Brad McCrimmon

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Q&A: Nicklas Lidstrom on his toughest losses, influence of Brad McCrimmon

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Nicklas Lidstrom spent this past weekend in Toronto taking part in the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend of festivities. He captained one of the teams during Sunday’s Legends Classic and watched as another European player, Vaclav Nedomansky, was enshrined Monday night.

While the former Red Wings captain, a 2015 inductee, is one of four Swedish players in the Hall of Fame, he sees more and more European players who will find their way to Toronto in the near future.

“I think we will have more representatives and more Europeans coming in as they get older,” Lidstrom told NBC Sports this week. “I know [Marian] Hossa’s been mentioned, Pavel Datsyuk is coming up, Henrik Lundqvist, the Sedin twins are coming up. Just talking about Swedes, but in general I think you’ll see more Europeans as these guys get older.”

Lidstrom has spent part of the fall promoting his book Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection, which was released in October.

We spoke with Lidstrom this week about his book, what current defensemen he enjoys watching, and what the “Perfect Human” isn’t good at.

Enjoy.

PHT: You write in the book about your first contract with Detroit and thinking you’ll play a few years and then go back home. What was behind that thinking and were there times later in your career where you contemplated that again?

LIDSTROM: “I didn’t really know what to expect when I first signed with the Wings. I didn’t know what it was like living overseas and playing in the NHL, playing almost twice as many games as I did in Europe at the time. That’s why in my mind I said I’m going to give it a try anyway and play a few years and see how it goes. If I’m not successful I can always move back and play in Sweden again. My mindset wasn’t to play 20 years or play a real long time. It was more just get used to playing and living in the U.S. and the NHL.”

PHT: You also wrote about Brad McCrimmon and how big of an influence he was on you in those early years. Did any of the lessons he taught you — on or off the ice — influence in how you dealt with younger players when you were the veteran?

LIDSTROM: “Yeah, one of the things he mentioned was that you’ve got to go to work every day, meaning you don’t take days off and you’ve got to work hard every day. He said if you do that then you’re a pro. If you do it well you can be a star. That’s something I tried to help younger players with as well, [telling them] just got to go there and work hard and feel good about yourself leaving the rink every day.”

PHT: A lot of players quoted in the book talk about how hard it was to get you off your game. Were you always like that as a player, even as a youth?

LIDSTROM: “No, as I matured and got older I developed that. In my junior years, not that I would lose my temper real bad, but I would try to get even or slash someone back if someone was trying to get under my skin. I would sometimes get sucked into that as a junior player. As I matured and as I got to know the game a lot more and became better I was able to keep my emotions intact and focus on the game.”

PHT: You play through a few different eras of the NHL. Today, there are no Derian Hatcher type defenseman. You have to be a good skater, be able to move the puck well. How do you think a 21-year-old Nick Lidstrom would do in the NHL in 2019?

LIDSTROM: “I think I would have adapted and adjusted to the style of today’s game. That’s what I had to do as a 34-, 35-year-old when they changed the rules in 2005. You have to adjust. You were taught to grab and hold and put your stick around someone’s waist, that was how you were taught when you first came into the league. All of a sudden, that’s a penalty every time you do it, so you had to adjust. As a young player I think I would have been able to adjust to that style, too. I was a mobile defenseman in a younger age, so I think I would have been able to adjust to that type of style earlier, too.”

PHT: Who are the defenseman you enjoy watching the most today?

LIDSTROM: “There’s so many good, young players today. Good skaters, they’re good at moving the puck. They wanted you to be big defenseman and maybe the real skill guys were a couple of every team, or three, four at the most, and now you see the opposite. Now you see skill is what team’s are looking for. They’re looking for skating defensemen and guys that can move the puck and be part of the offense. 

“I saw Rasmus Dahlin here in Sweden a couple of weeks ago when they played Tampa and seeing his style of play, how confident he plays with the puck. Cale Makar, I haven’t seen him play live but I’ve watched some highlights of him recently, too. They’re all good skaters and they can move the puck and they can be part of the offense. There’s a lot more mobility on the backend than there used to be.”

PHT: And the exciting thing is guys like Dahlin and Makar, they’re playing at that level right away. It’s not as if they’re older veterans.

LIDSTROM: “That’s what’s so impressive. Rasmus is 19 and Cale [is 21]. I’m so impressed with how they come in and really take charge of the game. You didn’t see that when I came in or even 10 years ago you didn’t see many players that young coming in and being so important to their teams. That’s another thing that’s impressive: how the young guys and young stars of the league have been able to step in and contribute right away.”

