I’ll Miss You, Mr. Lehtinen

A great hockey player retired yesterday.  If you’re not a Stars fan, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Jere Lehtinen, but that’s basically the story of his career.

Jere retired the way he played: quietly, with grace.  All summer long, we Stars fans worried and moaned over Mike Modano’s impending departure but never really gave much thought to the quiet Finn who had faithfuly served us for 14 seasons.

But that’s ok, because Jere wouldn’t have wanted us to stress over his potential retirement.  Lehts was the kind of guy who never thought about his points, yet would never accept a point that wasn’t rightfully his (that truly happened). 

The thing about Jere Lehtinen is that he was the perfect hockey player.  He never racked up points the way Mike Modano did, but Jere was the perfect balance of offense and defense.  He knew how to play offense, but more importantly, he understood how to play in his own end.  Lehts was only ever a minus once in his entire career (last season) and he finished with a career plus-minus of +176.  A team comprised entirely of Jere Lehtinen clones would win the Cup year after year, no problem.

There really aren’t a ton of moments that really stand out from Jere’s career, but there a couple.  One, is Jere’s goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in 1999.  I will forever be amazed at how that goal went in.  The second, is April 8, 2010.  The night truly belonged to Mike Modano, but it was made even more emotional (for me, at least) when Jere scored the clincher in the shootout.  So perfect that Jere Lehtinen, a complement to everyone he played with, would seal the win.

My hope is that Jere Lehtinen will get his number retired, and it probably will be.  Real Stars fans know just how valuable he was to the franchise.  Jere was one of a kind and is completely irreplaceable.

Thanks for everything, 26.

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