Now clad in the familiar green and gold of the North Stars, Gagner proved he could skate among the NHL's elite. In 1988-89, his second season with Minnesota, Dave notched 35 goals and 43 assists in 78 games, along with 108 minutes in penalties. Clearly, the young man from Chatham, Ontario had not only re-discovered his scoring touch, he had also shown the opposition that he would not be intimidated. It marked the first of six consecutive 30-goal seasons and established Gagner as a hero in the heart of America's hockey-crazed Northwest.
By 1990-91, however, Gagner remained one of the league's unsung stars. Despite early-season knee surgery, he scored 40 goals for the second straight year and was named team MVP. That same year, Gagner earned his first All-Star Game appearance and recorded a goal in the annual mid-season classic.
Said North Stars head coach Bob Gainey, "We have a diamond in the rough in Minnesota, and no one in the hockey world seems to know about it."
The diamond was on display to a global audience for the first time during the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals as Minnesota faced Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins to battle for hockey's ultimate prize. While Gagner led the Stars in scoring with four goals and two assists, a supporting cast featuring Mike Modano, Neal Broten, and Ulf Dahlen were no match for the Lemieux-led Penguins, who captured the Cup in six games. Had Minnesota won the series, Gagner (28 total points in 23 playoff games) would surely have won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
After the franchise relocated to Dallas in 1993, Dave continued to play with a tenacity that had become his trademark. One could see the crazed determination in his eyes -- a look of almost reckless abandon (see PHOTO GALLERY).
Following the 1992-93 campaign, Gagner played for Team Canada at the world championship tournament in Germany. Gagner's commitment to on-ice excellence accompanied him throughout the rest of his storied career in such varied NHL outposts as Toronto, Calgary, Florida, and Vancouver.
The end came without warning, as if the ship upon which his fans had sailed for so many years had struck a great iceberg. On September 29, 1999, Dave Gagner announced his retirement.
The 34-year-old center recorded 318 goals and 401 assists in 946 regular season games and 22 goals and 26 assists in 57 playoff contests.
"I'm very fortunate to have made a living playing the game I love," he said. "At this time, I would like to spend more time with my family and pursue other interests."
No. 15 had succumbed to the inevitable. It's easy to be saddened by Gagner's decision, but when one considers how few of us get to live out our dreams and earn a good living at the same time, we realize how blessed Dave Gagner was. And how blessed we were to see him play.
Dave and his wife, Jo-Anne, reside in Oakville, Ontario with their three children -- Sam, Jessica, and Renee.