Former Dallas Stars forward Jere Lehtinen took his time in deciding to retire. He wanted to be sure about the decision to stop playing the game he loved and excelled at for so many years.
"It's been your life, and it's tough to say this is the end," Lehtinen said after the Stars officially announced his retirement from the NHL. "I didn't have that feeling before, but now it's there and now I realize that it's time to do it. I am 100 percent sure of that. I wanted to get that feeling before I did it."
The decision to retire came after 14 NHL seasons, all of them with the Stars. It was a career that included a Stanley Cup, three Selke Trophies as the NHL's best defensive forward (1998, 1999, and 2003) and 514 points (243 goals, 271 assists) in 875 games.
Lehtinen pondered retirement after last season, his third straight season limited by injuries. The Stars left the door open for him to return this season, but Lehtinen was still undecided when the team opened training camp in September. Finally reaching a decision brought mixed emotions.
"It feels kind of sad, but it’s a pretty good day," Lehtinen said. "It’s been a lot of years to play, a lot of games, and I've been pretty fortunate to play that long. It's coming to an end, and it's basically been my whole life.
"I am going to miss the game. You ask anybody that's retired and that's the main thing and being around with the guys. Now I am looking forward and seeing what's out there without hockey. It's not going to be easy.”
Lehtinen said he isn't sure what's next. He doesn't know if he'll stay in North America or return to Finland. Is there a future in coaching? Not sure, he said.
"Everything is up in the air," he said. "We’ll see."
For now he's taking advantage of his time away from the game.
"This fall I've been doing a lot of stuff with family," he said. "That's been a great time."