The NHL recently interviewed many of the League’s former greats, asking them how they chose the jersey number they are most famously known for. The first series included Mike Gartner, Capitals great for ten years, from 1979 to 1989.
Gartner, like many hockey players from his era, idolized Gordie Howe growing up and wore the number 9 in his junior hockey days. However, after being drafted by the Capitals, it would be a Buffalo Sabre that influenced his decision to don a new number.
Gartner was drafted in the first round, 4th overall, by the Washington Capitals in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. He began his professional career in the WHA as an underager with the Cincinnati Stingers in 1978–79 where he played on a line with Mark Messier. Gartner would finish second to Wayne Gretzky for Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
The Capitals retired Mike Gartner’s No. 11 jersey on December 28, 2008 prior to a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.