As the countdown to the Chicago Blackhawks 2018-19 season continues, we’ll take a look at one player who best wore the same number as there are days left until October 4 when the season kicks off against the Ottawa Senators.
With 28 days to go until Chicago Blackhawks hockey is officially back, I can slowly feel myself running out of creative and flashy introductions to continuing the countdown to October 4th. That said, some of the best introductions don’t need to be pretty or flashy to be effective.
Similarly, some of the best players don’t need to be cute or flashy to be productive and make an impact.
No. 28 Steve Larmer certainly didn’t need to (see what I did there?).
Larmer was the 120th overall pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft (picked 15th in the sixth round). Being a late pick, expectations were low for him.
He spent three years in the minors before getting the chance to play a preseason game alongside Chicago Blackhawks legend Dennis Savard.
“He wasn’t supposed to make the team,” longtime broadcast man Pat Foley said in regards to Larmer. Orval Tessier, the Chicago Blackhawks coach at the time, had previously coached Larmer before his time in the AHL.
According to Foley, of everyone in the organization (dare I say the league), Tessier was the only one who had an idea of what Larmer’s future could be. “Nobody else around here knew it,” Foley said.
Chicago Blackhawks’ Steve Larmer
Though Larmer made the team following training camp, no one anticipated his trip to the big leagues to turn into a full-time residency. Troy Murray, Chicago Blackhawks radio color analyst, remembers Steve as he tried to make the roster.
"“[He] made the team out of training camp [and] played one game in the preseason with Dennis Savard,” Murray said. “The next day he was [going to] get sent to the minors.”"
Instead, Larmer scored a hat-trick while playing with Savard and never looked back. Well, there’s “never looking back” and then there’s what Steve Larmer did.
After that game he’d go on to play in every single regular season game over the course of the next 11 seasons. That streak additionally included 109 games in the postseason. Larmer’s 884 straight regular season games are good enough for 3rd in NHL history.
“The opportunity of a lifetime for me,” Larmer said on that preseason contest which started it all. “Without that opportunity I don’t think I would have ever play in the NHL. That opportunity meant everything to me.” For more on that or the rest of his career, check the quick clip below.
He’d go on to win the Calder Memorial Trophy (awarded to the best rookie) by a landslide his rookie year, earning 72% of the Calder votes.
In that season, Larmer hit 90 points (43 G, 47 A) playing alongside Dennis Savard and Al Secord. Those 90 points still stand as a Chicago Blackhawks record for a rookie year.
Quite the impressive feat, however Larmer doesn’t claim too much responsibility. “Al [Secord] was great at driving to the net,” Larmer said. “Dennis was probably one of the better playmakers so it was just finding the open space.” Call me crazy, but if all you need to do to score 43 goals and total 90 points is “find open space,” we all must be doing something wrong.
As Larmer’s quote proves, he isn’t focused on or full of himself. That idea has been a common theme throughout his entire NHL career and after as he’s never expressed disdain for not being inducted into the Hall of Fame (yet).
To put things in perspective a bit, Larmer’s demeanor and what he meant to the team is comparable to Marian Hossa in recent Blackhawks clubs.
Steve Rosenbloom, a contact reporter for the Chicago Tribune, breaks down the comparison:
"“Both were great with the puck, great without it, great at getting it back, great playing both ends of the ice, great at refusing to be knocked off the puck, great at owning the boards, great at knowing how to slither into the tough and dangerous areas, and especially great at not drawing attention to themselves,” Rosenbloom wrote.“Or look at it this way: Savard thrived with Larmer on his wing the way Jonathan Toews starred with Hossa. That should connect some generational dots.If only something could connect with Hall of Fame voters.”"
Rosenbloom certainly hid the nail on the head, there. Unfortunately, nothing has formed the connection with Hall of Fame voters as Larmer still hasn’t found his way in. Though I could write a piece with a bunch of impressive numbers helping to argue why Steve belongs in the hall, I’ll let Rosenbloom take care of it. I’d recommend reading it.
Larmer remains out of the hall of fame and, for one reason or another, his no. 28 remains out of the rafters.
Da Windy City
I’m guessing those jersey retirement plans began to be derailed when the Blackhawks and Larmer weren’t able to come to an agreement over a contract. As a result, he was sent to the New York Rangers where Larmer finally was able to capture the elusive Stanley Cup with fellow former Blackhawk Eddie Olczyk.
On the topic, Edzo said “He made us way better and it’s one of the reasons why I know I have a Stanley Cup ring, is because Steve Larmer came to the Rangers”
Well, hardware is certainly a big part of getting into the Hall of Fame but with a Calder Trophy and a Stanley Cup, somehow Larmer is on the outside looking in (even with 441 goals in only 1006 games).
“I don’t think theres any doubt that Steve Larmer is one of the more underrated players to play in the National Hockey League,” Pat Foley said.
Underrated by the league and front office back in the day, but never under appreciated by fans. “If he gets paid and plays his whole career in Chicago, he’s in the HOF and the rafters,” Dan Boland, a long time Blackhawks fan said in an interview. “One of my top-ten Hawks of all time.”
Boland’s words are echoed time and time again by Chicago Blackhawks fans young and old alike. That view point isn’t limited to fans, either.
“I’ve heard it said before, ‘he should be in the hockey hall of fame’ and I totally agree,” said Konroyd. Dennis Savard shared the same message, saying “I believe that sooner or later he’ll be in there for sure.”
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Despite what happens in the future for Larmer, Blackhawks fans will always remember him for the heart he put into the team and the city of Chicago. Though Steve never wanted any attention, with 28 days until Blackhawks hockey, todays all about you, Larmer.