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NHL hall of famer eager to lace 'em up again for a good cause

'I grew up in Barrie and live out in Shanty Bay, so we’re still very much a part of the community,' says Mike Gartner, who will captain one of the two teams in Aug. 3 charity game

The Boots and Hearts Barn Burner will return after a two-year absence and so far two legends of the ice have been named team captains for the event.

The Barn Burner charity hockey game will take place on Aug. 3 at Sadlon Arena and will see two star-studded teams going head to head. Money raised through the event will go to local charities such as the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) Foundation, Huronia Rotary Club, Easter Seals, PIE Education, and others.

NHL legends Gary Roberts and Mike Gartner have been selected as captains to head up the teams.

Gartner, a Hockey Hall of Famer who has been one of the more familiar faces with the local event in recent years. He has been part of not just the Barn Burner series, but also the Hockey Night In Barrie event which preceded it.

“Overall, I’ve been a part of seven or eight of these,” Gartner says. “I grew up in Barrie and live out in Shanty Bay, so we’re still very much a part of the community.”

Gartner is also a local business owner, being part-owner of National Training Rinks, which has facilities in south-end Barrie, Newmarket and Richmond Hill.

But he says the main reason he enjoys being part of the charity hockey game is to give back to the community and local organizations.

“Both my parents went through RVH. They’ve passed on many years ago now, but were treated extremely well there. My family has gotten to know some of the people at RVH and I think because of that I believe it has being a major recipient of the funds raised is a big proponent for me,” says Gartner, 62. 

Gartner’s family moved to Barrie when he was 13 years old and he played his bantam and midget hockey in the Barrie Minor Hockey Association (BMHA). He was also part of the Barrie Co-op Midgets 1975 Canadian National Wrigley Midget Championship.

“I still have great friends that I played minor hockey with 45 or 50 years ago," says Gartner, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001. "As a matter of fact, some of them I still play hockey with to this day."

In 19 NHL seasons, the speedy winger scored 708 goals (which puts him eighth overall in the NHL record books) and had 1,335 points in 1,432 games. In 122 playoff games, he also had 43 goals and 93 points. His 19-year NHL career included stops with the Washington Capitals (who drafted him fourth overall in 1979), Minnesota North Stars, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Phoenix Coyotes.

Gartner holds two NHL records that speak to his consistency: 15 consecutive 30-goal seasons and 17 seasons where he topped the 30-goal mark. In 2017, he was named among the the top 100 NHL players in league history. 

Prior to joining the NHL, the Ottawa native also played one season in the World Hockey Association (WHA) with the Cincinnati Stingers, beginning when he was a teenager. 

A seven-time NHL all-star, Gartner credits some of his professional success to the people in this community who helped him along the way.

“There are a lot of very dedicated people in this community, dedicated volunteers," he says. "I had great coaches growing up and I know there are people continuing that tradition always in the game of hockey.

“Obviously, Barrie is not unique in that a lot of communities in Canada have that same approach, but Barrie has grown a lot and we’re right on the cusp of being a big city. That said, we still have that close-knit feel and that is a great thing to have," Gartner adds. 

Back from a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Barn Burner charity game is one event that Gartner says he anticipates every year.

“I’ve done a lot of charity events and this one is truly the most unique in that, besides Gary (Roberts) and I, it is entirely made up of current players,” Gartner says. “We’ve had Steve Stamkos, Connor McDavid, Corey Perry and so on who have come out and played while still playing in the NHL. I can say we have another great bunch of players coming to the event this year and I’m just happy at the age of 62 that I can sort of play with them out there.”

Organizers announced this week that Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares has also been added to the roster

The Barn Burner charity game will be played Aug. 3, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Tickets and more information are available here.