Capitals Retire Mike Gartner's Number 11

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 29, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

In a moving tribute last night, the Washington Capitals raised Mike Gartner's number 11 to the Verizon Center rafters, to hang in perpetuity with the #7 of Yvon Labre, #5 of Rod Langway and #32 of Dale Hunter.

The ceremony did not have a formal emcee. Rather, two men with intimate knowledge of the speedy right winger, teammate and business partner Wes Jarvis and Caps' President Dick Patrick, spoke glowingly of the Hall of Famer. Jarvis' speech was laced with personal stories of life as teammates and housemates, while Patrick spoke about what Gartner meant to the young franchise, bringing an all-star presence to a organization trying to find its place in the sport--and market.
“I am proud to know that Number 11 is going to hang in Verizon Center as symbol of our franchise,” Patrick said. “It will be a constant reminder of your speed and power on the ice as well as your graciousness and dedication to the sport.” -- Dick Patrick
Gartner himself then took the microphone and spoke about his passion for the game, his family, and his many fond memories of his playing days in Washington. He also mentioned the current team, and how Caps' owner Ted Leonsis had "two goals" for the Caps: to become a class operation and to win a Stanley Cup.
“I always look back on my 10 years in Washington with great memories, great admiration and great thankfulness,” Gartner said. “I will always have a very special place in my heart for this area and for this franchise. I really became a hockey player here, and I also became a young man, and was shown the importance of being involved in the community.” --Mike Gartner

Events like last night attest to the first proposition, and games like last night may very well speak to the second.

During the pre-game skate, the Caps all wore retro jerseys with Gartner's #11, and the Caps conducted a silent auction through the first two periods. Ovechkin and Federov's jerseys both went for more than $3000, and Green, Semin and Laich all went for more than $1000. Part of the proceeds went to a charity of Gartner's choice.

And today's Caps made sure everyone went home extra happy, dispatching the Toronto Maple Leafs, another of Gartner's former teams, 4-1.

All photos (c) C. Nichols 2008.