I never thought I’d be feeling this good.”

Brunner, who was playing for HC Davos, shoved Colaiacovo from behind into the boards.

“It was just one of those things, obviously not intentional,” Colaiacovo said. “The thing with those boards they’re cement walls. There’s not much give. It’s the first time I’ve had a shoulder issue like that.”

Colaiacovo, who was drafted 17th overall by Toronto in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, has some offensive ability and moves the puck well.

“The one thing I’ve noticed is all the skill we have up front, guys are really putting the puck in the back of the net,” Colaiacovo said. “It’s a real exciting feeling for me.”

And that was without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the ice.

“Playing with world class players makes you step up your game and probably brings the best out of you,” Colaiacovo said. “And that’s what I expect out of myself. To play up to their levels and ultimately do the best that I can and like I said put the puck in their hands so they do what they do for a living because they’re really good at it.”

Colaiacovo, who shoots left and can play the point on the power play, will start being paired with former teammate Ian White on the blue line.

“Whitey and me go way back,” Colaiacovo said. “We’re really good friends. We played together in the minors we played together in Toronto. But to me if I play with Whitey great, but it really doesn’t matter who I play with. I can play with Smitty, you look at with how I played with a young guy like (Alex) Pietrangelo last year. I consider myself a veteran guy that can help out the young guys whether it’s with Qunce, Ericsson or Kronny or Jakub. It really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day this is a team that competes to win the Cup every year and I’m just excited to be a part of that and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help out in the cause.”

Colaiacovo not Nick Lidstrom; Wings open camp Sunday; home opener Jan. 22 against Dallas

TROY – A few quick things from Troy.

Carlo Colaiacovo was in town for the first time and said, “I want to make one thing clear, obviously the big hole is Nick Lidstrom not being and I need to let everyone know I’m not coming in here to be Nick Lidstrom, no one can come in here and replace Nick Lidstrom. He was one of the best players to every play this game. If there’s one thing I can bring to this team is a compliment of what they already have.

“A guy that can move the puck, play the power play, play in all types of situations,” he continued. “I’m pretty familiar with a lot of the guys on defense here. I’m pretty familiar with a lot of them and they can all pretty much do the same things that I do. If I can come and fit in and even help our young guys and be a good compliment in all situations because at the end of the day we just want to put the puck in our forward’s hands. They’ve got all the skill and are world class players. That’s what I’m ultimately going to try and do.”

The Wings will take physicals on Saturday and open training camp Sunday at Compuware with two sessions. They will stay at Compuware through Wednesday before going to Joe Louis Arena for Thursday and Friday.

They open the season a week from Saturday in St. Louis.

Their home opener is Jan. 22 against the Dallas Stars.