Red Wings' Lidstrom becomes first European captain to win Stanley Cup

Bill Khan By Bill Khan
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on June 04, 2008 at 10:59 PM, updated November 04, 2009 at 2:44 PM
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom hoists the Stanley Cup after the Red Wings' victory in Game 6.

PITTSBURGH -- Nicklas Lidstrom never set out to break down barriers or shatter myths.

He's a quiet, dignified professional who goes about his business and doesn't attract attention to himself.

Yet, the Detroit Red Wings' star Swedish defenseman continues to make a significant impact on the game, on and off the ice.

Europeans can't bring it come playoff time?

Lidstrom went out and became the first European to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2002.

Europeans can't lead a team to a championship?

Wasn't that Lidstrom accepting the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman Wednesday night following the Red Wings' 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena?

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Lidstrom's Hall of Fame credentials were enhanced not only by his fourth Stanley Cup championship, but by the fact he became the first European captain to accept hockey's ultimate prize.

Lidstrom went out and became the first European to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2002.

In typical fashion, Lidstrom quickly deflected the credit to his teammates.

"I feel it's a tremendous honor and I'm very proud to be the first," Lidstrom said. "I'm very proud of the whole team, too, the way the team has been playing. People said you can't win with Europeans and we proved people wrong. As long as you can skate well, as long as you can be tough to play against, you can still play. I think we've shown that as a team."

It seemed to be only a matter of time before a European captain led his team to a Stanley Cup. At one point this season, 13 of the 30 NHL teams had European captains.

"I might be the first one to win it, but I think you're going to see more and more coming, too," Lidstrom said. "You're seeing more Europeans being captains and assistant captains and being more impact players in the league."

Lidstrom, 38, is in his second season as Detroit's captain, taking over after Steve Yzerman's NHL-record 22-year tenure. Like Yzerman, Lidstrom isn't big on speeches, choosing to pick his spots.

Lidstrom said he has tried to become more vocal in the room and he's had a greater presence as a team spokesman since donning the "C."

"I looked at it as another challenge for me late in my career to be captain of a great team with a lot of history and a great tradition," Lidstrom said.

The greatest lesson Lidstrom said that he learned from Yzerman is this: "You can't just say all the things in the locker room. You have to show up and prove it on the ice, too."

The Red Wings may be biased, but they believe there's no better player to break the barrier than Lidstrom, a five-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenseman.

"It's great to see him lifting the Cup with the 'C' on his chest," said forward Henrik Zetterberg, a Swede who joined Lidstrom as the only European Conn Smythe winners. "It means so much for the team and the organization. He's bringing it every night. He's probably our best player every night."

Lidstrom finished the playoffs with three goals, 10 assists and a plus-8 rating in 22 games.

The victory gave Lidstrom his fourth Stanley Cup in five chances.