October is upon us. For Nicklas Lidstrom, that’s meant only one thing for 20 NHL seasons.
It’s sinking in more than ever now for the longtime Detroit Red Wings captain that his life has begun a new chapter.
"I think it’s [hit] home a little bit that I haven’t prepared for a season like I’m used to, I haven’t skated with the guys, we’re not in Traverse City, I’m not doing the old routine," Lidstrom told ESPN.com over the phone Thursday from Sweden. "I think it’s hit me now that I am retired."
Scott Niedermayer, a fellow former superstar blueliner, remembers that first fall without hockey in October 2010 very well.
"The first time that you’re not on the ice in that environment with your teammates, it’s a big change," Niedermayer told ESPN.com Thursday. "But for me, probably the hardest part was in the spring. Things had quieted down after the original excitement of being retired, maybe because it was playoff time, but that’s when I missed it the most -- in the spring."
It might actually have hit Lidstrom a little more had he known old buddies Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg were stepping onto the Joe Louis Arena ice next week for another season opener. The NHL lockout will ensure that won’t happen in the near future.
"It might have been different, I guess, if I’d be turning on the TV and they’d be showing highlights of the preseason with the regular season just about to start," Lidstrom said. "Obviously that hasn’t happened yet. But I was pretty content and very happy with my decision in late May when I made it. Lockout or no lockout, I had made up my mind that I was going to retire."
And he sounds like a man that has zero regrets about his decision. He’s back home in Sweden, and he’s spending more time with his kids.
"We’re all going to a movie tonight, should be good," Lidstrom said with genuine excitement in his voice.
But he hasn’t cut ties with the game. Far from it. He accepted a front office job from the Red Wings, one which could see him do a bit of everything -- scouting, player development, corporate events -- as he gets his feet wet in his post-playing career. It’s the approach the Wings took with Steve Yzerman, Kris Draper and Chris Chelios, as well.
"It’s all-encompassing," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Thursday. "We want Nick to figure out what interests him the most, what fits the best for him."
"Kenny left it open for me," Lidstrom said. "It’s like what they did with Stevie, Chelly and Drapes, the same format for me to just kind of feel my way around."
He’s already started his coaching career, as well.
"I’m helping out with my 12-year-old’s team, I’m an assistant coach," Lidstrom said. "It’s been really nice. It’s a first step for me to start with youth hockey. I’m not ready to step into the men’s team yet here in Sweden. Because I know how much time you need to sacrifice to be a coach. It’s a lot more time than a player."
No surprise, Lidstrom says a few Swedish teams gently inquired about whether he’d come out of retirement. Well, kind of.
"A couple of teams kind of threw that question out there, somewhat jokingly, but I haven’t wavered yet," he chuckled. "I’m still holding strong. I’m happy with where I’m at now."
The Perfect Human has perfectly adjusted.
Niedermayer enjoying opportunity with Ducks
Scott Niedermayer is entering his third year of NHL retirement and plans to continue his work as a part-time consultant with the Anaheim Ducks.
He told ESPN.com Thursday he’ll once again work with the team’s prospects, including trips to AHL Norfolk.
"As of right now, I will continue what I’ve done," Niedermayer said.
He’s yet to decide what exactly he’s going to make his full-time focus.
"At a certain point, I’m probably going to have to make a real commitment to something, that would be my guess, going forward," Niedermayer said. "What that means? At this point, I can’t tell you. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity they’ve given me and the flexibility it’s given me. For instance, just last weekend I was out in Connecticut with my 11-year-old. They had a tournament there, I was on the bench and a part of that and really enjoyed that. I really enjoy to be able to do things like that."