The rolls of retired numbers hanging from the rafters at Verizon Center will increase later this year when Mike Gartner’s No. 11 sweater is hoisted upward, never to be worn again by a member of the Washington Capitals. The Capitals will retire Gartner’s sweater in a pre-game ceremony prior to the team’s Dec. 28 game against Toronto – another of Gartner’s former NHL employers – at Verizon Center.
Drafted with the Caps’ first choice (fourth overall) in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, Gartner was the first player drafted by the Capitals who went on to achieve election to the Hockey Hall of Fame. After playing with the Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA in 1978-79 in that circuit’s final season, Gartner came to Washington and first graced the District ice with his blazing speed down the right side and his lethal shot.
“Capitals fans have fond memories of Mike Gartner flying down the right wing and scoring goals at the Capital Centre,” said Capitals chairman and majority owner Ted Leonsis. “This is a fitting tribute to one of the elite offensive players in the history of the game who was a crucial member of the first Capitals playoff teams.”
Gartner played in 1,432 games with five different teams over the course of his 19-year NHL career. He totaled 708 goals and 1,335 points. A decade after his retirement from the game, Gartner ranks sixth on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list. He trails only Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne and Phil Esposito.
Gartner spent the first eight-plus seasons of his NHL career in Washington. He scored at least 35 goals in each of his eight full seasons with the Capitals, and ran off a streak of 15 straight seasons with 30 or more goals beginning with 1979-80, his first season in the NHL. It took a labor stoppage – the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95 – to end his streak.
When he departed the District in a Mar. 7, 1989 trade with the Minnesota North Stars, Gartner was the Capitals’ all-time leader in goals (397) and points (789). He held those standards until the early part of this decade when Peter Bondra surpassed both marks. Gartner now ranks second on the Caps’ all-time list in both goals and points.
“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the Washington Capitals and to join the distinguished company of my fellow teammates Ivan Labre, Rod Langway and Dale Hunter,” Gartner said. “I look forward to the upcoming evening in December and sharing those fond memories with my family and those fans in attendance.”
For more on Gartner, we encourage you to read a profile of the right wing
that appeared here upon his enshrinement to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.