Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Jere Lehtinen retires
By Mark Stepneski
Jere Lehtinen made it official today. He's retiring from hockey.
Lehtinen, who battled injuries the previous three seasons, had been pondering since the end of last season whether to return to hockey or retire. Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk had kept the door open for a possible return this season, but today Lehtinen closed the door.
"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," Lehtinen said in a statement released by the Stars. "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."
Lehtinen, who turned 37 in June, played 14 NHL seasons, all of them with the Stars. He registered 514 points (243 goals, 271 assists) in 875 games. He ranks third in franchise history in games played, seventh in goals and eighth in points.
He led the Stars in goal scoring three times: 2002-03 (31 goals); 2005-06 (33 goals); 2006-07 (26 goals).
Lehtinen was a member of the Stars'1999 Stanley Cup championship team. In the Stanley Cup Final against Buffalo, he scored the Stars' first goal in Game 6 and then assisted on Brett Hull's Cup-winning goal in the third overtime.
A fourth-round pick (88th overall) in the 1992 NHL Draft, Lehtinen ranks fourth in franchise history in playoff games played (108) and sixth in playoff goals (27).
He won the Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward, three times (1998, 1999, and 2003). He's one of only four players to win it three times or more. Bob Gainey (4), Guy Carbonneau (3) and Pavel Datsyuk (3) are the others.
Lehtinen also won four Olympic medals playing for Finland, picking up bronze medals in 1994, 1998 and 2010 and a silver medal in 2006. He helped Finland win a gold medal at the 1995 World Championship, as well.
Lehtinen's first game with the Stars was October 7, 1995 vs. Winnipeg. His final game for Dallas was April 10, 2010 at Minnesota.