Hockey’s greatest goalie not on the Top 100 list

Charlie Gardiner

Charlie Gardiner

It is unbelievable that Winnipeg native Charlie Gardiner was not included on the Top 100 Players list announced at the 2017 All Star Game in Los Angeles.

Gardiner’s accomplishments are superior to those of the 15 goalies on that list.

Goalies rarely play every game. It hasn’t been done since Eddie Johnston played all 70 games for the 1963-64 Boston Bruins.

Gardiner missed only 41 minutes in the last six-and-a-half years of his career. This durability has only been exceeded by Glenn Hall and George Vezina.

Gardiner recorded a regular season shutout once every 7.5 games – a ratio that’s better than that of any of the 15 goalies on the Top 100 list, which ranges from 8.6 for Ken Dryden to 34.7 for Grant Fuhr.

Gardiner’s regular season goals against average (GAA) of 2.02 is also better than any of the 15 top 100 goalies. Their GAA ranges from 2.20 for Dominik Hasek to 3.38 for Grant Fuhr.

Gardiner won the first games played in the Chicago Stadium and Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens; during the latter game, he stopped 50 out of 51 shots in a 2-1 Chicago victory. Gardiner and Mike Karakas of the 1938 Chicago Black Hawks are the only NHL goalies to lead the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams to the Stanley Cup.

Due to his untimely death at the age of 29, his career was limited to seven seasons. His short career should not exclude him from the Top 100: Bill Durnan made the Top 100 with a seven season career.

Terry Sawchuk, also from Winnipeg, is often regarded as the NHL’s best ever goalie. Both Gardiner and Sawchuk rightfully belong in the NHL and Manitoba Hockey Halls of Fame.

Who was better? Both played when the Vezina Trophy was awarded to the goalie on the team with the lowest GAA.

Sawchuk had five great years. Between 1950-51 and 1954-55, he played 97% of his teams games and recorded a GAA of 1.94. During these five years, he won three Vezinas and missed the other two by one goal. He was playing behind Detroit’s offensive powerhouse led by Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. They scored 3.05 goals a game.

Gardiner had six great years between 1928-29 and 1933-34. He played with a team that scored 1.88 goals a game and recorded a 1.93 GAA during those years. He won two Vezinas and was runner-up twice.

At the peak of their careers, Gardiner was a little better. Though we can only speculate on how Gardiner’s career may have ended, Sawchuk became an ordinary, often injured goalie after his glory years. In his last 15 years, he had a 2.84 GAA. He made only two All-Star teams in his last 15 seasons. He shared one Vezina with Johnny Bower in 1964-65. In eight of those years, he was not even the number one goalie on his team.

In his 1958 book, written shortly after the end of Sawchuk’s glory years, W. A. Hewitt rated Gardiner ahead of Sawchuk. In 2017, I agree with Mr. Hewitt.

Winnipeg has named a street and an arena after Sawchuk. The time has come to recognize Charlie Gardiner.


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