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Lidstrom’s wife, Annika, left the door open for her husband to keep playing even though that in effect would often make her a single parent for another season.

“She even said, `If you want to play another year, we can make this work,” he recalled in one of many emotional moments at Joe Louis Arena.

Lidstrom was named the NHL’s best defenseman last year for a seventh time since 2001, matching Doug Harvey’s total and trailing Bobby Orr’s league 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 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.

“I’ve played with great players who made mistakes, but I can’t think of one game when I thought, `Nick just didn’t have it tonight,’” Stuart said during this year’s one-series postseason. “He’s that same, steady, amazing defenseman every night. I think I’ve seen him out of breath maybe three or four times in a few years because he’s so smart, he gets himself in the right position to make a play.”

The four-time Olympian scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden over Finland in 2006. He became the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008, six years after being the first from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP.

New Jersey Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder, a fellow Swede, said Lidstrom is an icon at home.

“In my eyes, he’s the best Swedish player we’ve had over here,” Tallinder said. “No offense to (Peter) Forsberg and (Mats) Sundin. Just with four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies, that says it all, I think.

Lidstrom’s 6-foot-2, 190-pound body is chiseled thanks to a year-round workout that includes exercise before practice and after games along with a sensible diet that includes only occasional slices of pizza and fast food. His teammates called him “The Perfect Human,” in part because he’s as humble as he is successful on the ice.

As he said goodbye, Lidstrom thanked the owners, front office staff, coaches and teammates _ as all retiring players do _ and then added his own touch by praising behind-the-scenes contributors such as Leslie Baker, who serves meals to players and their families.

“It’s one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history with Nick retiring and all you people showing your respect for such a high-quality individual,” Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said at the packed news conference that included team employees wearing Lidstrom’s No. 5 red jersey with a winged wheel.

When Ilitch’s wife, Marian, spoke about Lidstrom after the news conference, tears rolled down both of her cheeks.

“I’m happy for him and his family _ as sad as I am to lose him,” she said. “It’s a bittersweet day.”

Steve Yzerman’s No. 19 jersey became the sixth retired by the storied franchise and was hoisted to the rafters in 2007 alongside Gordie Howe’s No. 9, Ted Lindsay’s No. 7, Terry Sawchuck’s No. 1, Alex Delvecchio’s No. 10 and Sid Abel’s No. 12.

Lidstrom’s No. 5 will likely be next.

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