ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, September 30, 1999
Gagner had it all except for Cup
Gagner, 34, played for the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks. He appeared in 946 games, scoring 318 goals and 401 assists for 719 points.
Gagner said the grind of travel was becoming more difficult and as an older player he was having to work harder to accomplish less. He said the game wasn't as rewarding because he wasn't making the same impact on the ice as he once made.
"I have known for a few months now it was a reality I was going to have to face," Gagner said.
"I was prepared. After 15 years, I feel I squeezed out everything I could. I feel very fortunate to have made a living playing the game I love. I have so many good memories."
Gagner was selected 12th overall in the 1983 entry draft by the New York Rangers, but spent the majority of his career with the Minnesota/Dallas franchise.
He played minor hockey in Blenheim and Chatham before moving on to play for the Tier 2 junior A Newmarket Flyers and Ontario Hockey League Brantford Alexanders.
Gagner's best NHL season was 1990-91 with the North Stars when he scored 40 goals and recorded 42 assists. That year was also the closest he came to winning a Stanley Cup.
"We were two games away from winning the Stanley Cup," Gagner said from his home in Oakville.
"That is probably the only regret I have -- leaving the game without winning a Stanley Cup."
The North Stars led the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final in 1991, but Mario Lemieux and the Penguins came back to win three games in a row.
"We came pretty close. We were a Cinderella team," Gagner said.
"The camaraderie and what you share with teammates on a playoff drive like that is something special. It's difficult to explain."
Gagner scored 12 goals and added 15 assists for the North Stars in the 1991 playoffs. He is also the only player in Stars' franchise history to record six consecutive 30-goal seasons (1988-94).
Although he has no immediate plans for his future, Gagner said he has always wanted to go into business and has an interest in the financial industry, but his first priority will be spending more time with his wife Jo-Anne and children Sam, Jessica and Renee.
His involvement in hockey will be limited to watching his children play.
Gagner is coaching his daughter's team.
He said coaching kids is something he enjoys, but he has no aspirations of coaching at a higher level.
He said he won't miss training camps, but he'll miss hanging around in the dressing room and the bond shared among teammates.
"Those are the things I am going to miss the most. When you're no longer playing, you feel like an outsider."
Gagner, an unrestricted free agent, started last season with the Florida Panthers and finished with the Vancouver Canucks.