Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement from the NHL on Thursday after a two-decade career in the league marked by consistent individual and team excellence.
"When I signed with Wings back in [in 1989] I never envisioned myself playing for 20 years," he said. "It's been a great, great ride."
Lidstrom, who turned 42 last month, was flanked at Joe Louis Arena by a group that included Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, general manager Ken Holland and current coach Mike Babcock.
A certain Hall of Famer, Lidstrom said this season he began to feel the grind and toll of a long season and wasn't comfortable not being able to play at the level he expected of himself. He missed 12 games in 2011-12, having been absent for less than 40 between 1991 through to the 2010-11 season.
Lidstrom has been a part of four championship teams between 1997 and 2008 and become the first European to serve as captain of a Stanley Cup winner.
"I think the first one is special because it took us a long time to get there," he said, referencing disappointments the Wings suffered in the preceding two seasons.
He won the Norris Trophy seven times between 2001 and 2011 as top NHL defenceman.
Lidstrom is sixth all-time among defencemen with 878 assists, to go along with 264 goals for 1,142 points. He's appeared in 1,564 regular season games, 10th most on the all-time list.
"Nick Lidstrom's trademarks were his respect for hockey, his humanity and his commitment to his craft, as well as his devotion to the highest standards of success. For so many seasons, Nick gave the very best to his team, his city and his League; as he moves on to the next stage of his life, we wish the very same for him and his family."
A veteran of 263 career playoff games, Lidstrom compiled 54 goals and 129 assists and is a plus-61 in post-season contests.
The native of Vesteras, Sweden is one of a limited number of players belonging to the so-called "Triple Gold Club," those who've won a world championship, Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup in their careers.
Detroit never missed the post-season during Lidstrom's time, the defender instrumental in helping turn around a franchise which languished for two decades after the first glorious era of the franchise featuring Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Alex Delvecchio.
"I'm very thankful to meet some of those older players that have been part of this organization for so many years," Lidstrom said.
Lidstrom was accompanied Thursday by his wife, Annika, and three of his four sons.
He said the family will move back to Sweden to be closer to their extended family. Lidstrom said he was open to remaining with the Red Wings organization in some capacity.
Detroit, eliminated in the opening round for the first time in six years, will now have to move forward with a new-look blue-line. Brad Stuart is an unrestricted free agent, with Kyle Quincey a restricted free agent.
"I've been dreading this day since I became general manager in 1997," Holland said, adding that he believed Lidstrom was the greatest player of his generation.
The team is expected to be one of many to make a push for unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter.
Detroit will eventually have to choose a new captain. Lidstrom succeeded Steve Yzerman in that role in 2006.
When asked his opinion, Lidstrom said any of Henrik Zetterberg, Valterri Filppula or Niklas Kronwall would be deserving candidates.