Alumni Q&A: Steve Larmer
After scoring more than 400 goals over 11 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks---and playing in an incredible 884 consecutive games---Steve Larmer was acquired by the Rangers early in the 1993-94 season. Larmer became a central figure---both as a player, where he notched 60 points in 68 games in the regular season and another 16 in 21 playoff contests, and as a leader---as the Rangers went on to win their first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years that season. After the lockout-shortened 1995 campaign, in which he surpassed the 1,000 games played and 1,000 points scored plateaus, Larmer retired from the Rangers and the NHL.
Recently BlueshirtsUnited.com's Jim Cerny had the chance to catch up with Larmer about the two years he spent with the Rangers, including that magical Cup run in the spring of '94.
BSU: After 11 seasons in Chicago how difficult was it for you to come out of that comfort zone and play for a new team?
SL: Sure, you build that comfort zone by being in one place for such a long time, but I was also comfortable going to New York because Mike (Keenan) was there along with a lot of players I had played with in Chicago. And after playing so many years in the league I basically knew who everyone was, so it was comfortable walking into the dressing room.
BSU: You played for Mike Keenan in Chicago and New York. How would you describe him as a coach?
SL: He kept you on your toes every day. There was no such thing as getting complacent or comfortable, He pushed hard every day. He pushed every player every day to become better.
BSU: What did he do for your career specifically?
SL: He pushed me physically and mentally. He taught me how to be in better shape so that I could play more in all situations and be the best I could be; and mentally he taught me that good is not good enough, never be complacent.
BSU: By time you arrived in New York you were already a veteran and a leader in your own right. What was it like to join a Rangers team that had so many veteran leaders already on it?
SL: It was exciting because it was a real unique dressing room in that sense. There were a lot of leaders in that room, and everybody had a lot of respect for everybody else in there.
BSU: Tell me how the leadership structure was built on that '94 team, from captain Mark Messier on down?
SL: In reality you can really only have one leader, but he needs a big support group to help him. And we had multiple players like Kevin Lowe and Jeff Beukeboom and Adam Graves, this incredible depth of experience that created a sense of calm no matter how bad things got. Because of that we could always keep things in perspective, meaning we were able to keep the mountains and valleys out of it. It was a really unique experience to be a part if that.
BSU: Tell me more about that sense of calm you mentioned.
SL: I think that was a major factor in our success, not only in the playoffs, but in the long regular season, too. It was the ability to stink the joint out one night and bounce right back and play a great game the next night. All of these guys---the Kevin Lowes, the Mark Messiers, the Jeff Beukebooms---these guys had won multiple Stanley Cups and had been down that road many, many, many times and had gone through everything you could possible go through. The crazy thing is when things seemed to be at its worst, that's when our group was at its best in a sense because of that calmness and quiet confidence.
BSU: Even with such a great team in 1994, can you describe how difficult it was to actually with the Stanley Cup?
SL: It is the most physically and mentally challenging thing, from an athlete's standpoint, you can ever do. It's gruleing, and a test of endurance and fortitude, too. It's two months of basically playing every other day at the highest level you can play at. It's an incredible journey, and can be a roller coaster ride at times, but it's a really neat thing to experience with a great bunch of teammates that you will never forget. Some of the most memorable moments, sometimes, don't even have to do with playing the game. You have to go through it to understand it, I guess.
BSU: You were a remarkably durable and consistent player in your career (1012 points in 1006 regular season games, 131 points in 140 playoff games). How did you maintain that level of consistency through a 13-year NHL career?
SL: I don't know really. I enjoyed playing and tried to be the best that I could be every night. I had an opportunity to play with a lot of really good players and to be around a lot of really good veterans when I was a younger player in Chicago---guys like Denis Savard and Dougie Wilson and Daryl Sutter and Tony Esposito, really good role models.
BSU: Why did you choose to retire after the 1995 season when it seemed like there was still some really good hockey left in Steve Larmer?
SL: In my career it's not like I lost a wheel off the applecart here and another wheel there, it was like the wheels came off all at once! It was time. There was nothing left in the tank, and it wasn't worth it to keep playing knowing my game was going to deteriorate. It wasn't fun not being able to do what I had always been able to do at the level I expected to do it.
BSU: How would you sum up your career and your two seasons in New York?
SL: I was just fortunate enough to play as long as I was able to play, and to achieve some great things. I have no regrets whatsoever.