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Jokinen learned much from 'mentor' Lehtinen

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DALLAS — Carolina Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen always looked up to countryman Dallas Stars Jere Lehtinen, who announced his retirement from hockey Wednesday.

Jokinen said he learned a lot from Lehtinen when the two were teammates in Dallas from 2005 to 2008.

Both are from Finland.

"One of the best things that happened to me when I came to this league was being his roommate my first year," Jokinen said after Friday's morning practice at American Airlines Center, where the Hurricanes will play the Stars tonight at 8:30 p.m.

"He's been my idol growing up," said Jokinen.

Lehtinen, 37, is the eighth-best scorer in the Stars' franchise history, with 514 points  and he was second in games played with 875.

Three times he won the Selke Trophy, as the best defensive forward in the NHL; Six times he was nominated.

Jokinen said Lehtinen was a mentor that taught him how to be successful in the NHL.

"I was able to watch him for three years," said Jokinen, who dined with Lehtinen Thursday night. "You learn what it takes to be a good two-way player. I've gotten better defensively every year. I've learned a lot from him."

The door was open for Lehtinen, whose contract expired after last season, to return this season, but he decided against it.

"It's been my life," he said in a statement Wednesday. "But now I've got the feeling [it's time to retire] and I realize it. I'm 100 percent sure of it."

Canes forward Tuomo Ruutu, also from Finland, said he wasn't shocked, as Lehtinen had been weighing the decision for some time now.

"But it's always sad to see somebody have to retire because of injuries or whatever," Ruutu said.

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About the blogger

Javier Serna has covered sports for The News & Observer since 2007. He previously covered growth for the North Raleigh News, and sports at The Truth in Elkhart, Ind. E-mail Javier.