By Larry Lage ,AP
DETROIT — Swedish defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired after 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, ending one of the best careers in NHL history on Thursday.
The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman fought back tears as he made the announcement.
“My drive and motivation are not where they need to be to play at this level,” Lidstrom said.
The 42-year-old set an NHL record by playing 1,564 games with a single team. He had put retirement on hold in each of the previous two years by signing one-year contracts.
“I’ve been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Lidstrom had 264 career goals with 1,142 points. After being incredibly durable for 19 seasons, he missed a career-high 11 games with a bruised right ankle and was out for another game with the flu.
“That didn’t sway me one way or another,” Lidstrom said. “A couple of weeks after the season is over, you start working out. Once I started doing that I didn’t have the push I need and I can’t cheat myself.”
He plans to move his family to Sweden and hopes to have an off-ice role with the Red Wings.
“Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me,” said Lidstrom, whose oldest of four sons went to Sweden two years ago to attend school and play ice hockey.
Lidstrom was named the NHL’s best defenseman last year for a seventh time, matching Doug Harvey’s total and trailing Bobby Orr’s record by one. When Lidstrom won his final Norris Trophy last summer, he was a finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons.
Defenseman Brad Stuart, who was his teammate for the past four-plus seasons, said he was amazed at Lidstrom’s ability to make the right play on almost every shift game after game.