Today, we’re celebrating the career of Steve Larmer. His number isn’t retired — yet. And he should have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame years ago. So we’re going to bang the drum even louder on the 28th each month in honor of his jersey number (thus, #retire28).
Today, let’s look back at the Canada Cup in 1991.
Canada’s roster was stacked for the 1991 Canada Cup. It was so deep that then-Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan, who was calling the shots for Canada, left Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Cam Neely and Steve Yzerman off the roster. Keenan opted to carry teenage phenom Eric Lindros, who hadn’t played an NHL game yet, on the roster over Yzerman.
The team still included stars and future Hall of Famers like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Dale Hawerchuk, Theo Fleury and Dirk Graham up front.
I have joked on Twitter that Larmer carried Gretzky through that tournament, but the reality is he picked up the slack with Gretzky missing in the climax of an incredible, star-studded event. And Canada wouldn’t have won gold without 28 on the ice.
Larmer led the Canadian team with six goals in eight games. The only other player on Canada’s roster that scored more than three goals was The Great One, who had four goals in the tournament.
Larmer finished second to Gretzky with 11 points in eight games. Gretzky posted 12 points in seven games but an infamous hit from Gary Suter ended his tournament prematurely.
In the championship finale against the United States and without Gretzky, Larmer scored one of Canada’s two goals in the first period as they sprinted to a two-goal lead. The US came back, however, and the game got tight.
That is, until Larmer scored a short-handed goal in the third period to give Canada the lead for good with 7:47 left in regulation. The short-handed sequence comes in around the 16 minute mark in this video.
After the tournament, Mike Kiley wrote a terrific piece about Larmer’s performance in the tournament for the Chicago Tribune titled: “Triumphant Canada Hails Larmer.”
When you read what other players said about Larmer after that tournament, you understand why he remains a player worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been telling him this whole tournament he’s my idol,” Rick Tocchet said of Larmer after skating with him. “And he’s going to remain my idol.”
”Larmer taught me a lot about being a two-way player,” Lindros said.
At the time, Keenan was also coaching Larmer with the Blackhawks. He would later coach the New York Rangers to their legendary Stanley Cup win in 1994; Larmer was on the ice with Messier for the closing seconds of the clinching game.
Here’s what Keenan had to say about the understated and underrated Larmer after his performance in the Canada Cup:
“Exceptional player,” said Keenan. “I see it all the time so I appreciate it. Not very many people do. He’s in Chicago where there isn’t a helluva lot of media coverage for hockey. So he’s one of the best kept secrets in the National Hockey League.”
Larmer’s NHL resume is worthy of induction. But this tournament was a big step forward for the Blackhawks forward on an international stage, asserting himself as one of the dominant two-way forwards in the NHL at the time and finally earning him the respect and recognition he deserved.
Now if we could just get him into the Hall of Fame…