Jere Lehtinen had his No. 10 raised to the rafters by Espoo in Finland on Tuesday. It was a tasteful tribute that included video testimonials from former Dallas teammates Mike Modano and Craig Ludwig.
The question is, should the Stars follow suit and immortalize the No. 26 that he wore in Texas?
Lehtinen, now 41, won’t be getting into the Hockey Hall of Fame without a ticket. One of the greatest defensive forwards of the past several decades, his offensive contributions in the NHL pale in comparison to virtually all the forwards already enshrined. In 875 games, spanning 1995-2010, he had 243 goals and 514 points.
Typically, unless there are extenuating circumstances, modern-day forwards who are honored members have played 1,000 NHL games and registered at least 600 points. Usually far more.
On the positive side of the ledger, the five-time Olympian won three Selke Trophies and was an integral component of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup triumph. He rode Modano’s right wing for much of his tenure, helping to create one of the league’s most potent duos.
Further, he spent his entire NHL career with Dallas and was (still is) a fan favorite.
Stars’ management hasn’t been emphatic about whether it will happen, but it has hinted at honoring him and Sergei Zubov.
“They are the two most significant players that haven’t been put in the Hall of Fame yet, so I think we’re absolutely open to the possibility,” Jim Lites told Ryan Dadoun of ProHockeyTalk this summer.
Team jersey number retirements shouldn’t be, and typically aren’t, held to the same set of comparables as Hall of Fame enshrinement. Certainly, there should be a place for the extreme supreme, but the thought process should also take into account the spirit of the community – some clubs have used it to memorialize players who’ve died young – and be a tool to honor long and excellent service.
In that sense, Lehtinen is perfectly qualified to join Modano, Neal Broten (7), Bill Goldworthy (8) and Bill Masterton (19) as members of the Stars/Minnesota North Stars exclusive club.