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Gartner a goal-scorer, journalist

by Evan Weiner

Mike Gartner scooped the news media on his trade by reporting it himself.
The NHL trade deadline is almost here – Feb. 26 – and there always are all sorts of stories surrounding trades. But one of the most unique tales of being traded may belong to Mike Gartner.

The Washington Capitals decided it was time to ship out their all-time leading scorer at the trade deadline, on March 7, 1989, to the Minnesota North Stars, with Larry Murphy, in exchange for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse. Gartner was a big-time goal scorer, as was Ciccarelli. Murphy was a more offensive-minded defenseman than Rouse, who was a stay-at-home, crease-clearing blueliner, but both teams felt they would be better with the new players.

But there is a "rest of the story" tale that goes with this trade.

Gartner had a daily radio show on Washington's WTOP, and on that day in March, Gartner was both the reporter and the main participant of the biggest sports story of March 7, 1989 in the District. Gartner scooped The Washington Post, The Washington Times and all of the District's TV and radio stations, which is pretty impressive in the journalism business.

Of course, he did have insider's knowledge.

"I had my own radio show with WTOP, it ran three minutes, Monday through Friday, four times a day," Gartner recalled. "I was coming back from practice and I hadn't phoned in my radio show for the day, so when I got the news I was traded, I figured WTOP had been good to me for the last couple of seasons, it was the third season I had the radio show, so I figured that I would give them an exclusive on my feelings on the trade.

"So I phoned them up and did one last show on my thoughts on being traded just 15 minutes after it happened. I got a hold of the news director and I asked him if they wanted me to come on and answer a few questions. It was a little different format but we still had it as the final Mike Gartner show, so it worked out pretty good and they were pretty good about it. I don't know if I was a professional radio person – my first reaction was that I obviously was a little shocked at what happened and I did my best to say my feelings at the time. It was really more or less thanking them every day for what they had done for me in Washington, all the friends I had made and all the people I got to know."

Gartner was a pretty good hockey player for the Washington Capitals. He joined the team in 1979-80 after spending the previous season with the World Hockey Association's Cincinnati Stingers, where he was a linemate of a struggling 17-year-old named Mark Messier. Gartner was second in the WHA Rookie of the Year voting behind Wayne Gretzky.

Gartner led the Caps in goals (36) and points (68) in his rookie NHL season. Over the next eight years, Gartner scored 35 or more goals annually, and became the first Capital to hit the 50-goal mark, in 1984-85. He led the Capitals in scoring on four occasions. Gartner lasted exactly one year with the North Stars and was traded at the deadline the next year – March 6, 1990 – to the New York Rangers for Ulf Dahlen and a fourth-round choice in the 1990 Entry Draft, which Minnesota had picked up in a previous trade.

In 1994, Gartner again was moved at the trade deadline. This time the Rangers dealt him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Glenn Anderson, the rights to Scott Malone and Toronto's fourth-round choice, Alexander Korobolin, in the 1994 Entry Draft.

Gartner had been traded at the deadline three times in five years, but he kept putting the puck in the net, whether it was with the Caps, North Stars or Rangers. In 80 games with the North Stars, Gartner scored 41 goals. In his four years in New York, he scored 173 goals and became the 16th player to reach the 500-goal mark, the sixth to reach 600 goals and the 33rd player to record 1,000 points. In his 130 games in a Maple Leafs uniform, he had 53 goals. Gartner won the "Fastest Skater Competition" in each of the three years he competed, the last one in 1996 when he was 36.

Mike Gartner became the first Capital to hit the 50-goal mark, in 1984-85.

Gartner was traded once more, this time on the day of the 1996 Entry Draft. Toronto sent Gartner to Phoenix on June 22, 1996, for Chicago's fourth-round choice in the draft, which Phoenix had acquired in a deal with the Blackhawks. Gartner scored 32 goals during his first season in Phoenix, and also notched his 700th career goal as a member of the Coyotes. He held the NHL record for most 30-or-more goal seasons in a career with 17. He finished his career as second all-time in goals for a right-winger and was fifth overall in goal scoring with 708. Gartner was fifth in career assists by a right-winger with 627, fourth all-time in points by a right-winger with 1,335, and seventh on the all-time games played list with 1,432.

Gartner was elected to the Hockey Fame of Fame in 2001.

The Washington-Minnesota deal featured two Hall of Famers in Gartner and Murphy, a 600-goal scorer in Ciccarelli, and Rouse, who was part of two Stanley Cup champions with Detroit.

He also is the only player in NHL history to record a scoop, but the trade from Washington to Minnesota ended his radio career.

"It certainly was a good experience for me," said Gartner of his days behind the microphone. "I enjoyed it and it is something I can put on my resume.”


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