Mike Gartner Talks About Playing a Hall-Of-Fame Career With One Good Eye

Former Washington Capitals great Mike Gartner played his entire 19-year hall-of-fame career with a vision condition he mostly kept to himself. Gartner’s suffers from amblyopia in his right eye.

“My left eye is my dominant eye, I have 20-20 vision in my left eye and 20/200 vision in my right eye,” Gartner said in an interview with The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek. “If I cover my left eye and look out of my right eye, I couldn’t even drive my car. It didn’t really come into play until I turned pro, at which point I had to take an eye test.”

Mike 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. Gartner would play for the Capitals for ten years, from 1979 to 1989.

“The doctor said, ‘Cover one eye, and then cover the other’ – and I said, ‘I can’t see out of that eye.’ For years, the doctors just kinda looked the other way – I would take the black thing they use to cover your eye and move it a little so I could read the eye charts. They didn’t care if I could see out of both eyes, as long as I could pass the eye test – and score goals.”

Gartner did face challenges while keeping his condition secret, particularly when coaches asked him to play on the left wing.

“I was pretty limited that way. I was a right-winger, I really couldn’t play anywhere else,” said Gartner. “I remember, one time, they tried to put me on left wing and I told them, ‘I can’t play over there. I don’t feel comfortable.’ I really think it was because I couldn’t see the ice the same way – whereas playing right wing, I could see the entire ice surface, because my left eye was dominant. When I went on the off wing, I couldn’t see as well. I told them, ‘I’m not a very good left-winger. You’re better off just keeping me on the right side.'”

The Capitals retired Mike Gartner’s No. 11 jersey on December 28, 2008 prior to a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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2 Responses to Mike Gartner Talks About Playing a Hall-Of-Fame Career With One Good Eye

  1. Diane Doyle says:

    If he had been a left handed shot under a coach with a similar handedness philosophy as Adam Oates, it would have been a disaster.

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