Dinosaurs roamed the Earth! Okay maybe not that long ago, but far enough in the past that the NHL divisions were named after people instead of vague geographical directions.
Specifically, the last time the Red Wings began a season without Nicklas Lidstrom on the roster was October of 1990. They didn’t know it at the time, but Detroit fans were about to watch their team struggle to a 34-38-8 record, done in by a brutal 3-12-1 stretch in December and January.
Despite the best efforts of 25-year old captain Steve Yzerman (51 goals, 108 points), promising rookie Sergei Fedorov (79 points in 77 games) and overworked goalie Tim Cheveldae (65 games played), the Wings finished 30 points behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the Norris Division. They made the playoffs only to get bounced in the first round by the St. Louis Blues. At least fight fans had something to watch, as Bob Probert, Joey Kocur and Randy McKay combined for 751 PIM–or 80 more than the entire 2011-12 team.
Here are some more fun facts about opening night of the last season in the time BL–Before Lidstrom:
- The number one movie was Marked for Death, starring Steven Seagal. Maxi Priest was sitting atop the U.S. pop chart with his biggest hit, “Close to You.”
- Guy Lafleur was still flying down the wing for the Quebec Nordiques, though he would hang up the skates after the season. Current Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville were also playing in their final NHL campaigns.
- The U.S.S.R. was still a thing, as it didn’t officially dissolve until December of 1991.
- Defenseman Brendan Smith probably wasn’t potty trained yet, seeing as he was one year old.
- Actor Ray Stephens, known as Roy on The Great Space Coaster and less known for his brief stint as lead singer of The Village People, passed away, allegedly from drug abuse.
- Players without helmets were still a semi-common site around the league (the Wings would add one later that season, trading for defenseman Brad Marsh). It would be another six years before the retirement of Craig MacTavish ended the helmetless era for good.
- A show about transplanted midwest teenagers Brandon and Brenda Walsh and their friends Dylan, Kelly, Donna, David and Steve made its prime time debut on Fox, not yet quite established as the fourth TV network. Yes, I’m talking about Beverly Hills 90210, which I may or may not have made sure I watched every week.
Ah, all of that takes me back. Who would have known that the arrival of Lidstrom the next year would kick off a run that would include six Presidents’ Trophies, six conference championships, and best of all, four Stanley Cups?
He won’t have his jersey retired until next season, yet we know he’s definitely not coming back. The Wings will roll on without Number 5, but it’s going to be strange not seeing him out there.