Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall retired on Tuesday, and on Wednesday afternoon, he spoke with the Red Wings’ media corps at Little Caesars Arena.
(If you want to skip the text, the Wings posted the full 17-minute media availability on YouTube…)
Kronwall told WXYZ’s Brad Galli that he more or less knew that this past season would be his final campaign…
“Everyone has probably known for a while, even just going back to last summer. I went into last season thinking it was definitely going to be the last one. I didn’t even dream that the potential of playing another year was even going to be on the table. So that was obviously very humbling,” he said.
Kronwall was thrilled with how much he played this year, but knew “for a while” he was retiring.
And Kronwall told Galli that he appreciated the fact that he was able to finish his career as a Red Wing:
Kronwall said he had no interest in playing for another team last season. Ken Holland approached him about a chance for a deadline deal. The longtime Detroit defenseman got emotional thanking Holland for granting his wish to stay.
“He came to me and asked me what I wanted to do,” Kronwall said. “A lot of GMs probably would just have done what would have been best for the team and organization in the long run, getting a pick or whatever. But again, it’s just another thing that stands out for me how he treated me over the years.”
Kronwall pondered whether he could have or should have hit 1,000 games while speaking with Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff…
If there was a bittersweet factor in his decision, it was that Kronwall fell just 47 games shy of the 1000-game milestone.
Certainly, losing the entire 2004-05 season and part of the 2012-13 campaign to NHL owner lockouts cost him this milestone. But Kronwall wasn’t convinced that playing another season would get him there, either.
“Would I have hit 1000?” he asked. “We don’t know. We don’t know. I don’t know if that’s something that’s going to change anything. I always looked at 1000 as something extremely special. I always had so much respect for guys that have played 1,000 games.
“I wish I would have played 1,000 games. But at the same time, the situation is what it is and I feel at peace with the decision. I know it’s the right call. I’m happy for the guys that have reached 1,000. Unfortunately, I won’t.”
Kronwall thanked the Red Wings’ coaches and management for giving him the time he needed to be absolutely certain that he was going to retire, as he told DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji…
“That’s something I’m very thankful and grateful that they gave me the time and space that I needed,” Kronwall said. “Basically just ‘take your time, do what you need to do and let us know.’ They’ve known for a little bit and I’m thankful for giving me that time, giving my family the time.”
Kronwall was reminded that at the trade deadline last year, there were teams that were interested in him and former general manager Ken Holland also left that decision up to him.
“Ken approached me, asked what I’d like to do, if I wanted to go somewhere. And I owe Ken Holland so much,” Kronwall said, pausing again. “He had the respect, he came to me and asked me what I wanted to do. I think a lot of GMs probably just would have done what would have been best for the team and for the organization in the long run, whether you get a pick or whatever that might be. But again, just another thing that stands out for me with how he treated me over the years.”
And Wakiji spoke with Ken Holland regarding Kronwall as well:
“He helped build it,” Holland, the current Edmonton Oilers general manager, said in a phone interview. “When he showed up, he was the first European to ever win the trophy as the best defenseman in the American Hockey League, he did that, I think in ’04-’05 in the lockout. For 11 or 12 years, came to the rink every day and helped us win on defense. Played hard, played hurt. For me, he had earned that respect. I went to him and asked him if he wanted to go to another team and let me know what team and I would try to make it happen, take one more run at a Stanley Cup. He just wanted to have his entire career in a Red Wing uniform and I certainly respected his wishes and his desires.
“I hold him in the highest, highest regard. When you’re a general manager, there’s lots of things you need when you build a team and Nik brought all those characteristics and qualities to the team – class, dignity, compete, skill. He’s a team guy, he was all about the team, it wasn’t about him or his ice time or his role, it was about winning. You can’t have enough of those people in the locker room.”
Kronwall reflected upon his career most fondly regarding its team achievements, not its individual “greatest hits,” as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan…
“I got to be a part of something here in ’08 that was very special that I’ll never forget,” Kronwall said. “And to me, being a part of one organization, this is an Original Six franchise, there’s so much around it, it’s more than hockey. The people, the fans, there’s just so much around it with this team that I wanted to stay, I wanted to see this through, and I wanted to play my whole career for this franchise and I’m happy I got that opportunity.”
He prefers not to talk about the many big hits he’s delivered through the years, what became known in hockey circles as being “Kronwalled.”
“It never bothered me one bit. It was just part of the game,” Kronwall said. “You hit and you get hit. Mikko Koivu knocked me out a few years ago and that’s just part of the game. You give some, you take some, you get up and you go back to work.”
He doesn’t concern himself with his legacy, saying that is for others to decide.
“All through the years you try to be a good teammate and work hard,” Kronwall said. “Regardless of what you do in life, I think everything comes back to that.”
Kronwall told the Swedish press that he’s going to stay in Metro Detroit for at least another year, and he reiterated that to the Free Press’s Helene St. James…
“There are a lot of things that appeal to us here in Michigan,” Kronwall said. “Our kids are born here. They have their friends here, they have their schools here. And getting a chance to resurface with the Detroit Red Wings, that have meant so much to me, I’m thrilled for the opportunity.”
Kronwall will “resurface” at training camp as an adviser to Yzerman, a job that came about after Yzerman asked Kronwall: ” ‘If you won’t be playing, what would you like to do?’ I said I’d like to stay within hockey.”
The details are still being worked out, but Kronwall will be at training camp in Traverse City when the Wings gather later this month. This time, though, he’ll be wearing a black jacket with a Wings logo on it and sitting in a corner taking notes.
“It’s going to be very, very different,” he said. “But I’m very much looking forward to learning as much as possible, seeing how things are run and finding my own way.”
His transition to the front office — a path Yzerman took in 2006 after he retired — eases the transition from “Kronwall-ing” to a corner office.
“It won’t be a hard cutoff from everything,” Kronwall said. “I still get to be a part of this, and I’m excited for the challenge.”
And Kronwall challenged himself–and his team–to get better, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted:
Kronwall will become a special advisor to general manager Steve Yzerman, a former teammate.
“I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like but I’m super excited,” said Kronwall of the newly-created position. “I feel like I have a good perspective of things around the ice. When it comes to hockey, I’m excited to learn a different side of the game.”
Missing the playoffs the last three seasons have been difficult, after so much team success, including being part of the 2008 Stanley Cup champions.
“Of course it has (been frustrating), it has on everybody,” Kronwall said. “We used to be one of the powerhouses, we were for so many years, and I got to be part of some of those years. But yes, it’s been frustrating. There’s been some tough times, no doubt about it, but it should be tough when you’re losing. You can never be satisfied if you’re losing.
“Now, I do think there’s a lot of good pieces in here and we’ll surprise a lot of teams this year.”
In the multimedia department, WXYZ and MLive posted short YouTube videos from Kronwall’s presser…
Helene St. James posted about a third of Kronwall’s presser…
And the Detroit News posted a 4-minute video: