Nicklas Lidstrom saw his first Detroit Red Wings game from the stands. He was drafted by the Red Wings and was invited to visit the city and get a first look at the Joe Louis Arena.
Lidstrom watched the game and noted that none of the players on the ice wore the number he used back home with his Swedish team Vasteras.
A few months later, Lidstrom was back in Detroit. But, this time, it was serious. This time he would participate in his first training camp with the Red Wings and try to earn a spot on the opening roster.
“One of the equipment managers asked what number I wanted. Number 9, I answered without hesitation. He just looked at me and said, ‘Kid, come with me.’ Then I followed him out to the Joe Louis Arena. We got to the rink, and then he pointed to the ceiling. And there it was, a huge banner with the No. 9 and the name ‘Howe’. The equipment manager said, ‘Ain’t gonna happen’, and left. So I just kept my mouth shut and No. 5 was handed to me.
Twenty-three years later, Lidstrom’s No. 5 got its own place in the ceiling, next to Gordie Howes.