November 28, 2015
The man they called "Crow" was a workmanlike left winger who played a minor role even on some of the NHL's weakest teams. The 6'0" 200+ lb grinder tirelessly dug, raked and dove for loose pucks like his life depended on it. In addition he excelled in shorthanded opportunities.
Gary took the unconventional route to the National Hockey League. In the late 1960s the Sudbury Ontario native attended St. Lawrence University in Canton NY. That was still during the days where college hockey was not an option for a serious hockey player. However Croteau was a serious hockey player, and a serious student too. He didn't try his hand at pro hockey until he graduated. He continued his education part time while playing, earning his masters degree in guidance counseling at the University of Missouri.
Originally territorial property of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Croteau was traded to the Los Angeles Kings before he even had a chance to wear the Blue and White. He played primarily in the minor leagues for his first two pro years, although he got into 14 games with the Kings, scoring 5 goals and 6 points. However late in the 1969-70 season he was dealt to Detroit where he finished the year by playing irregularly in 10 games.
The Wings left Croteau exposed in the intra league draft prior to the 1970-71 season. That turned out to be a good move for Gary as he returned to the Californian sunshine when he was selected by the California Golden Seals. He played as a regular for 4 years in the Bay area before expansion Kansas City Scouts selected him in 1974.
Croteau fell in love with the Missouri City, and even though the franchise relocated to Denver Colorado as the Rockies just 2 years later, Croteau made his off season home in Kansas City, partly due to his enrollment at the University.
Croteau played 4 years in Colorado before calling it quits. Those 4 years were 4 of his best statistically, as he topped the 20 goal mark twice. He also was a solid player for his famous (or maybe that should read infamous) coach Don Cherry.
Croteau worked in real estate in Denver after hanging up the blades.