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 Bostona 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.