2009 AP photo of Niklas Lidstrom
DETROIT (Det. Free Press) -- After 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has decided to retire.
He will make the announcement Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, a person with knowledge of the decision told the Free Press.
Lidstrom, 42, has been with the Wings since the 1991-92 season. He has won four Stanley Cups with them and seven Norris trophies recognizing his stature as one of the best defensemen ever in the game of hockey. He was named the Conn Smythe trophy winner in the 2002 playoffs, and in 2008, he became the first European-born-and-trained player to captain a team to the NHL title.
Attempts to reach Lidstrom have been unsuccessful. Reached following general manager meetings in New York, Wings GM Ken Holland said, "Nick has earned the right to announce what his decision is himself. From my end, I'm staying quiet."
Lidstrom has been the team's captain since 2006. Forward Henrik Zetterberg is expected to be his successor.
The Wings were hoping Lidstrom would return for one more season, but it's not wholly surprising he decided he's done. His oldest son already has gone back to Sweden for school and hockey, and Lidstrom and his wife, Annika, have long wanted to return to their homeland.
So what do the Wings do now?
If Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, 27, becomes an unrestricted free agent, they will pursue him fervor. If Anaheim loses blue-chip prospect Justin Schultz, 21, to free agency, he will be another option.
The fact is, though, no one can just replace a player like Lidstrom. He sees the game on an unparalleled plane. Teammates have raved about how cool he is, how nothing ever gets him rattled. He's probably the most respected player in the game.
Opposing coaches love him: Ken Hitchcock once spent 10 minutes commending Lidstrom for the way he uses his stick. When Nashville coach Barry Trotz shook hands with Lidstrom after their playoff series ended last month, Lidstrom said Trotz told him to please not retire. Former Toronto coach Ron Wilson, back in January, said he often uses clips of Lidstrom to show his own players how to do things the right way.
Off the ice, Lidstrom was known as "the Perfect Human" for being unfailingly polite and calm.
What's next for Lidstrom? Presumably moving back home to Vasteras, Sweden. He'll have to come back to North America for at least two reasons, though: The Wings are certain to retire his No. 5, and he'll be a first-ballot entrant into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
By Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press sports writer