Some players play a whole life time and never get a shot at playing for the Stanley Cup. But every year there is usually one lucky rookie who gets the chance to play for the Cup in his first season. Danny Gare was in that position back in 1975.
"I was a rookie that year and I thought, ‘Boy, this is great, this is going to happen every year' " remembers Gare, who never had another chance to play for hockey's holy grail.
After scoring 31 goals and 62 points during 78 freshman season games, Gare tallied seven goals and 13 points during the 1975 playoffs as he helped lead Buffalo to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Sabres eventually fell to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Cup Finals but it was a thrilling ride that Gare will never forget.
“The ’75 Finals against Philadelphia, they were the team that won the Cup the year before, and obviously they were a team that were very physical and very intimidating at times and that’s why they named them the Broad Street Bullies. It was very tough to win in Philadelphia. I don’t think we ever won a game there during our series but it went to six games. Bernie Parent was unbelievable. He was, I think, the real difference of the series. Obviously goaltending is always a big part in any Stanley Cup series.”
Gare’s hockey career began with a successful three-year junior career with the Calgary Centennials. In his final year with the Centennials, 1973-74, Danny scored 68 goals and 127 points in 65 games. This resulted in the Sabres selecting Gare in the second round (29th overall) of the 1974 Amateur Draft.
After registering 31 goals and helping Buffalo to the Cup finals as a rookie in 1974-75, Gare took his game to a higher level in his second season. Despite playing on Buffalo's checking line, Gare scored 50 goals.
"I think one of the biggest memories I have is obviously being a young player in my second year here and playing on a checking line with Done Luce and Craig Ramsay. We were a checking line and we always played against the top lines. And I remember going into my last game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with 47 goals and we were checking the Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Tiger Williams line. And I was just hoping to maybe get a sniff at 50 and fortunately for myself I got three that night and got my 50th goal. So that was a big thrill to get 50 goals in your second year and especially the type of position I was in, like I mentioned, the checking line."
While the Sabres failed to return to the Cup finals that year, Gare sure made an impression on the NHL's brass. During the off-season, Danny was asked to represent Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup tournament. Gare played, albeit in only 1 game. Canada of course won the tournament on a famous goal by Darryl Sittler.
Injuries limited Gare to only 35 games in 1976-77 but that didn't slow him down in the following years. Danny scored 39 goals in 1977-78 and he tallied a career-high 56 goals in 1979-80, a total good enough to tie him with Charlie Simmer and Blaine Stoughton for the league lead.
Gare, a 5 year captain of the Sabres, followed that year with a 46-goal campaign in 1980-81 and he again represented Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup. Danny was more of a regular member on this team, playing 7 games and notching 6 points. Unfortunately the Canadian team lost to the Soviet Red Army in the finals.
Danny played in 22 games with the Sabres in 1981-82 before a surprising trade saw him join the Detroit Red Wings midway through the season. Buffalo traded Gare, Jim Schoenfeld and Derek Smith, three pretty big pieces of their mix, in exchange for Mike Foligno, Dale McCourt and Brent Peterson.
Although Gare never really put up great numbers as a Red Wing, he remembers his time in the Motor City well.
“When I went to Detroit for four and half years, from being a captain in Buffalo for about five of my years, I was fortunate enough to be captain in Detroit, too. I really enjoyed my time in Detroit under the Illitch family who took over that team and were rebuilding that team and unfortunately I couldn’t stay there physically long enough because my back was bothering me and I had to retire because of that. But I think being a part of that rebirth in Detroit, we made the playoffs for the first time back-to-back in 20 years. I sat next to Steve Yzerman, he was the captain after me, so it was nice to be a part of that."
Before Gare did retire due to a bad back, he spent part of the 1986-87 campaign with the Edmonton Oilers, where he signed as a free agent in the offseason. He only played in 18 games before his back forced him out for good. Despite that, Gare remembers his few days in Edmonton fondly as well."
And then I ended up going to Edmonton my last year and then retiring from the Oilers. I got to be around players like Gretzky and Messier and Fuhr and Coffey. So it was a real nice way to retire in Edmonton. They went on to win the third Cup that year. So I enjoyed my time."
Gare retired with very respectable numbers - 354 goals, 331 assists and 685 points in 827 regular season games. In 64 playoffs contests, he had 25 goals and 46 points.