Monday

Steve Larmer

Steve Larmer very quietly assembled one of hockey's finest resume's. The 1983 Calder Trophy recipient played huge roles in both the 1991 Team Canada victory in the Canada Cup and the New York Ranger's Stanley Cup victory in 1994.

Larmer, a superb two-way forward, didn't miss a game in 11 years with Chicago and his 884 consecutive regular-season games is the third-longest durability streak in NHL history behind Doug Jarvis (964) and Garry Unger (914). Nine times in those 11 years, Larmer scored 30-plus goals and he broke Jim Pappin's club record for points by a right winger with 101 in 1990-91. The same year, he was honored as The Hockey News/Inside Hockey "Man of the Year" and his breakaway goal against Mike Richter was the decisive marker in Team Canada's victory over Team USA in the final of the Canada Cup tournament.

With all that success it's hard to believe that Steve was considered to be a longshot prospect when he was drafted in 1980. In hindsight Steve is one of the best players of that draft, but at the time he wasn't drafted until 120th overall. And aside from a 4 game and 3 game NHL trial respectively, Larmer was cut from the Blackhawks training camps for more seasoning in his first two years.

The first cut saw Steve return to Niagara Falls to play another season of junior hockey with the Flyers. That turned out to be a great thing for him. Steve had previously played well in junior hockey, but he took his game to a new level in 1980-81. He posted superstar stats with 55 goals and 133 points in 61 games.

The second year Steve was sent to the American Hockey League where he was to learn the professional game. Steve called his demotion to the minors perhaps the best thing that ever happened to him. Instead of sitting on the bench as a NHL rookie, Steve was receiving tons of ice time with the New Brunswick Hawks. He scored 38 goals and 44 assists and helped the Hawks go deep into the playoffs with 6 goals and 12 points in 15 contests. More importantly he became one of the most relied upon and favorite players of minor league head coach Orval Tessier.

The Tessier factor weighed in nicely for Larmer in 1982-83. Tessier was promoted to head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks and that seriously upgraded Steve's chances of playing in the NHL. The Chicago brass wasn't overly happy with Steve's training camp and pre-season performance, but Tessier stuck with his young star and insisted that Steve be part of the team. Tessier was right about his prodigy. He often played him on what proved to one of hockey's top lines with Al Secord and Denis Savard. Secord recorded 54 goals while the spectacular Savard had 121 points. Larmer chipped in nicely with 43 goals and 90 points - good enough to win him the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

Injuries to the rugged Secord prevented that line from staying together much after that season, but Larmer was always a fixture on Savard's right wing. He played a two way role which complimented the offensive wizard Savard very well. He allowed Savard to "cheat" offensively by playing sound defense, yet at the same time provided Savard with the matching skill to finish off the scoring chances Savard created.

Larmer' was incredibly consistent over his years with the Hawks. He was a constant 35-40 goal scorer and 85-90 point man. And he never missed a game in a Hawks uniform.

That games played streak came to an end in 1993 when Larmer asked to be traded. He felt (and history would prove him to be correct) that the Hawks were about to head in a downward spin and he wanted to get his career back on track with a new perspective in a new city. The Hawks apparently promised him he would be dealt over the summer, but the trade didn't happen until 13 games into the 1993-94 season. Larmer was disappointed that the longevity streak was broken, but he knew what he was doing was right for him and was willing to sacrifice that.

The big trade actually saw Larmer traded twice as it was a three team deal. The Hawks move Larmer and Bryan Marchment to Hartford for Eric Weinrich and Patrick Poulin. The Whalers then moved Larmer along with Nick Kypreos, Barry Richter and a draft pick for Darren Turcotte and James Patrick.

Larmer instantly fit in and was a big part of the New York Rangers first Stanley Cup win in 54 years.

"Playing for the Rangers was an unbelievably good experience. The script couldn't have been written any better. We had a great year with a talented team, a close team, " said Larmer in the Chris McDonell's great book "For The Love Of The Game."

Winning the Cup was of course the highlight of Larmer's career, but so was playing and winning in the Big Apple.

"I don't know that there's a better city in the world to win in than New York. They gave us a ticker tape parade and even teammates who had won the Cup before had never experienced anything like that. Between 1 million and 2 million people lined the streets and hung out of office buildings - it was the most incredible thing I've ever seen. A lot of the guys said they'll remember that more any hockey game."

The 1994-95 owner's lockout convinced the 34-year-old forward to call it quits after the 1995 abbreviated season.

"The lockout of 1994 gave me the opportunity to do 'normal' things in the fall and winter. It was a real eye-opener to see what else is out there. My heart was in hockey; on the other hand, the time away planted a seed for retirement," Steve said in Chris McDonell's great book "For The Love Of The Game."

"I've been lucky," said Larmer in typical fashion. "I've been on good teams and played in the Canada Cup with Mr. Gretzky. Winning the Stanley Cup is something you'll never forget and there was no better city to win it in than New York."

Before he retired Steve managed to reached the 1,000 plateau in both points and games played. When he told Rangers GM Neil Smith in June that he wasn't coming back, Larmer ended a Hall of Fame-like career with 441 goals and 556 assists in 1,006 regular-season outings. He added 56 goals and 75 assists in 140 playoff contests.

"He was one of the best forwards to ever play the game and more importantly, one of the finest people I have ever met," said former teammate Doug Wilson.

8 comments:

CapN Kris 11:49 AM  

Great read on a truly terrific and terribly underrated hockey great. Why he's been passed over for the Hall of Fame is beyond me? Look at his stats! And his involvement with the player's union. It should be noted his involvement with the NHLPA, and stepping down from his position when Ted Saskin took over the Union. This opened up the eyes of Chris Chelios, Eric Lindros, and Rick DiPietro. These members all respected Larmer to a high degree. The members started an investigation in the matter of hiring Saskin. Not much later Saskin had been accused of spying on players emails, and was fired. I've read that Larmer has begun participating in NHLPA activities as of late, I hope he resumes his NHLPA career in the near future.

Anonymous,  7:18 PM  

Being a life long Blackhawks fan, I agree he should be in the hall of fame.

Greg G 7:57 AM  

The next number that should go to the United Center rafters #28. Steve Larmer was a tremendous right wing for the Blackhawks. Another very underrated player. Member of one of the greatest lines in Hawk history. What a line; "Savvy", "Larms" and "big Al". Hopefully Steve will get his due.

Anonymous,  3:51 PM  

Steve Larmer was simply the best two way player ever to wear a Blackhawk sweater.

Anonymous,  8:19 PM  

56 playoff goals- why is he not in the Hall??????????

GTroyer 12:10 PM  

My favorite Hawks player from the days of the Old Barn on West Madison. That's why I wear sweater #28 to the games today. And it was a real honor for me to meet him and have him autograph my sweater when he appeared at the Hawks Alumni table at a game last year! Raise #28 to the roof!

Anonymous,  8:45 AM  

Put this man in the HOF already.

Trevor st lawrence,  7:54 PM  

#28 absolutely should be the next number raised in the Madhouse. Simply put, he was one of the greatest players of all time, and definitely the most underrated. My Larmer jersey is one of my prized possessions, and it's criminal he isnt in the Hall.

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