FARMINGTON, MICH. - Twenty years ago, Nick Lidstrom arrived in Detroit a fresh-faced rookie defenceman from the Swedish Elite League.
Even Hockey Hall of Fame locks need someone to help them feel comfortable and watch over them in those formative years. For Lidstrom, that friendly face was veteran teammate Brad McCrimmon.
"Brad was my first defence partner in the NHL," said the Detroit Red Wings captain, who attended McCrimmon's funeral Saturday afternoon in Farmington, Mich. "He looked after me and took me under his wing. He was a mentor for me.
"On the ice, he was more the stay-at-home type and it allowed me to jump into the offensive side a little more."
Lidstrom had 60 points that first year and McCrimmon had his back the entire season.
For three years before he went to Russia to pursue his coaching dreams, McCrimmon ran the Wings defensive corps, which of course, still includes Lidstrom.
"Some of that reputation (that earned McCrimmon the nicknames Beast and Sarge during his playing days) came out," Lidstrom said. "When he was coaching us and wanted something done, he let you know about it. But there was another side to him. He was a gentle person."
McCrimmon is the only member of the the NHL's top 10 in the career plus-minus category (plus-444) who isn't in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Right from the get-go, he had a habit of gravitating to and influencing some of the best defensive players in the game's history.
He was also a first rounder in what is still considered the best influx of talent in NHL annals -- the 1979 draft. Because of a change in the sport's eligibility rules, that year's selection process included two age groups fused together. Rob Ramage, a defenceman with the London Knights, went first overall to the Colorado Rockies.
McCrimmon went 15th overall to Boston. Of the six defencemen picked before him, the Brandon Wheat Kings standout ended up playing more career games
(1,222) than all but one of them -- his Bruins teammate Ray Bourque, who went eighth overall in the same draft.