When you think of what the Red Wings have long been built on, it’s the “every-dayer” as former head coach Mike Babcock coined. When you think of what the model Red Wings style of play is, it’s always been about playing both ways... And when you think of who filled that mold seamlessly, it has long been Henrik Zetterberg.
It’s absurd that Henrik Zetterberg never won a Selke Trophy, and then when you really think about it, it’s even more absurd that Pavel Datsyuk won it three years in a row in Hank’s prime years. That’s how sickeningly good this team was. They had two of the best two-way players in the game, and to top it all off, the best defenseman the NHL has ever seen (Lidstrom>Orr - we will not have this discussion). But really, what defined Henrik Zetterberg was his freakish stamina, his strength, and, last but certainly not least, the way his vision always had him one step in front of everyone else.
Really, though, if you could encapsulate Henrik Zetterberg’s career in one highlight reel, a short bit of video that shows just how special he was, it’s this:
The Conn Smythe Shift. pic.twitter.com/VPofaMXTmu— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 14, 2018
Henrik Zetterberg’s time in Detroit came at a turning point for the Red Wings — he was a ‘franchise player” who was behind multiple other ‘franchise players.’ He was the captain who followed legendary talents in Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. Hank essentially spent years playing with the best team in history to wind up leading a team stocked with aging veterans, and depth players. Zetterberg learned for a duo of “quiet leaders” before him, which molded him into the leader that he is/was.
40 should go down as one of the most underrated Red Wings of the modern era. Without him, there was no ‘euro-twins,’ there was no 2008 title, and there sure as hell was no Ken Holland. The dude was freakin’ drafted in the 7th round — marking the best of the class alongside the Sedin Twins. It wasn’t until his later years that I truly fell in love with the way Henrik Zetterberg played. He had that silent swagger, that seemingly creative control over the game... He was the type of player that teams wished they had.
If you’re a Red Wings fan, you’ve likely read through most of this saying to yourself “yeah, no kidding,” and that should tell you, those of you who didn’t spend 15 years watching Henrik Zetterberg night-in and night-out, just what kind of a player he was. But hold on, let’s look outside the player.
The Zetterberg family (Henrik and Emma) believed in humanitarianism. For years, the Zetterberg Foundation promoted human welfare, whether it be in the classroom, providing healthcare, or just simply being there to make you smile when there seemed to be no reason to smile.
The Zetterberg Foundation was established in 2013 by Emma and Henrik Zetterberg in order to increase and expand their efforts in giving back to the city of Detroit, and the charitable causes they believe in globally; involving children, education, and healthcare.
The Zetterbergs realized what an enormous impact their personal involvement has had on the individuals and communities they’ve helped over the years, so they decided to take their support to another level by establishing the foundation. This will enable others to join the Zetterbergs in helping those that don’t have the resources and means to help themselves.
Point is, Henrik Zetterberg is more than just an athlete. Yes, he has inspired dozens of players in the NHL, but the Zetterberg name has left an everlasting impact on hundreds of lives not only in the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan, but around the world.
The Motor City is losing an unsung icon in Hank, he will be truly missed.. Not only by fans, but his teammates, too.