On this date, March 26, 1994, Toronto Maple Leaf and future Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Gartner scored twice to become the first player in NHL history to get 30 or more goals in 15 straight seasons. In honour of that incredible benchmark, we thought it was a good time to remind everyone of his incredible career.
Written by former Arizona Coyotes contributor Aaron Davis and originally published last year.
Even with his lengthy career, Mike Gartner holds the dubious distinction as one of the few players in the Hall of Fame to never have won or even play in a Stanley Cup final. He spent the final two years as a professional for the Coyotes bringing credibility and speed to the new market.
Early life and Career
Mike Gartner was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1959, but he grew up in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga where he learned to play the game. He played in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) for the St. Catharines Black Hawks and Niagara Falls Flyers, earning enough recognition to be drafted by the Washington Capitals fourth overall in the 1979 NHL draft.
Despite the high draft selection, he spent the first year in World Hockey Association (WHA) for the Cincinnati Stingers. He finished the 1978-79 season with 27 goals and 25 assists for the Stingers and finished second to Wayne Gretzky for Rookie of the Year.
Capitals, North Stars & Rangers
With the merger of the WHA and NHL, Gartner joined the Capitals. In his rookie season, he bested his WHA totals earning 36 goals and 32 assists. He had his only 50 goal campaign of his career in 1984-85, finishing the season with 102 points. He would spend 10 seasons in D.C. before being traded to the Minnesota North Stars, along with Larry Murphy, for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse in March 1989.
Gartner’s time in Minnesota would be short, only spending two seasons in the green jersey. He had a 70 point season in 1990-91, but that wouldn’t stop his trade to the Big Apple. The New York Rangers acquired him from the North Stars for Ulf Dahlen and a draft pick.
New York was the next longest stop of his career, as he spent part of five years as a Ranger. Gartner nearly tied his 50 goal season in 1990-91, just missing it with 49 goals.
That same year, he won his first fastest skater competition at the 1991 All-Star Game, and he would earn his second at the 1993 game in a New York uniform. Unfortunately, he would miss the Rangers Stanley Cup run as he was traded at the deadline to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Maple Leafs, Coyotes, and Retirement
The 1994-95 season was not one of his finest as he would only play in 38 games for the Maple Leafs. Gartner rebounded in 1995-96 to have a 50-plus point season for Toronto, and at the 1996 All-Star Game, he would earn his third-fastest skater competition in one of the fastest times ever recorded.
All of this couldn’t stop him from being traded again, this time at the end of the season. June 1996, the recently relocated Phoenix Coyotes would swap a draft pick for Gartner and he would play two seasons in the desert before retiring. Around this same time, he became the President of the NHLPA, and he would remain involved with them after his playing days. Gartner scored his 700th NHL goal on Dec. 15, 1997.
THIS DATE IN 1997: Mike Gartner (PHX) scored twice to become 5th player in NHL history to reach 700 career goals. pic.twitter.com/gfAvEQ1lNh
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 14, 2015
He would retire after the 1997-98 season. Gartner was the Chairman of the NHLPA’s Goals & Dreams program and he participated in the NHLPA until 2007. Along with former teammate, Wes Jarvis, he owns and operates three skating rinks in the Toronto area, National Training Rinks.
His number 11 was retired by the Capitals in 2008, and he still participates in Maple Leaf activities as an alumna. Even though he only spent two seasons in a Coyotes sweater, he was on the inaugural roster and brought competition and winning to the new market.