Steve Larmer shakes the hand of Jonathan Toews during Steve Larmer night on Dec. 3, 2008. (Sun-Times File Photo)

All-timer Steve Larmer returns to Blackhawks for ‘One Last Shift’

SHARE All-timer Steve Larmer returns to Blackhawks for ‘One Last Shift’
SHARE All-timer Steve Larmer returns to Blackhawks for ‘One Last Shift’

The only players to score more goals in a Blackhawks sweater than Steve Larmer are Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. The only Hawks to post more points than Larmer are Mikita, Hull and Denis Savard. The only Hawks player to score more game-winning goals than Larmer is Jonathan Toews.

It’s not a matter of whether Larmer’s jersey should be hanging from the United Center rafters, it’s a matter of what’s taking so long? With 406 goals and 517 assists in 11 full seasons with the Hawks, including five 40-goal seasons and a career-high 101 points in 1990-91, Larmer is indisputably one of the greatest players in Hawks history.

Well, one guy can dispute it, at least: Larmer himself. He said he’s never been approached about having his No. 28 retired, and doesn’t really feel it belongs up there.

“I think that really is reserved for very special people,” Larmer said Friday night, shortly before taking the ice in full uniform for the national anthem as part of the Hawks’ “One Last Shift” ceremony. “I think that the numbers that they have retired up there are the ones that should be.

When told there’s long been an online push to have his jersey retired, Larmer said, “Thank you, but I think that Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito and the Denis Savard and Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote are kind of in a league of their own.”

Larmer isn’t around the team nearly as often as some other former greats —team ambassadors such as Hull, Esposito and Savard. But he said it has nothing to do with any bad feelings lingering from his departure from Chicago, when he was sent to the Hartford Whalers and then on to the New York Rangers. The old regime under Bill Wirtz was famous for icy dealings with players both during and after their Hawks careers.

But Larmer said his general absence — he’s been to a few fan conventions and a ceremony in his honor in 2008, but that’s about it —is all about geography. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario, and has a 13-year-old stepson who plays hockey and takes up much of his free time.

“It’s always been great,” he said of his relationship with the Hawks. “Things happen. It’s not like you’re going to dwell on the past. I’m not one to hold grudges or be angry for a long period time. It is what it is. I had 12 great years.”

It worked out for the best. Well, for Larmer, at least. He won his only Stanley Cup in 1993-94, in his first of two years with the Rangers.

“It was really cool, it was a great experience,” he said. “We went to the finals in 1992 and we lost to Pittsburgh and that stung deeply. Because you’re starting to get older and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, that was it, that was the chance and it’s freaking gone,’ right? It’s never going to happen again. I’m not one of those guys who happened along and all of a sudden you’re on a team and you win like the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. We lost out to the team that always won, right? it was disappointing that way. But when you get to that point and you have that run, then we lost to Pittsburgh, that stuck with me for a year and a half. I couldn’t let it go. It was always in the back of my mind. You’re out there playing and you’re sitting on the bench and still thinking about that. The neat thing about going to New York is it gave me another chance to play with some great players and have that opportunity to win and finally get over that hump.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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