The Flyers Alumni are saddened to learn of the passing of Maine Mariners/ Philadelphia Flyers alum Dave Gardner on March 20, 2023, at the age of 70. He had complications from a blood infection that he had been battling. In addition to being a very good hockey player, Dave was an even better person: a popular teammate wherever he played, a loyal friend, and beloved son, brother, father and grandfather to his family. He will be greatly missed.
Dave was born on August 23, 1952, in Toronto. In his early days, he was a highly touted first-round pick by the Montreal Canadiens (taken eighth overall in the 1972 NHL Draft), he was part of a prolific junior line on the Toronto Marlboros with Steve Shutt and Billy Harris. The Marlies top line was rivaled by the Kitchener Rangers’ top trio of Bill Barber, Jerry Byers and Al Blanchard. All six players were taken within the top 12 picks of the 1972 NHL Draft.
The New York Islanders, selecting first overall, took Harris. The Habs, owning the fourth and eighth picks, took future NHL All-Star regular Shutt with the fourth pick. The Flyers grabbed future Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Barber with the seventh pick. The Canadiens took Gardner eighth. Blanchard, who never played in the NHL, went 10th overall to the New York Rangers. Byers, who played just 45 NHL games, was taken 12th overall by the Minnesota North Stars.
Gardner was part of a multi-generation hockey family. His father, Cal Gardner, was a star NHL center of the 1940s and 1950s whose best years came with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The elder Gardner was a two-time NHL All-Star and a two-time winner of the Cup over a 696-game NHL career. Dave’s younger brother, Paul Gardner, enjoyed four 30-goal seasons in the NHL; two apiece with the Rockies and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Coming out of junior hockey, Dave Gardner’s pure offensive skill was compared by some to Guy Lafleur. However, once Gardner reached the NHL level, he was destined to become a well-traveled player but a useful one. Injuries set him back several times.
Gardner lasted 350 games in the NHL, tallying 75 goals and 189 points. His best point-producing seasons were with the lowly California Seals and Cleveland Barons. Gardner played for the Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Oakland/Cleveland and then bounced around the minor leagues before signing with the Flyers as a free agent in the summer of 1979. Flyers general manager Keith Allen and head coach Pat Quinn viewed Gardner as an organizational depth player by this point in his career.
Gardner was a robust scorer at the AHL level for the Maine Mariners, producing 55 regular season points (20 goals, 35 assists) in just 37 regular season games in 1979-80. He was called up to the Flyers for two games in March — scoring a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at the Spectrum against the Colorado Rockies in his Flyers debut — before being returned to the Mariners. Gardner dressed in 12 Calder Cup playoff games for Mariners, chipping in seven points.
Following his stint with the Flyers and Maine, Gardner went to Europe to play in Switzerland for Ambri-Piotta. He played five seasons in the Swiss National League before retiring.