As talks continue in the NHL dispute between the players and owners, and previously scheduled regular season games are falling by the wayside, there is one elite athlete who is patiently waiting to take his permanent spot in hockey history.
Once this labour dispute is over, it will become official: Nicklas Lidstrom's No. 5 will be retired by the Detroit Red Wings.
It's an amazing stamp on an NHL career that began with modest expectations. It was only due to diligence that Lidstrom landed on the radar of North American hockey evaluators in the first place.
Current Red Wings general manager and executive vice president Ken Holland first found out about the defenceman in January 1989 through Neil Smith, who was then with the Detroit organization before becoming an eventual Stanley Cup winning GM with the New York Rangers.
Detroit's chief European scout at the time, Christer Rockstrom, is credited with discovering Lidstrom.
"Neil Smith told me that Christer Rockstrom found this skinny scrawny defenceman in Sweden playing for a Division 1 team," said Holland.
At the time the Wings were one of the few teams scouting in Sweden.
"Most (NHL) teams were scouting elite teams in Europe, so players like Lidstrom fell under the radar," said Holland.
Detroit drafted Lidstrom 53rd overall in 1989, and Holland saw him play for the first time later that year at the world juniors.
"We weren't sure if he could play in the NHL," Holland admitted.
Through his play, Lidstrom answered that question resoundingly, never spending a minute in the minors.
But it wasn't just on-ice skill that made Holland realize the Vesteras, Sweden native could be something special.
"Lidstrom [over the years] was part of a Detroit Red Wings team that had a lot of budding stars. He was OK with guys like Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, and Vladimir Konstantinov getting all the attention," the GM said.
During his early years with the Wings, Lidstrom shared ice-time with Konstantinov. In fact, they would both score their first NHL goals in the same game on Oct. 17, 1991.
After the 1996-1997 Stanley Cup win, and the tragic reality that Konstantinov's career would end due to a life-altering car crash, it was quietly understood that Lidstrom needed to take his game to the next level.
Scotty Bowman was Detroit's coach at the time, and he never sat Lidstrom down to tell him he needed to step up, Bowman simply played his young defenceman more; his 5-on-5 ice-time increased, and he more frequently manned the power play and the penalty kill.
Lidstrom excelled and never looked back.
"His game on the ice was efficient," said Holland. "He doesn't really 'wow' you. His wow factor was that he did it every day, night after night, year after year."
Current Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was the beneficiary of the efficiency for seven seasons,
"He's a special man," said Babcock. "He's done everything and he did it with more class and humility that I could think of."
On Feb. 25 of this year, Detroit was playing Colorado and a puck hit Lidstrom on the foot, causing a hairline fracture that sidelined him for about a month.
Holland thought Lidstrom was playing near his usual standard up until that point, but
Babcock knew this was an injury Lidstrom wouldn't bounce back from easily.
"Once he got hurt I just knew," said Babcock. "Lidstrom was so good he just didn't make mistakes, and he didn't heal as quickly as he wanted to."
When Lidstrom returned he was making a few mistakes and was a little slower.
"It was the first time in my managerial career with Lidstrom that I was concerned with him retiring," said Holland.
When Lidstrom approached Holland the past summer to say he was retiring, Holland told him to take another week to think about it. Lidstrom came back a week later and still stood by his decision
"He gave the Red Wings' fans and our organization 20 years we'll never forget."
Detroit is a hockey organization that reveres its history and respects the legends who donned the Winged Wheel by having them stay a part of the club in various ambassador positions.
Holland said this environment will be a perfect fit for a loyal player like Nicklas Lidstrom, who not only respected the organization and his teammates, but the city and its fans as well.
"Nic never came in and asked for seven- or eight-year deals," said Holland. "He wanted to make sure he could honour the contract and that it was fair for him and fair for the team."
Lidstrom has countless accolades, including seven Norris Trophies, tied for second with Doug Harvey, behind only Bobby Orr. These achievements will, without a doubt, land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Regrettably, this NHL legend is being told to wait for his turn to be honoured by fans because of the current labour dispute. But when it's all said and done, the Wings will host a night in tribute.
At that time, as Babcock said, "Lidstrom will take his proper place in our rafters."