Friday, October 14, 2011
Mike Gartner started his pro career with the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association, having just turned 19 years old, below the NHL minimum age of 20 at the time.
His 27 goals and 52 points that season for the Stingers got the attention of the general mangers in the NHL, and Gartner was drafted 4th overall by the Washington Captials in the summer of 1979 following the demise of the Stingers as well as the WHA.
As a rookie with the Capitals, Gartner scored 36 goals, beginning a streak of 30 goals or more seasons that would eventually reach into the mid 90's.
In ten seasons with the Capitals, Gartner would average 39.7 goals per season and never less than 35 until the 1988-89 season when he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars 56 games into the season while currently at 26 goals. He would, however, score an additional seven goals in Minnesota to keep his streak going at ten seasons.
After enjoying so much stability in Washington, Gartner's time in Minnesota would be brief, as he was dealt to the New York Rangers after 67 games in 1989-90, but not before scoring 34 goals with the North Stars. After joining the Rangers, he would add 11 more to his season total which allowed him to reach the 40 goal mark for the sixth time.
Three consecutive 40 goal seasons in Manhattan followed, which included scoring his 500th NHL goal on this date in 1991. He would later surpass the 600 goal barrier as well as 1,000 points, prior to Gartner once more being on the move, this time to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. His 28 goals in 71 games in New York and the six he scored in 10 games with the Maple Leafs pushed his 30 goal streak to an NHL record 15 consecutive seasons.
The strike shortened season of 1994-95 only allowed Gartner to play in 38 games, limiting him to just 12 goals and unfairly ending his streak of 30 goal seasons at 15.
Back to a full season schedule in 1995-96, Gartner would run his 30 goal season total up to 16 with 35 goals. The Maple Leafs would trade Gartner to the Phoenix Coyotes in time for their first season in the desert, having just relocated from Winnipeg. There, Gartner would achieve his 17th season of 30 goals or more in his career, also a league record, when he scored twice on this date in 1997 in a 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. His second goal of the night was also the 1,300th point in his NHL career.
Gartner would play one final season in the NHL with Phoenix. He would play in 60 games and score 12 goals, which included his 700th career goal, on the fifth player to ever reach that mark.
His final career totals are 708 goals, good for sixth all time, and 627 assists for 1,335 points.
While Gartner set records for his consistent goal scoring, he was probably better known for his speed, winning the always popular and high profile "Fastest Skater Competition" at the NHL All-Star Game each of the three times he entered, including 1993 when he scored four goals and was named the MVP of the All-Star Game.
During his career he would play in seven NHL All-Star Games and following his career he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001 and his #11 was retired by the Capitals in 2008.
Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 New York Rangers Mike Gartner jersey which features NHL 75th Anniversary patch on the upper left chest, while every other club, save the Philadelphia Flyers, wore the patch on their upper right chest. Having a unique patch placement when compared to other clubs is a common occurrence for the Rangers, due to the "R" of the diagonal Rangers cresting on their jerseys occupying the traditional location for patches. In general, the Rangers place additional patches on their right shoulder, but have used the left shoulder on occasion as well, as was the case with the 9/11 memorial ribbon patch.
Patches worn on the right shoulder include the Stanley Cup 100th Anniversary, the 1994 NHL All-Star Game, 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, the Rangers 75th and 85th Anniversary patches.
The only time the Rangers were able to join the flock was in 1999-00 when the NHL 2000 patch was a horizontal design, short enough to fit above the "R" in the space remaining.
Here is a great career retrospective of Mike Gartner's career on the occasion of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, followed by his speech. The audio is a tad bit distorted, but still listenable.