You know you are getting older when your childhood sports heroes start to have their numbers retired. At least they aren't dying yet (a point I'm sure they would agree with).
As I've mentioned here before I grew up, oddly, as a Washington Capitals fan (I also just grew up oddly, but that's another topic). We're talking late '80s here. So, I spent many a night watching Mike Gartner on my illegal satellite dish.
It's possible that Gartner is the most underrated hockey player of all time. He was fast and he could score -- two pretty good qualities for a NHL player. And, consistent. Gartner scored as a young player and as an older one too throughout a long career.
The numbers, for those that don't remember, were 1432 games played, 708 goals,627 assists for 1335 points. Let's just reiterate that. He scored seven hundred and eight NHL goals.
Yet ask a hockey fan to list the best players of all-time and Gartner doesn't register. Sure, he's a Hall of Famer, but so is my cat Fumo (if you follow).
Again, seven hundred and eight goals.
You can criticize him for not winning a Stanley Cup (like it's his fault the Caps goalie in the late '80s was Pete Peters), or that he only had one 50 goal season (ignoring that he had five 45 goal seasons). But, that might just be a tad pedantic. That he only had 53 goals for the Leafs in two and a bit seasons likely hurts his reputation in the centre of the hockey universe, but come on.
Seven hundred and eight goals.
It's time hockey fans gave Gartner just a little more credit.