Just over 25 years ago on January 23, 1993, former Capitals defenseman Kevin Hatcher scored his 20th goal of the 1992-93 season to help the Caps beat the then-expansion Ottawa Senators by a score of 6-4 at the Capital Centre. Hatcher would go on to score 34 goals that season, which remains the franchise’s record for goals by a defenseman. In this Capitals Alumni Profile, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle takes a look back at Hatcher’s Capitals career.
Kevin Hatcher was born on September 9, 1955, in Detroit, Michigan but grew up in Sterling Heights, Michigan. He is the son of Eric and Carol Hatcher and is one of five children, with an older brother, Mark, who was two years his senior and a younger brother, Derian, who was six years his junior. All three of the Hatcher boys were interested in hockey and played in organized hockey. His older brother Mark played in the minor leagues but never made it to the NHL. Derian played in the NHL for many years, primarily with the Dallas Stars, whom he captained to a Stanley Cup win in 1999. Kevin honed his hockey skills in the Detroit area with the Detroit area Compuware program, going on to play Major Junior Hockey with the North Bay Centennials in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Hatcher played with the Centennials during the 1983-84 season and had 10 goals and 39 assists for them; 49 points overall. That season, he also represented the United States in the World Junior Championship, scoring one goal. The Washington Capitals drafted him in the first-round in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft with the 17th overall pick. He was sent back to North Bay for the following season. During the 1984-85 season, he had 26 goals and 37 assists for 63 points.
Washington Capitals Career
After the Capitals drafted him in 1984, Hatcher returned to his junior team; however, he was recalled and appeared in two regular season games and one playoff game with the Caps for the 1984-85 season. He scored his first NHL goal during his second NHL game. His first full season with the Caps was the 1985-86 season, during which he scored nine goals and had 10 assists for 19 points in 79 games. He played nine full seasons with the Capitals, showing much prowess as an offensive defenseman. His best season was the aforementioned 1992-93, when he scored the aforementioned 34 goals and 45 assists for 79 points. Starting with his second full season, he topped 10 goals each year and usually had between 13-20 goals a year. He had one other season, 1990-91, in which he had 24 goals and 50 assists. He played over 70 games during every one of his seasons with the Caps, except for 1988-89, when he missed time due to a pulled groin muscle. In fact, he was the only defenseman for the Caps to play in every game during the 1989-90 season.
He was one of the main heroes during Round 1 of the 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Caps bested the Philadelphia Flyers during a seven-game series. Hatcher scored five goals and had four assists. He had no goals and four assists during Round 2 that year, when they lost a seven-game series to the New Jersey Devils. During his time with the Capitals, he totaled 16 goals and 32 assists in the playoffs.
He appeared in three consecutive All-Star Games with the Caps in 1990, 1991, 1992. When he scored 34 goals during 1992-1993, it was just the seventh time in the NHL in which a defenseman topped 30 goals. In that same year, his 79 points led all NHL defensemen in scoring. Before being traded prior to the 1993-94 season, Hatcher had played in 685 games with the Capitals, scoring 149 goals and 277 assists for a total of 426 points. He also had 999 penalty minutes, as he usually topped 100 penalty minutes in a season, given his rugged style. He was appointed Team Captain in what would be his final season with the team in 1993-94. At the time of his departure from the Caps, he was third in franchise history in games played (685) and seventh in points (426), goals (149), and assists (277).
He set the following Washington Capitals records during his time with the team:
- Career goals by defenseman (149)
- Goals by a defenseman in one season (34 in 1992-93)
- Shots Taken in one season by a defenseman (329 in 1992-93)
- Game-winning goals by a defenseman in one season (six in 1992-93)
- Goals by a defenseman in one game (three on Jan. 13, 1993, at N.Y. Rangers, shares record)
- Career game-winning goals by a defenseman (24)
- Career shorthanded goals by a defenseman (five, shares record)
- Points by defenseman in one playoff year (12 in 1988, shares record)
- Youngest player to appear in a playoff game (18 years, 7 months)
His tenure with the Capitals was notable for contract holdouts, given that he played during an era in which the salaries of NHL players greatly escalated. He held out during training camp before the 1990-91 season as he wanted significant improvements to his contract, which still had two years remaining, plus an option year. Then-General Manager David Poile did not wish to negotiate with him and his agent, Ron Salcur, until he reported to training camp. Given that Scott Stevens had departed from the team in the offseason, Hatcher would be counted on to take a heavier burden on defense. His then-salary of $200,000 was relatively low for a quality NHL defenseman, hence, his desire for a contract restructuring. He ended a 24-day holdout on October 3 and reported to training camp even though the contract situation was not yet resolved. On November 16, Hatcher and the Caps finally agreed on a new deal, a four-year contract worth $3,000,000. The deal added another year to the contract and averaged $750,000 per year. It made him the highest-paid player on the team.
When the contract expired, he was involved in another holdout. He ended up missing training camp in 1994, given that he was a Group II Unrestricted Free Agent and was holding out for a better contract offer. Washington was offering $2.6 million while Hatcher and his agent, Salcur, wanted at least $3.5 million. While holding out, Hatcher played with the minor league Detroit team in the International Hockey League (IHL) and even threatened to play with them the entire season. Just before the 1994-95 NHL lockout, Hatcher demanded to be traded. In response, the Caps stripped him of his captaincy, subsequently traded him to the Dallas Stars on January 19, 1994, after the league lockout began, but three days before the regular season had started. In return, the Caps received defenseman Mark Tinordi and the rights to college defenseman Rick Mrozick.
After the trade, Hatcher’s mother, Carol, said that Dallas was where he really wanted to play. At that time, Hatcher’s younger brother, Derian, played there.
Playing Career After Capitals
He played for the Dallas Stars for two years, scoring a total of 25 goals and adding 45 assists during his time there. The Stars, who expected more from him, traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 1995-96 season for offensive defenseman Sergei Zubov. He remained with the Penguins for three seasons, scoring 45 goals and adding 95 assists with them. The Penguins considered him the anchor of their blueline, as he put in more ice time and performed more duties than anyone else on the roster. Just before the 1999-2000 season, he was again traded to the New York Rangers for Peter Popovic. He played with the Rangers for only one season before signing with the Carolina Hurricanes for the 2000-01 season. That season with the Hurricanes proved to be his last season in the NHL.
In his career, he played in 1,157 games and scored 227 goals, adding 450 assists for 677 points overall, and recording 1,392 total penalty minutes. His career playoff totals were 22 goals and 37 assists in 118 playoff games. In addition to his three All-Star Game appearances with the Caps, he appeared twice more, once with the Stars in 1996, and once with the Penguins in 1997.
In addition to playing in the NHL, Hatcher also represented the United States in international competition. He helped the United States win the Gold Medal in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, and played for U.S. teams that competed at the Canada Cup in 1987 and 1991, with the latter finishing as the runner-up. He was also part of the 1998 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that competed at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
After he retired, he returned to his home in Marine City, Michigan. He and his brother Derian founded Let’s Play Racing, a hydroplane racing team. In addition to owning the racing-boat team, Hatcher competed as a driver, appearing in major races on the hydroplane circuit. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
He and his wife, Mary Ann, are parents of a son named Cole and a daughter named Hannah.
Check Out NoVa Caps’ other Capitals Alumni Profiles here.
Washington Post Story on 1990 Holdout
Washington Post Story on Hatcher Ending 1990 Holdout
Washington Post Story on his New Deal in 1990
Washington Post Story on Capitals Trading Hatcher
U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Profile of Hatcher