Dave Gagner was born on December 11, 1964 in Chatham, Ontario.
A small but scrappy player who excelled in an era dominated by bigger competitors, Gagner was the New York Rangers' First Round selection (12th overall) in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, chosen ahead of such luminaries as Alfie Turcotte, Bruce Cassidy, and Nevin Markwart.
He had impressed scouts while skating with Brantford of the Ontario Hockey League, and was named to the OHL Second All-Star Team in 1983. Now property of the Rangers, Gagner seemed destined for greatness on Broadway.
But team management never gave him the opportunity he deserved. Despite his obvious skills, the young centerman was traded to the Minnesota North Stars with Jay Caufield for Jari Gronstrand and Paul Boutilier on October 8, 1987. Shuttled back and forth between New York and New Haven of the AHL, Gagner appeared in only 80 games with the Blueshirts over a three-year period, recording 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points.
It was a dark time, and research indicates a discouraged Gagner contemplated early retirement.
His departure from the bright lights of New York, though tragic, allowed Gagner to mature and develop as a hockey player at the highest professional level. The opportunity to shine would be provided in frigid Minnesota . . .