Before Bobby Carpenter, NHL scouts never attended high school games in the United States. After Bobby Carpenter, they all did.
He grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, a stones throw from the Boston Garden, and his neighbours in town numbered Gerry Cheevers and Bobby Orr. Number Four got to know Carpenter's father, Bob, and agreed to advise the youngster as his career evolved. In school Carpenter's grades were good enough to get him into any university he wanted, but by his final year he knew that what he really wanted was to play in the NHL.
The Hartford Whalers had made public that they would select him with their first pick in the 1981 draft, fourth overall, and Carpenter was looking forward to playing near home. But the night before the draft, Washington made a trade with Colorado, selecting third, and on the big day it was the Capitals, not Whalers that selected him.
Furious, Carpenter, left the Montreal Forum where the draft was running its course, and this was this first of many public relations gaffes that were to dog his career. Carpenter eventually signed with Washington and became the first player to go right from U.S. high school to the NHL, scoring 32 goals as a rookie and setting a record for American-born players when he scored 53 in his fourth year, Ô84-Õ85. The pervious record had been 41 by Joe Mullen.
He became a staple on America's international teams, though the results were not impressive at the 1981 World Juniors, 1984 and 1987 Canada Cups, or 1987 Worlds. In the summer of 1985 he signed a huge four-year contract with Washington, but within a year he had a falling out with coach Bryan Murray. He left the team and forced a trade, to the Rangers, but within weeks his welcome had run out and he was sent to Los Angeles in a deal that brought Marcel Dionne to Broadway. It was his third team in one season, and even that stay didn't last long.
Carpenter played with Boston, Washington again, and New Jersey (where he won his only Stanley Cup) before retiring, never scoring more than 25 goals in any one year after his big season. A superb career fizzled quickly, and he retired with none of the cockiness he had been known for as a young prospect.