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Garret Sparks (born June 28, 1993) is an American professional ice hockey goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League (NHL). Sparks was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round, 190th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He is notable for being one of the only goaltenders in league history to record a shutout in his NHL debut, and the first Maple Leafs goaltender to do so. In 2018, Sparks was awarded the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award as the AHL goaltender with the lowest goals against average, which helped lead the Marlies to their first Calder Cup.

Garret Sparks
Texas Stars vs Toronto Marlies (42307373814).jpg
Sparks with the Toronto Marlies in 2018
Born (1993-06-28) June 28, 1993 (age 26)
Elmhurst, Illinois, U.S.
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight 210 lb (95 kg; 15 st 0 lb)
Position Goaltender
Catches Left
NHL team
Former teams
Vegas Golden Knights
Toronto Maple Leafs
NHL Draft 190th overall, 2011
Toronto Maple Leafs
Playing career 2013–present
Medal record
Representing  United States
Ice hockey
World Junior Championships
Gold medal – first place 2013 Russia

Sparks' goalie equipment are a tribute to former NHL players Trevor Kidd and Curtis Joseph, who wore similar designs during their playing careers. He formerly wore Curtis Joseph's #31, although it has since been adopted by Frederik Andersen.

Contents

Playing careerEdit

Junior and minor leaguesEdit

Sparks played minor league hockey with Chicago Mission of the Tier 3 Elite Hockey League, before joining the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2010. He was drafted by the club in the eighth round, 160th overall in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection. Sparks made 19 appearances for the Storm, going 8–6–1 for a .890 save percentage, playing well enough to pick up by the Toronto Maple Leafs 190th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.[1] Sparks would spend the next two seasons with the Storm, briefly playing in three games for the Maple Leafs' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, at the end of the 2012–13 season. In 2013, Sparks represented the United States and won gold at the 2013 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship in Russia. The next year, Sparks would split time between the Marlies and the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL.

Entering the 2014–15 season, Sparks was expected to be the Marlies' starting goaltender. However, a poor training camp lead to goaltenders Christopher Gibson and Antoine Bibeau beating him out on the depth chart, forcing management into sending Sparks down to the Solar Bears for most of the season, only seeing brief time with the Marlies when one of their goaltenders was injured. Sparks excelled with Orlando, recording a .936 save percentage in the regular season and a .921 save percentage in the playoffs.

During the following season, Gibson was traded to the New York Islanders as part of a trade for Michael Grabner, leaving an empty roster spot on the Marlies. Sparks succeeded in retaining the job and served as the backup to Bibeau to start the season. However, an injury to Jonathan Bernier on the Maple Leafs forced management to call up Bibeau, leaving Sparks the temporary starter. Sparks excelled and was named the AHL's First Star of the Week for November 8, 2015.[2] Sparks had stopped 96 of 101 shots faced during his time as the starter in Bibeau's absence, which was good enough to hold starting duties once Bibeau returned. When injury once again plagued the Maple Leafs (this time befalling James Reimer), Sparks was called-up due to his recent solid play.

Toronto Maple Leafs (2015–2019)Edit

Following a poor showing against the Washington Capitals after which Jonathan Bernier was publicly criticized by Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock in a post-game interview, Sparks was informed that he would make his first NHL start on November 30, 2015.[3][4] In his debut, he recorded 24 saves and a 3–0 shutout win at home against the Edmonton Oilers, the first time in Maple Leafs history that a goaltender recorded a shutout in his debut.[5] Sparks would play in the next few games before himself suffering an injury. After recovering, Sparks was sent down to the Marlies. He would see time as the Marlies' backup, as Bibeau had been playing strong. In an effort to earn Sparks more ice time, he was sent down to the Solar Bears. He would play one game for the Solar Bears before being brought back to the Marlies. In doing so, Sparks achieved a rare feat of playing in all three of the NHL, AHL and ECHL in the same season.

On February 27, 2016, Sparks was called-up by the Maple Leafs following the trade of starting goaltender James Reimer. Sparks would play the remainder of the season with the Maple Leafs, recording disappointing numbers. Following the completion of the campaign, and with the Maple Leafs out of contention to qualify for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, Sparks was sent down to the Marlies to help the first place team in their 2016 Calder Cup playoffs run. Despite being favourites to win, the Marlies would suffer a third-round exit to the Hershey Bears.

 
Sparks with the Toronto Marlies during the 2018 Calder Cup Final

In the off-season, Sparks was qualified by the Maple Leafs, in order to retain his negotiating rights. On July 15, 2016, Sparks signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Maple Leafs worth the league minimum $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level, with a guarantee of $150,000.[6] In November 2016, Sparks was suspended indefinitely by the Maple Leafs for violating team policy after directing violent and sexist language toward a user in an online group.[7] During an argument which took place in the group, Sparks wrote, "I want to go to open hockey with you, drag you out to center ice and beat you into a [expletive] pulp until you can't run that [expletive] little mouth of yours. God, you sound like a 13-year-old girl." When another member objected to Sparks' language, he added, "Girls don't even whine as much as this guy does."[7] Sparks returned to the team later in December.[8]

