Lockout holds back new era of Red Wings hockey

DETROIT - Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are prepared to carry the torch in Hockeytown, but thanks to the NHL lockout, the new era of leadership in Detroit must wait.

"I doesn't really matter what position the team is in. Things like this is a place you don't want to be in," Kronwall says of the stalemate between the owners and players.

For the past 27 seasons, the Red Wings have seen only two players wear the coveted "C" on their jersey.

Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom are considered two of the best captains in the history of the game. Whenever the season begins, it will likely be Zetterberg next in that line of storied winged-wheel leaders.

"I think ever since Hank's been, even 17 or 18, when we started playing together, he's always been one of the leaders on the team," Kronwall says of Zetterberg.

Being a vocal leader is something Zetterberg has evolved into, and Kronwall attributes that to learning from osmosis.

"That's something that's gradually come over the past few years, seeing how Nick and Stevie handled themselves. I think that Hank learned a lot from that," Kronwall explains.

Kronwall and Zetterberg watched with the rest of us this summer, as prominent free agents spurned Detroit. It started with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and ended with Shane Doan.

As a result, the Red Wings will take a chance on young players in the upcoming season. Prospects will get a chance to fight for spots, as Ken Holland and the team's staff hope competition fuels success. The roster is notably younger, but veteran anchors remain.

Just years removed from being "the young guys" in the locker room, the pair of Swedes now look forward with their futures secure.

Zetterberg agreed to a 12-year contract three years ago that will keep him in Detroit until he is 40, and Kronwall signed a seven-year extension last fall.

"The last few years, the people in the stands, it's just crazy. The state of Michigan really breathes hockey," Kronwall says.

Zetterberg echoed what fellow Swedish players have said before him: Detroit reminds him of his homeland. Thus, he's choosing to stay in Detroit during the lockout.

"It might be tough if this drags on for a bit, to not be on the ice. Hopefully we can solve this problem and be back playing here," he says.

Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli.

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