By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Two decades after Mike Gartner last suited up for the Washington Capitals, he'll take his place alongside three of the franchise's most celebrated figures tonight when his No. 11 jersey is retired at Verizon Center.
Known for his speed, shot, consistency and class, Gartner will become the fourth player team history to earn that distinction, joining Rod Langway, Dale Hunter and Yvon Labre.
The ceremony will take place before the Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs and is scheduled to start promptly at 7 p.m. Washington's players, meantime, will pay tribute to Gartner by taking warm-ups in white retro jerseys with his number (but their own names) and then wearing white uniforms -- as Garnter's teams did at Capital Centre -- during the game.
"There's no other player from our era that I remember who could come full speed down the right wing and take a slap shot that was so hard, it was either going in, or was going to kill the goalie," former teammate Craig Laughlin said before joking, "I was telling someone the other day that we've got Langway, we've got Hunter and we've got Labre. We needed someone with speed."
Drafted fourth overall by Washington in 1979, Gartner ranks second in franchise history in goals (397), assists (392) and points (789) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001. Gartner was traded to Minnesota in March 1989 with Larry Murphy for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse and went on to play 12 more seasons with the North Stars, New York Rangers, Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes.
"This is an honor someone like me really appreciates," said Gartner, who owns and operates three Toronto area hockey rinks with business partner and former teammate Wes Jarvis. "When I told [13-year-old son] Dylan that they were going to retire my jersey in Washington, the first thing he said was, 'Dad, that's great. But will I get a chance to meet Alexander Ovechkin?' "
The Gartner family arrived in town yesterday and attended practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Gartner signed autographs for fans, shared stories with the current Capitals in the locker room and also got his glimpse of the 20-by-30-foot banner bearing his name, number and a photo next to the ones honoring Langway, Hunter and Labre.Black and Blue(line)
While the Capitals remain far from full strength, they could get some help for their ailing blueline if Mike Green and Jeff Schultz return tonight as expected. Green, the team's top defenseman, has missed the past two games -- and a total of 13 -- because of the shoulder injury he suffered in Anaheim on Nov. 19.
Schultz has been sidelined since his finger was broken by a deflected shot in Minnesota on Nov. 24.
With Green and Schultz expected to return, defenseman Bryan Helmer was reassigned to the minor league Hershey Bears, one day after he was named the game's first star for his two-assist effort in the Capitals' 3-2 win over Buffalo. "It's not every day that you send down a number one star," Coach Bruce Boudreau said.Fleischmann Still Out
Tomas Fleischmann missed Friday's game with pneumonia, Boudreau said. There's no timetable for his return.
"From everything I've heard, it's just a mild case," Boudreau said. "We want him away from the rink until he's better."
Expected to join Fleischmann on the sidelines tonight: Tom Poti (groin), Alexander Semin (back), John Erskine (concussion), Brent Johnson (hip) and Sergei Fedorov, who will miss at least two more weeks because of a sprained ankle. . . .
José Theodore is expected to start in goal against the Maple Leafs, who are coming off a 4-1 loss to the last-place New York Islanders.