During the 2017–18 AHL season, Sparks was named the AHL's goaltender of the month of January after he recorded a 5–0–0–1 record, including two shutouts.[9] He was called-up to the NHL on an emergency basis in March,[10] but was sent down without seeing any playing time.[11] At the conclusion of the 2017–18 season, Sparks was voted the AHL's Top Goaltender of the season[12] and named to the First All-Star team after amassing a 30–9–2 record and a league-leading .936 save percentage.[13] On April 15, 2018, Sparks and fellow Marlies goaltender Calvin Pickard were awarded the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award.[14]

Sparks began the 2018–19 season in the NHL after the Toronto Maple Leafs placed goaltenders Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard on waivers, facilitating their departures from the organization.[15] On March 5, 2019, Sparks signed a new one-year, $750,000 contract with the Maple Leafs effective for the 2019–20 season.[16] Following a poor finish to the 2018–19 regular season in which Sparks lost 8 of his last 11 starts while posting a .895 save percentage, Sparks was effectively removed from the Maple Leafs roster after Michael Hutchinson was called-up from the Marlies to serve as Frederik Andersen's backup for the final game of the regular season. On April 5, 2019, it was announced that Sparks would be spending ten days practicing with Maple Leafs goaltender coach Steve Briere away from the team.[17]

Vegas Golden Knights (2019–present)Edit

On July 23, 2019, Sparks was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for David Clarkson and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.[18]

Career statisticsEdit

Regular season and playoffsEdit

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP W L T/OT MIN GA SO GAA SV% GP W L MIN GA SO GAA SV%
2010–11 Guelph Storm OHL 19 8 6 1 972 59 0 3.64 .890
2011–12 Guelph Storm OHL 59 27 25 4 3304 171 5 3.11 .907 6 2 4 323 24 0 4.45 .881
2012–13 Guelph Storm OHL 60 36 17 4 3440 152 7 2.65 .917 5 1 4 275 14 0 3.05 .920
2012–13 Toronto Marlies AHL 3 2 0 1 189 8 0 2.53 .895 1 0 0 14 1 0 4.23 .900
2013–14 Toronto Marlies AHL 21 11 6 1 1094 48 0 2.63 .915
2013–14 Orlando Solar Bears ECHL 10 4 6 0 552 26 1 2.82 .916
2014–15 Toronto Marlies AHL 2 1 0 0 120 2 1 1.00 .966
2014–15 Orlando Solar Bears ECHL 36 21 7 3 1946 76 5 2.34 .936 6 2 4 342 17 0 2.98 .921
2015–16 Toronto Marlies AHL 21 14 4 3 1212 47 3 2.33 .928 5 2 2 235 9 1 2.30 .915
2015–16 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 17 6 9 1 975 49 1 3.02 .893
2015–16 Orlando Solar Bears ECHL 1 1 0 0 60 1 0 1.00 .962
2016–17 Toronto Marlies AHL 31 21 9 0 1774 64 5 2.16 .922 2 1 1 98 4 0 2.46 .900
2017–18 Toronto Marlies AHL 43 31 9 2 2507 75 6 1.79 .936 19 14 5 1134 42 2 2.22 .915
2018–19 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 20 8 9 1 1105 58 1 3.15 .902
NHL totals 37 14 18 2 2,080 107 2 3.09 .898
 
Sparks with the 2018 Calder Cup

Awards and honorsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "A guide to the Leafs' draft picks". National Post. June 25, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ "Garret Sparks Named CCM/AHL Player of the Week". Toronto Marlies. November 9, 2015. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ "Babcock won't tolerate poor starts from Bernier". Roger's Sportsnet. November 29, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ "Goalie Garret Sparks to make NHL debut with Leafs against Oilers". Toronto Star. November 29, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  5. ^ "Rookie Sparks makes Maple Leafs history with shutout in NHL debut". Fox Sports. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  6. ^ "Toronto Maple Leafs re-sign Garret Sparks to one-year, two-way contract". Maple Leafs Hot Stove. July 15, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ a b "Sparks suspended indefinitely by Leafs - Article - TSN". TSN. November 26, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  8. ^ Vaswani, Navin (December 4, 2016). "Sparks back with Leafs' farm team, with lessons learned". thescore.com. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  9. ^ "Sparks Named CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month". marlies.ca. February 1, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  10. ^ "Leafs recall goaltender Garret Sparks on emergency basis". sportsnet.ca. March 15, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  11. ^ "Maple Leafs' Garret Sparks: Sent down to AHL". cbssports.com. March 19, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  12. ^ "SPARKS VOTED TOP GOALTENDER IN AHL FOR 2017-18". American Hockey League. April 11, 2018.
  13. ^ "Canadian teams dominate AHL All-Star picks". tsn.ca. April 6, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  14. ^ "MARLIES' SPARKS, PICKARD WIN HAP HOLMES AWARD". theahl.com. April 15, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  15. ^ "Hurricanes, Flyers pounce on waived Maple Leafs goalies McElhinney, Pickard". cbc.ca. October 2, 2018. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  16. ^ "Maple Leafs Sign Sparks to One-Year Extension". NHL.com. March 5, 2019. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  17. ^ Chris Johnston (April 8, 2019). "Leafs left with no choice but to remove Sparks from lineup as playoffs loom". Sportsnet.ca. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  18. ^ "Maple Leafs acquire Clarkson from Vegas for Sparks". The Sports Network. July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  19. ^ "Marlies bring a hockey championship to Toronto, win Calder Cup". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. June 15, 2018. Retrieved June 15, 2018. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)

External linksEdit