Steve Larmer called Chicago, "the place where I grew up." Now a 47-year-old retiree, the former right winger is honored that the organization plans to welcome him back with his own special night.
Prior to Wednesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks' will salute Larmer with their first 'Heritage Night' of the season. Larmer will be honored during a pre-game ceremony. He'll then drop the ceremonial first puck and will be available to fans for autographs.
"I'm a bit taken aback by it," Larmer told NHL.com. "When you think about it, it's nice to get back to a place where you spent most of your career and had nothing but great memories."
The Blackhawks are also planning Heritage Nights to honor Tony Amonte (Jan. 21) and Bob Probert (Feb. 22).
The Hawks have already honored Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson by retiring their No. 3, and last season welcomed back Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito. Denis Savard, who was fired as the team's coach, is now as an ambassador.
"The nice thing is players that haven't been around Chicago, you can reconnect with them," Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz told NHL.com. "Regardless of why or how they left the Blackhawks, we want them to know they are always welcome back."
Larmer put up some incredible numbers with the Blackhawks and is widely considered the best right wing to ever play for the organization.
He joined the club on a full-time basis to start the 1982-83 season and played in every single game until the end of the 1992-93 season, totaling 884 consecutive games. That remains an NHL record for most consecutive games played with one franchise.
"Just luck," Larmer summarized of his ability to be so durable. "I'd like to say it was a healthy diet and working out, but that would be a complete lie."
Larmer's career in Chicago came to an abrupt end after the 1992-93 season. Sensing the organization was about to go in a downward spiral, or at least a different direction, Larmer asked to be traded in April. The request wasn't granted until Nov. 2, when he was dealt to Hartford and subsequently to the New York Rangers.
Prior to the trade, Larmer did not play a game for the Blackhawks at the start of the 1993-94 season, bringing his incredible streak of consecutive games played to a halt. Fifteen years later, Larmer said he harbors no regrets to the Blackhawks.
Of course, it helps that he won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994.
"It was time for me to move on," he said. "If the team was going to get younger, as an older player you're just going to eat up the young guys' ice time. I needed a chance to move on and hopefully go to a team that had a chance to win because ultimately that's why you want to play."
Larmer said he doesn't know what to expect come Wednesday night other than it probably will be emotional for him. He added that he is supremely impressed with how the Blackhawks have gotten themselves back on the hockey map.
In fact, part of what drew Larmer's ire in his final days with the Hawks was he didn't think it was a player friendly organization.
"New York was an incredible organization, a very player friendly atmosphere, which was quite a bit different from Chicago at the time," Larmer said.
Now that the Blackhawks are under different leadership, with Wirtz, President John McDonough and General Manager Dale Tallon steering the ship, Larmer wonders why anybody would ever consider leaving the organization.
"They have become a player friendly organization," Larmer said. "These kids playing there today, with everything they are doing, why would you want to go anywhere else? If you have a chance to win with a good, young core group, there is no better place to play. It's a new era and I think they are on the right track to make their own history in that building."
Larmer said he is "semi-retired." He dabbles in the minor hockey scene in Peterborough, Ont., and also serves on the advisory board for the National Hockey League Players Association.
He retired following the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season at the age of 34, but said he doesn't regret leaving the game early. He finished his career with 1,012 points in 1,006 games. He missed only five games due to injury, all with the Rangers.
"It was the right move," he said, suggesting the lockout allowed him to see there was, in fact, life outside of hockey. "Everyone has their time and that was my time."
Had he continued to play, Larmer may have been able to pad what could already be a Hall of Fame resume. He was better than a point-per-game player and also had 131 points in 140 playoff games, including 16 points during the Rangers' '94 Cup run.
Larmer scored 40 goals five times and 30 goals nine times. He had three seasons with 90 or more points, including a career-high 101 in 1990-91. He also helped Chicago reach the 1992 Stanley Cup Final with 15 points in 18 playoff games.
In typical PC fashion, Larmer said he doesn't think about one day being inducted into the Hall of Fame and wonder why he's been passed over for so many years.
"Those are all decisions that are made by other people," Larmer said. "I'm not going to think about it too much or worry about it too much. I'll always appreciate that hockey has been very good to me. I got to play a game that I loved very much."Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer