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Jere Lehtinen to have number retired by Stars

Retired forward will be honored to help celebrate franchise's 25th anniversary season in Texas

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

DALLAS -- Jere Lehtinen's No. 26 will be retired by the Dallas Stars during the 2017-18 season to help celebrate their 25th anniversary. 

The Stars on Saturday unveiled plans to celebrate their 25th year in Dallas, and the marquee event is being planned around the retired right wing's number being raised to the rafters at American Airlines Center.

"You know, it's (a) great honor," Lehtinen said Saturday. "Kind of humbling feeling to get noticed like that and to get that number retired. It's one of the biggest things as a player, individually, that you can get from hockey."

Lehtinen played 14 seasons in Dallas and was one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL for more than a decade. He won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the League's top defensive forward three times, had 514 points in 875 NHL games and won the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999. 

Video: Dallas Stars honor Lehtinen

"A heck of a two-way player, one of the best two-way players that played the game," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who coached against Lehtinen with the Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final. "He's the type of player that if you could model some of your players after, you'd model after because he could score, he could check, he could do all the right things. He proved that throughout his career that he's one of the best that played."

Lehtinen will be the third player to have his number retired since the franchise moved from Minnesota to Dallas before the 1993-94 season. 

Neal Broten played two seasons in Dallas and had his No. 7 retired in 1998. Mike Modano's No. 9 was raised to the rafters at American Airlines Center in 2014. Bill Masterton, No. 19, and Bill Goldsworth, No. 8, each had his number retired before the franchise moved to Texas. 

For Lehtinen, having his No. 26 hang next to Modano's will be a special feeling. 

"It's kind of dream-come-true feel," Lehtinen said. "You could say everything is closing up how we started." 

Lehtinen was a big part of the Stars' success in the late 1990s and said he can fondly look back at how it helped grow the sport in Texas.

"I am proud of that looking back, our whole team helped, getting to play and win a Stanley Cup and a lot of stuff in the community," he said. "When I retired in Dallas and I was still there, my son played and you could see high-level youth hockey."

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