Link Gaetz was like a comet that flashed brightly across the sky before disappearing forever. He played in just 48 games for the Sharks back in 1991-92, but he certainly made his mark.
Gaetz was an enforcer. He scored six goals and 12 points with San Jose while compiling 326 penalty minutes (that's an average of 6.8 penalty minutes per game). At 6'3" and 240 pounds, he was an intimidating force on the ice who never backed down from an opponent. His toughness and size earned him the nickname "The Missing Link."
How tough was Gaetz? Former NHL enforcer Nick Fotiu, who tried to mentor Gaetz while he was still playing, told Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News, "He was the scariest hockey player there ever was. People talk about Gordie Howe being mean. But Link? He intimidated everybody, including his coaches."
But Sharks fans, who didn't see their team win too many games back in their early days, loved watching Gaetz drop the gloves.
Writer Valerie Wood, who wrote a novel in 2002 called Enforcer that was based on a player who resembled Gaetz, told Bryant Urstadt of ESPN the Magazine why. "He was so good-looking," Wood said. "Tall, blond, handsome. He had this mystique. He was exciting. Every shift you kept an eye on him, waiting to see what might happen."
Although Gaetz was only 24 when he played for the Sharks, he would never play another NHL game again after 1992. Several off-ice incidents derailed his career including a car accident that left him in a semi-comatose state for more than a week (Gaetz was a passenger). He later also was arrested for driving under the influence that same summer.
Gaetz wandered around the minor leagues after that, but no NHL team ever took a chance on the troubled enforcer.
In hindsight, Gaetz realized what caused his problems. "I think it boiled down to drinking," Gaetz admitted to Emmons. "Whenever I got drunk, I got into trouble. But now I'm clean and sober. It's been hard, but when your life gets worse and worse, the only thing left for you to do is quit."
The Missing Link didn't play in the NHL long, but anybody who saw him drop the gloves won't soon forget him and wonder what might have been.