Sturm Blog: Honoring #26
The Stars won a shootout on Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes in Dallas to continue their fine play on home ice. They continue to scratch out results, and the further we go along this season, the more the Stars look like they may have something here.
But the highlight from Friday was not the win. Not even close. For those in attendance, the highlight of the night happened during one of those obtrusive TV timeouts that pay all the bills. In the particular one of note, the camera on the scoreboard caught Jere Lehtinen sitting in a suite at the AAC and after showing some highlights of his fine work during his career with the Stars, the arena exploded in applause and adulation for the next 2-3 minutes.
Jere, in perfect Jere fashion, acknowledged the crowd with waves and a smile. He never enjoyed the spotlight, so you could tell he was ready for about 5 seconds on the jumbotron, but when the time went into the 3rd minute, he was certainly looking like a guy who did not know how to react.
His smile continued and you could see the tears welling up in his eyes and even a quiver of his chin. He was proud, he was appreciative, and he was ready for the camera to be off of him as soon as possible.
Man, I really love Jere Lehtinen.
What a player. What a representative of what professional sports can be. In this world of self-promoting, narcissistic, and down-right unlikeable athletes, along comes this pro’s pro from Finland to show us that he can exist in our presence for his entire adult life and simply earn every penny he was ever given.
His work rate was off the charts. His conditioning was never questioned. You didn’t really know what he was always doing in his offseason when he would return with his family to his homeland, but it didn’t matter, since he always came back.
|Lehtinen on the plane ride home from Buffalo in 1999
On the ice, he was tenacious and relentless. He was a coach’s dream in that he could do what you needed him to do. He was tireless and he brought his game every night. You didn’t have to tip-toe around his ego nor did you have to cater to his demands. He simply gave you exactly what he had.
By telling you what a genuine human being he was, I don’t want to understate how great a player he was. The fact is, he was amongst the best in the league for much of his prime at his total game. He played all 200 feet about as well as anyone in the league, and was a huge part of the Stars #1 line when they were one of the best teams in the NHL.
Off the ice, he was one of those guys who was really down to earth and never changed how he dealt with someone because he was a professional athlete. It is simply reality that in this era, we put athletes on such pedestals that they often lose sight of what life was like as a normal human. One who doesn’t seem entitled to be above those around him. Jere never gave you one shred of pretense. He was simply a man who simply was good at a sport.
There are almost no players in the history of this franchise that are worthy of getting their number retired for ever more. I prefer the bar to be so high that it almost cannot be attained. But, when I think of guys who are no-brainers for that honor, I think Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov, and #26 himself, Jere Lehtinen.
I hope he enjoys whatever he wants to do in life. We will absolutely miss what he brought to the franchise.
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