Gerry Hart, an original member of the New York Islanders, passed away this week.
He was 75 years old.
Hart was the Islanders' 12th pick and 23rd player overall selected in the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft involving the Isles and Atlanta Flames. The undrafted defenseman had played parts of four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before being taken by General Manager Bill Torrey. Hart played 64 games in Detroit during the 1970-71 season but did not see the ice for more than three games in any of the other three seasons he spent with the organization.
When the Islanders selected him, the 25-year-old had scored two goals and nine assists in 71 career games while racking up 151 penalty minutes. "I wound up with three serviceable players," said Torrey via Maven's Memories. They were Eddie Westfall from Boston, Billy Smith from LA, and Gerry Hart from Detroit. Each one would play a part in our success, but not right away."
As the Islanders improved steadily throughout the 1970s, adding stars and future Hall-of-Famers to their roster, the 5'9 Hart continued to play an understated style that didn't possess flash but added to the heart and soul of the team as they made the steady climb from league doormat to playoff team to Stanley Cup contender. As the team improved, so did Hart. He was a plus-28 in 1974-75 when the team first reached the postseason and was a plus-35 and plus-30 the following seasons. His best mark came during the 1977-78 season when he finished with a plus-44 and 25 points, his best mark with the Islanders.
After the 1979 season, Hart was left unprotected by the Islanders for the upcoming expansion draft that included four new NHL franchises. “I've talked with Quebec and they indicated to me that Hart is the player they want, Torrey said ahead of the draft according to the New York Times. He is still eligible for the draft. Of course, it's been a negative shock for Gerry, but he's a pro and I expect he will honor his contract."
Upon learning that the Quebec Nordiques would select him, Hart mulled retirement, citing business and real estate interests he had on Long Island. Ultimately, he elected to play and played 77 games with Quebec before signing with the St. Louis Blues. After skating parts of three seasons in St. Louis, he retired at age 35 after the 1982-83 season.
After retiring from the NHL, Hart became a businessman and resident on Long Island. He received a 20-year land lease from the Town of Islip and opened the Rinx recreation complex in Hidden Pond Park in Hauppauge.