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Garth Butcher
Garth Butcher
  • WHL First All-Star Team (1981, 1982)
  • Played in NHL All-Star Game (1993)
  • NHL Defenseman 1982-1995
  • Played with Vancouver, St. Louis, Quebec, Toronto.
  • Born in Regina, Sask. 1963

A scrappy defenceman and solid team leader, Garth Butcher played nearly 900 NHL games in the 1980s and '90s. Although his scoring statistics were formidable in junior, he focused on looking after his own end and making opposition forwards pay the price in the NHL.

Butcher played with the local Capitals in the SJHL before graduating to the WHL's Pats. During his last two years of junior he accumulated 178 points and over 500 minutes in penalties. His blend of talent and grit made him one of the top prospects as the 1981 Entry Draft approached. Butcher was claimed 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks the spent nearly a decade with that organization.

The offensive totals of his junior hockey days eluded Butcher as a pro but he became a constant physical presence in his own end. He also became a team leader and one the craftiest defensive blueliners in the wide-open Western Conference.

Late in the 1990-91 season, the veteran rearguard joined the St. Louis Blues and served as the team captain in 1991-92. Highlights of this stage in his career included playing for Canada at the 1992 World Championships and helping the Blues come within a game of reaching the semi-finals in 1993. Butcher played briefly with the Quebec Nordiques and Toronto Maple Leafs before retiring in 1995.

 

      REGULAR SEASON PLAYOFFS
Season Club League GP G A TP PIM +/- GP G A TP PIM
1978-79 Regina Pat Canadians AAHA 22 4 22 26 72            
1979-80 Regina Blues SJHL 51 15 31 46 236            
1979-80 Regina Pats WHL 13 0 4 4 20   9 0 0 0 45
1979-80 Regina Pats Mem-Cup 3 0 1 1 0            
1980-81 Regina Pats WHL 69 9 77 86 230   11 5 17 22 60
1981-82 Regina Pats WHL 65 24 68 92 318   19 3 17 20 95
1981-82 Canada WJC-A 7 1 3 4 0            
1981-82 Vancouver Canucks NHL 5 0 0 0 9 +4 1 0 0 0 0
1982-83 Kamloops Blazers WHL 5 4 2 6 4   6 4 8 12 16
1982-83 Vancouver Canucks NHL 55 1 13 14 104 -7 3 1 0 1 2
1983-84 Vancouver Canucks NHL 28 2 0 2 34 -12          
1983-84 Fredericton Express AHL 25 4 13 17 43   6 0 2 2 19
1984-85 Vancouver Canucks NHL 75 3 9 12 152 -31          
1984-85 Fredericton Express AHL 3 1 0 1 11            
1985-86 Vancouver Canucks NHL 70 4 7 11 188 -25 3 0 0 0 0
1986-87 Vancouver Canucks NHL 70 5 15 20 207 -12          
1987-88 Vancouver Canucks NHL 80 6 17 23 285 -14          
1988-89 Vancouver Canucks NHL 78 0 20 20 227 +4 7 1 1 2 22
1989-90 Vancouver Canucks NHL 80 6 14 20 205 -10          
1990-91 Vancouver Canucks NHL 69 6 12 18 257 -18          
1990-91 St. Louis Blues NHL 13 0 4 4 32 +4 13 2 1 3 54
1991-92 St. Louis Blues NHL 68 5 15 20 189 +5 5 1 2 3 16
1991-92 Canada WC-A 3 1 0 1 4            
1992-93 St. Louis Blues NHL 84 5 10 15 211 0 11 1 1 2 20
1993-94 St. Louis Blues NHL 43 1 6 7 76 -6          
1993-94 Quebec Nordiques NHL 34 3 9 12 67 -1          
1994-95 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 45 1 7 8 59 -5 7 0 0 0 8
NHL Totals 897 48 158 206 2302 0 50 6 5 11 122

Interview with a Legend by Ken Newans

Butcher was an outstanding junior hockey player with the Regina Pats from 1980-82. He could play the game any way you wanted it played. He was physical at 204 lbs., big enough to be intimidating but smooth and talented enough to kill penalties and anchor a power play. In 1981-82 with the Pats, he accumulated 318 minutes in penalties. That same year though, as a key member of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, he did not record a single penalty. He adjusted his style because he knew you could not afford to take penalties against the Europeans. Garth was drafted in the first round by the Vancouver Canucks and played with them for the better part of nine years. His final four years were played in St. Louis, Quebec and Toronto. Throughout his career he was known as a defenceman that played at a high skill level and never lost his tenacity or fiesty edge. We visited with Garth, who is now retired and living with his wife and five children in Bellingham, Washington.

 

Q: What was your biggest thrill in hockey?

Butcher: I have to go back to 1981-82 when I played with Team Canada and we won the World Junior in a series split between Winnipeg and Minnesota. The team was coached by Dave King, who did a great job of preparing us and keeping us focused. Our starting defense of Gary Nylund, James Patrick, Gord Kluzak, Randy Moller, Paul Boutellier and myself, all played in the NHL and we're still friends. I still prize that gold medal.

 

Q: You were also called up late in the Canuck white towel season. That had to be exciting?

I played the final five playoff games and it was exciting. But I had to write some of my Grade 12 exams so I didn't really get caught up in the fan hysteria.

 

Q: 1993 - you played in the NHL All Star game!!

It was a great experience and it was played in the “Basilica of Hockey” the Montreal Forum. I was playing with St. Louis and we were having a great season.

 

Q: What was your favorite NHL city?

It was Boston—a beautiful place with great food, good music and theatre. Also, Boston Garden has a small ice surface which was great for my slam bang defensive style.

 

Q: Who was the best coach you played for?

Brian Sutter in St. Louis was the best. He treated you well and he was completely honest; a black and white kind of guy. He's the reason Brett Hull became such a great player.

 

Q: I noticed you were traded to Toronto with Maple Leaf captain Matts Sundin. Has Sundin become as great as you expected?

He was always a great person, a gentleman, but it was great to see the fire in his eyes during last years playoffs because now he has, I think, emerged as a great player.

 

Q: You played in the World Championships on the big ice in 1992. How tough will the big ice be on our Olympic Team in Salt Lake City?

It makes a huge difference, you have to be careful of not getting caught checking on the boards. You must try to protect the front of the net where the play usually finishes. Mobility is important, but someone like Stevens is so smart and experienced that he knows his job is to protect that slot zone. It will be challenging but I think Canada has the talent to do it.

 

Garth Butcher was a heck of a junior and a solid pro. He has done very well personally. He lives in Bellingham, Washington where he owns the arena and runs the city hockey program. He has 5 kids who love to play the game. Butcher sums it up, “Life has been great and it just gets better.”

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