PHT: For all of the team awards you’ve won — Stanley Cups, gold medals — is there a loss in your career that still bothers you to this day when you think about it?

LIDSTROM: “Always when you think back at some of the losses, the one we had in the Olympics in 2002 against Belarus in the quarterfinals was a tough one. That was a real tough loss for us where we were huge favorite and came out on the wrong end of it. 

“The last Stanley Cup Final that I played in, 2009, was hard, too. We beat Pittsburgh the year before. We had a good team and they had a good team, too, which is why it went to seven games. It was disappointing losing that Game 7 at home.”

PHT: When that puck was squirting out to you in Game 7, were you confident you were about to score before [Marc-Andre] Fleury dove across?

LIDSTROM: “No, I can’t say I was confident because the puck was kind of coming on my off side, so I couldn’t get a lot on it. If the puck had squirted out on the other side it would have been like a one-timer. I had to focus more on getting it on net, but I didn’t get as much on it as I would have liked. That’s why when it came from the off side it makes it a little harder to get all of it. I wasn’t overly confident at all that I would score. I knew it was only within seconds of the buzzer, too, so I knew I had to get a shot off quick.”

PHT: Finally, you’ve had the “Perfect Human” nickname for a long time. But tell me, what is something Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t good at?

LIDSTROM: [laughs] “My wife would tell you a bunch of things. I was so detailed in getting ready for games and focusing on everything around the game, but away from the rink my car could be dirty, I could be sloppy with dishes or things around the house. You’re not as focused as you were at the rink. Those kinds of things.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Video: Calgary Flames pay tribute to Brad McCrimmon

With the Detroit Red Wings in town, the Calgary Flames decided to honor former defenseman Brad McCrimmon, who died in the Lokomotiv Yaroslaval plane crash. As you can see from the post’s main image, the team wore No. 4 McCrimmon jerseys and aired this touching video tribute:

Here’s the photo of Flames players honoring McCrimmon in jersey form:

source: Getty Images

Video: Pierre McGuire looks at the long term effects of what the Russian plane crash could be

The tragedy in Russia that saw all the members of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl perish in a plane crash and leaving just one survivor from the flight has been one of the hardest stories for hockey fans around the world to face up to. From all the former NHL players who died in the crash to all the Russian professionals who lost their lives in the tragedy, it’s been a story that’s affected everyone.

Pierre McGuire, who coached Lokomotiv head coach Brad McCrimmon while with the Hartford Whalers, talked with NBC Sports Talk’s Russ Thaler to discuss what the effects of that tragedy could be on the KHL and to the psyche of all players who make a living hopping planes to travel city to city.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Joey MacDonald could have been playing for Lokomotiv

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There have been plenty of stories that have filtered out since Wednesday’s horrific crash that devastated the hockey world. From bone-chilling tales detailing the ill-fated flight’s last few minutes, to imagining families being notified, to the stories of players and coaches that left us too soon, it’s been surreal to be a hockey fan over the last few days. After hearing so many tragic stories, it’s welcomed reprieve to hear something positive surrounding such a devastating story.

For Joey MacDonald and his family, they know just how close they came to being part of the “darkest day in the history of our sport.”

The back-up goaltender in Detroit revealed to reporters after practice that he had been contemplating a move to the KHL. More specifically, he was seriously considering a move to play with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. Sitting as an unrestricted free agent, MacDonald knew he had to keep his options open this summer. He had to weigh two-way contracts, a season or two with Grand Rapids in the AHL, and even the possibility of playing overseas.

If Detroit hadn’t agreed to make the second year of his contract a one-way deal, he likely would have been on that plane with ex-Red Wings Brad McCrimmon and Ruslan Salei:

“It’s tough, especially with me talking to them. If I would’ve known the guys (former teammate Ruslan Salei, Detroit assistant coach Brad McCrimmon) that were going over there, I probably would’ve signed with them.

“Knowing Rusty (Ruslan Salei) was going there… fortunately Detroit stepped up. This is where I always wanted to play and stay as long as I can.”

(snip)

“I was going over there. I talked to a few teams and there were a couple two-year deals pretty much figured out.

“I talked to them (Yaroslavl) early, before the end of the season. I know they are a great organization.

“No one wants to think about that (how close he came to being on the plane).”

(h/t to Kukla’s Korner)

While all of us grieve the tragedy, MacDonald and his family appreciate just how lucky they are—something that has nothing to do with hockey whatsoever. He even went as far to say that he’d have second thoughts if he was confronted the same decision in two years when his current contract expires. MacDonald explained that other players in the same situation may be hesitant as well:

“I don’t know (if I’d go in the future). Probably not, because my wife is kind of freaked out about it, especially when it was one of the teams I had talked to.

