PlayerBorn Espoo, Finland, June 24, 1973
Lehtinen was a little bit of Gainey because both were premier two-way forwards.
Lehtinen was a little bit of Selanne because both are among a group of only six players to have won four medals at the Olympics.
And, Lehtinen is a little bit of Mike Modano because both played their entire careers with the Dallas Stars organization.
Induction SpeechLehtinen was drafted 88th overall in 1992 by then Minnesota North Stars, but by the time he made his NHL debut three years later the team had moved to Dallas, where it has been ever since.
Lehtinen was in no hurry to rush to the NHL. He played in three straight U20 championships (1991-93) and in 1994 was part of Finland’s 4-0 win over Russia to claim bronze at the Olympics in Lillehammer.
Lehtinen also had two successful years with TPS Turku in the national league, playing on a line with Saku Koivu. The pair led their team to a national championship in the spring of 1995, and a few weeks later they played on a line with Ville Peltonen at the World Championship.
The threesome was dubbed “Tupu, Hupu, Lupu” and led Suomi to an historic 4-1 win over Sweden to win the nation’s first ever gold. All three players were named to the tournament all-star team after contributing to all goals in the final victory.
At this point, Lehtinen was ready to try his hand in North America, and it took him no time to establish himself as a right winger who could create offence but, as important, stymie the best players from the other team.
After helping Finland beat Canada to win a second straight Olympic bronze, in 1998, Lehtinen developed into a superstar in the NHL. He had a career-high 52 points in 1998-99 and won his first of three Selke Trophies as the league’s best defensive forward. A year later, he assisted on Brett Hull’s overtime goal to give Dallas its first Stanley Cup.
Internationally, Lehtinen continued an incredible career, playing at the Salt Lake Olympics and then helping Finland to the finals of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. With victories in 1995 at the Worlds and 1999 in Dallas, he became the closest Finn ever to join the Triple Gold Club when he came within a goal of winning Olympic gold in 2006.
Instead, Suomi had to settle for silver after a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Sweden. He made history four years later, though, by winning a fourth Olympic medal, this a bronze in Vancouver. Only countrymen Selanne, Koivu, Timonen, and Ville Peltonen, as well as Vladislav Tretiak, Igor Kravchuk and Jiri Holik have won as many.
In all, Lehtinen played 14 years with the Stars, and after retiring in 2010 he received the ultimate team honour when the Stars retired his number 26 seven years later. Internationally, he joins the IIHF’s pantheon of greats for a career with Suomi that has few to compare.