After 14 seasons in the NHL, Dallas Stars forward Jere Lehtinen is retiring from hockey. Originally drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in the fourth round of the 1994 draft, Lehtinen didn’t arrive in the NHL until 1995 but once he did he made his mark with the Dallas Stars. Starting off as a third liner and rising his way up to the top to be a first line threat with Mike Modano, Lehtinen made his mark as a goal scoring threat that could also help shut down opposing forwards. Always a solid player but always underrated, Lehtinen finished his career with 243 goals and 271 assists and peaked as a goal scorer in 2005-2006 with 33 goals.
The season Lehtinen will best be remembered for is during the Stars’ Stanley Cup season in 1998-1999 where he finished the regular season with 20 goals and 32 assists and proceeded to score ten more goals in the playoffs leading the Stars to their first and only Stanley Cup.
Lehtinen was a three-time Selke Trophy winner as the leagues best defensive forward and was an All-Star just twice in his career. Told you he was underrated. As for Lehtinen, he shared this statement on the Dallas Stars’ website.
“First of all, I wanted to thank Joe Nieuwendyk and the Stars organization for giving me some time to come to this decision. They respected the fact that I wanted to be 100 percent sure prior to making this announcement, and I appreciated that.
It’s a tough decision due to the fact that you play hockey your entire life and then must decide to stop playing. However, I choose to focus on all the great times I had playing over the past 15 seasons, understanding that I am very fortunate to have played all those years with one organization. The memories I have playing in Dallas will never be forgotten and I will always be proud of the fact that I finished my career where I started it.
There are so many people that have positively influenced my career, including the entire Dallas Stars organization, the coaches, the players, the trainers, the fans and most importantly, my family. To all of those people I want to say thank you. Everybody that touched my career in some facet, whether small or large, had an impact on me and I will always remember that. Thank you.”
Coming from Finland means being compared to the likes of Jari Kurri, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, and Esa Tikkanen but Lehtinen is the only Finnish player to end his career with both a Stanley Cup championship (1999) and a World Championships gold medal (1995). Here’s to hoping that Lehtinen’s understated abilities are properly recognized by the Stars in the form of his number being hung from the rafters.