When Red Wings defenseman Nick Lidstrom announced his retirement Thursday, the first former teammate he thanked was Steve Yzerman.
When Lidstrom talked about building the foundation for his career, Yzerman — Detroit's captain when Lidstrom joined the team in 1991 and now the Lightning's general manager — was his first reference point.
"Stevie was our leader," Lidstrom said. "What I learned from him over the years was his work ethic. He never took anything for granted. He worked hard, whether it was on the ice in practice or in the gym afterward. When you see a player like that, one of the leaders and one of the best players in the world do that, it's easy for young guys to follow."
"Nick's being very kind, and I appreciate it," Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times. "But the reality is from the very first day, Nick was the same way: professional, classy, hard-working. He never changed for 20 years."
Yzerman, who played 14 seasons and won three Stanley Cups with Lidstrom before retiring in 2006, called his former teammate who succeeded him as captain one of the NHL's greatest players regardless of position.
"The consistency that he played with over 20 years from such a high level, from his very first game in the NHL, puts him among the all-time greats," Yzerman said.
"I don't know that people realize or appreciate how skilled he was. He was a tremendous athlete, but because he was such an intelligent player, it wasn't obvious. Everything he did was subtle. I always compare him to Roger Federer. He plays hockey like Roger Federer plays tennis."