No more “Kronwallings”: defenseman retires but stays as advisor to GM
Niklas Kronwall: “My epic journey as a player for the Detroit Red Wings has come to an end.”
While Niklas Kronwall made his name a verb, his NHL legacy will be as a warrior who battled injuries his entire career and endured for a 15-season career as a solid and decorated defenseman.
Kronwall, 38, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
“They say every journey has to end,” Kronwall said in a video that the Red Wings tweeted and is on their website. “My epic journey as a player for the Detroit Red Wings has come to an end.”
That journey saw the native of Stockholm, Sweden, lace up his skates for 953 regular-season games and a record 83 goals and 432 points. Only Kronwall’s countryman and former teammate Niklas Lidstrom along with Reed Larson and Red Kelly scored more goals among defensemen in franchise history.
Kronwall helped the Red Wings win the 2008 Stanley Cup and Sweden the 2006 Olympic gold medal. He also won the 2006 World Championship gold medal with Sweden to make him a member of the triple gold club (Stanley Cup, Olympic and World Championship gold medals). Kronwall also helped Sweden win an Olympic silver medal in 2014.
“Thank you, Nik,” the Red Wings tweeted.
Numerous injuries throughout his professional career prevented Kronwall from reaching his full potential as a player. He played the last few seasons of his career managing a chronic condition in his left knee.
“I had the pleasure of playing with Niklas early in his career (2003-06), and it was evident from his first season what a special player and person he would become,” Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. “He was among the NHL’s best two-way defensemen of his era and will go down as one of the greatest at his position in Red Wings history.”
Despite that and his relatively slight stature (listed at 6-feet and around 190 pounds), Kronwall was one of the league’s most devastating body checkers both as a young player and during his prime. The unfortunate opponents who went flying after a Kronwall hit began being described around the NHL as getting “Kronwalled.”
“Kronwallings” were few and far between over the last five seasons of his career due to the combination of his injuries and opponents being careful “not to get caught in the tracks” when he was on the ice.
But in 2018-19, in what would be Kronwall’s last NHL campaign, he “Kronwalled” a few more opponents as he scored three goals and delivered 27 points that led all Wings defensemen in a team-leading 79 games.
"It's obviously been a pleasure to play with him. He's been such a great role model for me from Day One,” Justin Abdelkader said on the Red Wings’ website. “Always such a positive guy to talk to, someone that I looked up to for how he carried himself on the ice but especially off the ice and the person he was in the room. Just learned a lot from him and just such a pleasure to have the opportunity to play with him."
Kronwall was at his peak from 2007-08 to 2010-11, when he teamed with Brad Stuart on the Wings’ second defensive pairing behind the top duo of Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski.
Kronwall, who was Detroit’s first-round pick (29th overall) in the 2000 NHL Draft, was an unrestricted free agent after last season. He requested that the organization not include his name in trade talks approaching the trading deadline last winter because he wanted to remain a Red Wing. Then-GM Ken Holland granted Kronwall’s request.
He will stay with the organization as Yzerman’s advisor.
“Niklas has a sharp hockey mind and is highly respected in the hockey world,” Yzerman said. “He has the makeup and work ethic of someone who will have a very successful career in management, and I am thrilled that he will remain with the franchise on the hockey operations staff.”
Said Kronwall: “When one chapter ends, another starts. I’m very excited with my new role for the Detroit Red Wings.”