DETROIT – Tomas Holmstrom won’t be back with the Wings next season.
He’ll announce his retirement with a press conference prior to the start of this season.
“He’s battled,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said at the press conference to announce the Winter Classic coming to Ann Arbor last year. “He’s played a hard 1,000 games. I think he wants to make sure that the decision that he makes, if he’s going to play, that he’s passionate about coming back, especially with the loss of Nick (Lidstrom).”
When the two met after the season was over, Holland felt Holmstrom was leaning towards playing another season.
However, with the additions the Wings made at forward this offseason – Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo and Damien Brunner — his days in Detroit looked numbered.
The team is also high on Gustav Nyquist.
“We want to give him an opportunity,” Holland said of Nyquist. “Homer knows there’s a lot of competition. No one knows as well as Homer does of how hard he’s worked and how hard he has competed and how hard he’s gone to the hard areas for over 1,000 games since 1996. That’s a conversation that him and I need to have and talk it over.”
Last season, Holmstrom played in his 1,000th game, becoming just the sixth player in a Wings uniform to do so. He has made a living around the blue paint of the goal crease since joining the team.
However, Holmstrom has seen his minutes drop, but his contributions on the power play are still valuable.
“His role has changed on the team obviously,” Holland said. “It’s hard to think a 39-year-old can play on the top line and play 18 minutes against some of the other team’s best players, but Homer has a lot of will and determination and right now he’s deciding what he wants to do with the rest of his life over the next week.”
Detroit was in a similar situation with Kirk Maltby in 2010.
Maltby wound up signing a one-year, two-way deal with the team prior to the start of training camp to compete for a roster spot.
Maltby failed to win a spot when camp ended and was placed on waivers. Instead of going to Grand Rapids to play, Maltby decided to retire.
Holmstrom is the last of five Wings to have played on all four of Detroit’s Stanley Cup championship teams since 1997. The other four players on the distinctive list are, Lidstrom, Kris Draper, who retired last season, Maltby and Darren McCarty.
“I go back and forth and try to figure out my body,” Holmstrom said after Lidstrom’s retirement announcement. “It’s been a tough year, playing most of the time on the fourth line and limited ice time. I just try to do the best I can. It’s tough when you don’t get the ice time, you can’t get the momentum going. The end goal is not to get me ice time, the end goal is to win the Stanley Cup.”
Holmstrom, 39, has had countless knee operations in his 15 seasons with Detroit and two hernia surgeries.
“He’s been part of the team for a long time and his perseverance is second to none,” Lidstrom said last season. “We know what he’s been going through with his bad knees. His knees weren’t the best when he got here 15 years ago.
“The way he battles through injuries and able to come back and play,” Lidstrom added. “We know the beating he’s been taking in front of the net and in the offensive zone, but he keeps getting up there and getting back in there. He’s got so much determination and will to get back in there again. You can tell with his bad knees that he’s not giving up at all. It shows a lot about his character.”
He was drafted 257th overall by Detroit in the 1994 NHL Entry draft. At the time scouts said Holmstrom was too slow and too skinny to make in the league.
“If you can’t skate, you can’t play,” Holmstrom said. “I know I don’t have the best skills but I’ve been working on it a lot, try to get better skating, a better shot, pretty much get a better all-around game to stay in the league and try to get better around the net. You always want to do better and better. That’s a big part of it. You know there’s always someone who wants to take your spot, someone who wants to beat you, just try to get better all the time.”