Life after the Caps: Mike Gartner

Life after the Caps: Mike Gartner
August 28, 2014, 4:00 pm
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(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Have you ever caught yourself thinking of an old Caps' favorite and wondered, what ever happened to that guy?

Hockey, like all professional sports, is a tough business. Team legends can spend many years in one city but find themselves looking for a new team near the end of their careers. Other players are brought in to bolster the squad but are let go through free agency or trades just as they began to establish themselves in Washington. 

The hockey world, however, does not end when players leave D.C. Here’s a look at some former Caps and how they fared after their time in Washington.

Mike Gartner

Played for Caps: 1979 – 1989

Stats with Caps: 758 GP, 397 G, 392 A, 789 Pts, Postseason: 47 GP, 16 G, 27 A, 43 Pts

One of the Caps’ all-time greats, Gartner was drafted fourth overall in 1979 by Washington after a successful season with the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association. As his numbers show, he produced fantastic offensive numbers while with the Caps. He was also incredibly durable, playing no less than 73 games in nine seasons in Washington. 

But all good things must come to an end and for Gartner and the Caps, it ended in 1989.

On March 7, the Caps traded Gartner and Larry Murphy to Minnesota (who were the North Stars at the time) in exchange for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse. Gartner left the young Caps’ franchise as the team’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points.

Gartner did not have the same impact in Minnesota and though he continued to produce solid offensive numbers, he was traded a year later on March 6 to the Rangers for future Cap, Ulf Dahlen (among other things) and returned to his elite form.

Gartner put up 40-goal seasons in three straight years for New York including an incredible 1991-92 season in which he recorded his 500th goal, 500th assist and (obviously) his 1000th point.

As good as he was, however, Gartner did not produce at the same rate in the playoffs and that was likely what caused New York to pull the trigger on a controversial trade with Toronto. Gartner was shipped up north in exchange for Glenn Anderson and a fourth-round pick. Unfortunately for Gartner, the Rangers would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season.

After two seasons, Gartner was again traded, this time to Phoenix. There, in the 1997-98 season, Gartner’s 30-goal streak came to an end as he only recorded 12 goals in 60 games, signaling his career was coming to an end. He had scored at least 30 goals in every season of his career up to that point (excluding the lockout-shortened 1994-95). The silver lining for what would be his final NHL season was that he reached the 700-goal mark, becoming only the fifth player to do so.

Gartner had been active in the NHLPA as a player, serving as president from 1996 until he retired and became chairman of the Goals & Dreams program, a global grassroots hockey assistance program. He resigned from the NHLPA in 2007 and now owns several hockey training rinks in Ontario with business partner and former teammate, Wes Jarvis.

Today, Gartner is third in Caps franchis history in goals, second in assists and third in points. He also holds the NHL record for most 30-goal seasons with 17 and is tied with Jaromir Jagr for most consecutive 30-goal seasons with 15.

Despite an incredible career, Gartner never earned the recognition he deserved during his career. He never played in a Stanley Cup Final, a fact that makes the 1994 trade from New York sting all the more, and he never earned an NHL award. Finally, he received the recognition he deserved and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

In 2008, Gartner became just the fourth player in Caps history to have his number retired by the team; a well-deserved honor for a frequently underappreciated player.

[RELATED: Life after the Caps: Sylvain Cote]