“It would be a tough decision. As of now, I’m here for two years and I don’t have to worry about anything.”

(snip)

“I’m sure it will (affect players’ decisions to play in Russia). I’m sure a lot of players that were thinking about playing in Russia, their decisions will be made a little easier now.”

For now, MacDonald will battle for his place on the Red Wings. In 15 games with the Wings last season, MacDonald put up some of the best numbers of his career. Despite a pedestrian 5-5-3 record, he had a .917 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. He gave up three or less goals in 14 out of 15 appearances; just imagine what his numbers would have looked like if he could have avoided the 7 goals against St. Louis in his last appearance of the season.

With Chris Osgood stepping away from the game (as a player), it leaves MacDonald and Ty Conklin to fight for the back-up spot behind Jimmy Howard this season. Looking ahead, Conklin is only signed for one more season before his contract runs out. If MacDonald can hold off former first rounder Thomas McCollum, the back-up job is his to lose in 2012-13.

But today, all of the hockey stuff is secondary. MacDonald is just grateful that he didn’t end up signing that contract to play in the KHL this season. In this case, real life trumps hockey.

Looking back at the legacies of the victims of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy

September 7, 2011 will go down as one of the darkest days in hockey history, as at least 43 people died in a horrific plane crash on Wednesday. As you probably know by know, the KHL team Lokomotiv suffered most of the losses. While PHT took a look at how the NHL reacted to the stunning news and how people hope to eventually move on from the tragedy, it seems like a good time to look back on the lives of some of the victims.

(For a full list of the players and team members who were believed to be on board, click here.)

Brad McCrimmon (52 years old): McCrimmon was a former assistant coach with the Red Wings who hoped to advance his coaching career by becoming Lokomotiv’s bench boss in May. He had a distinguished NHL career in which he finished with a +444 rating as a defenseman. (You can read more about his career and life in this story at CSNPhilly.com.) Craig Custance provided these heartfelt words about McCrimmon.

McCrimmon connected with everyone — children, teammates, fans, media. He was an incredible father to his two children and was loved by those he played with — and those who played for him. He was ready to take on his latest challenge in life, and it was easy to see it resulting in a future offer for an NHL job. Mostly because he didn’t just talk of things he learned on the farm — trust, respect, discipline, accountability and sacrifice. He lived it. Just not nearly long enough.

Pavol Demitra (36): Demitra was a three-time All-Star during an NHL career that spanned 16 seasons. Injuries were often a problem for the very skilled Slovakian, but he showed how much of an impact he could make in the 2010 Olympics, scoring 10 points in just seven games to become the tournament’s leading scorer. Michael Russo caught up with Demitra’s agent, who provided this heartbreaking quote.

I just got off the phone with agent Matt Keator, who was with Demitra in Riga, Latvia, three weeks ago and confirmed to me that Demitra sadly was killed: “I just want everybody to know what kind of infectious energy he has, what a wonderful person he was. People were drawn to Demo.”

source: APRuslan Salei (36): Just as recently as last season, Salei was an NHL defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings. The rugged defensemen played 917 regular season games in his NHL career, but many will remember him for his off-beat sense of humor, including his strange craving for a drink that was “half-Pepsi, half-beer.”

Karlis Skrastins (37): The stay-at-home defenseman earned an “Ironman” streak by playing 487 consecutive games, but former PHT editor Brandon Worley remembers him as a warm and inviting person off the ice.

I had the pleasure of meeting Karlis Skrastins last fall. Like many NHL players he was more than willing to stop and chat. I walked away amazed at how humble he was and how quick to smile he was while chatting with me, a genuinely nice guy whose enthusiasm for hockey was infectious. His teammates felt the same way and everyone will remember Karlis as a man who made an impact on their lives just from having known him, how his quiet intensity drove him every night on the ice and his work ethic drove him off it.

Josef Vasicek (30): The Czech-born forward played for the New York Islanders, Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes before moving on to the KHL. His best memories from his seven NHL seasons probably came during the 2006 playoffs when he won a Stanley Cup with Carolina.

Karel Rachunek (32): The former Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils defenseman has been affiliated with Lokomotiv even before the team became a member of the KHL. He was the team’s captain.

Alexander Karpovtsev (41) and Igor Korolev (41): Two former Chicago Blackhawks who served as assistant coaches were also victims of the crash.

***

Since we couldn’t cover every player and coach who was a victim of this awful accident, here’s a video tribute to the team that hopefully does everyone justice. (H/T to The Royal Half.)

[vodpod id=Video.15377235&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

(Various sources were helpful in putting together this post, including these bios from The Associated Press.)