Sunday, May 22, 2016

Alex Killorn: 2 Swatch Cards

Oh, man, did the Tampa Bay Lightning ever play with my emotions tonight! Trailing 2-0, tying the game up, the Pittsburgh Penguins going up 3-2 in the final minute of the second, the Bolts tying it near the end of the third and winning on a Tyler Johnson goal less than a minute into overtime - whew!

And the first Tampa player to score was my chouchou (positive French term for favourite, or teacher's pet), Alex Killorn, who now has 13 points in 15 playoff games this year, and 33 in 45 for his career.

When playing EA Sports' NHL 16 (or any iteration thereof, from 2014 onward), my first move as GM of the Montréal Canadiens is to trade Carey Price to Tampa Bay for Ben Bishop, Killorn and a first-rounder. And I keep winning the Stanley Cup, and those guys keep proving me right in real life time after time as well.

I usually try to trade away my doubles of jersey cards, but in this case, I couldn't. One of the reasons is that I want to start collecting Killorn more seriously, but also because Panini's 2013-14 Totally Certified cards often didn't come in the most pristine conditions, often with at least one banged corner, or - as is the case for one of these two - imperfect sides; still, it's a beautiful card, both of mine featuring blue event-worn jersey swatches:
It's card #RR-AK or the Rookie Roll Call and Dual Rookie Class sub-sets, showing him wearing the Bolts' white (away) uniform.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Terry Labonte Skidmarks Card

Summer is nearly upon us and, with it, sports I care less about, such as baseball, track and field, and auto racing.

Which brings me to this kind of great card I got in a multi-sport repack a few years ago, #SK 1/9 of Press Pass' 2002 Eclipse set (and Skidmarks sub-set) of Terry Labonte:
Here's the twist: everything that's black on this card is... "authentic race-used tire material to artistically accent the design". How cool is that? You can really feel the rubber, too.

As for Labonte, the 2016 NASCAR Hall Of Fame inductee is a two-time NASCAR champion (what is now known as the Sprint series was called the Winston Cup when he won it in 1984 and 1996). The twelve years between championships is a NASCAR record for longest time between championships, though he did win the 1989 and 1993 International Race of Champions titles - basically the All-Star Game or Champions League of oval racing.

He raced for Hendrick Motorsports - the Kellogg brand was their main sponsor, which is why Tony The Tiger's face can be seen on the hood of his car; here's a clearer image:
Hendrick Motorsports is owned by Rick Hendrick, who co-owns a Chevrolet dealership in North Carolina with Labonte.

Labonte's first and last wins came on the same track: the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, a.k.a. The Lady In Black and The Track Too Tough To Tame; his final race was at Talladega.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mitch Webster: 3 Autographed Cards

Here's me checking off #23 from my Expos Numbers Project with these three cards of outfielder Mitch Webster:
I don't know about you, but to me, despite being from cards two years apart, the pictures seem like they're from the same at-bat, or at the very least the same game, judging by the shapes and colours of the people behind him compared to where he's at in his swing...

Webster played in the majors for 13 seasons, and was specifically with the Montréal Expos from 1985 until 1988; he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Dave Martinez when Hubie Brooks took over right field duties. Webster may have led the National League in triples (with 13) in 1986, but The Natural never batted for .300, and it was believed that Martinez might (and did twice with the Chicago White Sox a few years later) - and Martinez was more dependable defensively.

I keep forgetting Webster started out with the Toronto Blue Jays. That's icky. He's a scout for the Kansas City Royals nowadays - the Midwest Regional Scouting Supervisor, in fact.

But back to the cards. Here's card #523 from Leaf's 1986 Donruss set, of which I only bought singles (usually commons) in 1989-1991:
And here's card #257 from Leaf's 1988 Donruss collection, of which I bought tons of wax and cello packs while vacationing in Florida that summer:
As I said, the pictures are eerily similar, both showing him in the team's powder blue classic away uniform. He signed them in different blue sharpies, which dates them around 1995 to me - while he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers - and means he was using someone else's pens, probably during pre-game warmups.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

B.J. Johnson Sweet Spot Helmet Autograph Card

Here's another card from my favourite insert set of all time, Upper Deck's 2004 Sweet Spot collection - in this case, card #238 from the Signatures Tier Two / Rookie Signatures sub-set, B.J. Johnson of the Denver Broncos, numbered 396/699:
It features an embedded tiny plastic helmet replica, which he signed in silver sharpie.

Johnson was a star player for the University of Texas Longhorns, but injuries started taking their toll in his draft-eligible year, but the Broncos took a chance on him nonetheless. After two injury-filled seasons, he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, often falling to injury as well - and he promptly retired after just his third NFL season.

Now, with fellow UT alumnus Roy Williams, he owns a distillery where he primarily makes wheat-based vodka. Just the thing to make all matters of pain go away...

Perhaps the Super Bowl Champion Broncos could order a few cases from him...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tony Granato Autograph Card

Congratulations are in order for the San Jose Sharks, who tied their series with the St. Louis Blues tonight thanks to a 4-0 shutout win. I predicted this series would go the full 7 games, and as of now, it seems like it will - I just thought the Blues wouldn't have to rely on Brian Elliott being perfect to get there.

I am underlining this win with this card of Tony Granato's, the signed insert version of card #272 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set, signed on-card in thin black sharpie and showing him in the late 1990s white (home) uniform:
The reason why I'm featuring Granato is that he recently left his position as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings to coach his university alma mater, the famed University of Wisconsin Badgers. He'll be joined by his brother, Don Granato, and former NHLer Mark Osiecki - both fellow Badger alumni.

Best of luck to them.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Margot Kidder Autograph Card

By now you've probably witnessed the hate-on for Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice; coming out of the movie, having just seen Deadpool right before, I will admit to being slightly disappointed in the film, and I agreed with most commenters and critics that the two best features of the movie were Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

But the following week, after reading and watching dozens of hours of bitching and unrepentant criticism, even I was taken aback, ready to defend its qualities against rampant negativity.

For the second time, however, Amy Adams was "just there" as Lois Lane, not stealing any scenes, not hindering any, but pretty much not doing anything except get into more trouble than Elisha Cuthbert in 24.

Perhaps it's because she's already a household name, whereas Margot Kidder used that role to parlay herself into a very successful career that included such credits as The Amityville Horror (1979), Heartaches (1981) and Pygmalion (1983).

She went through a breakdown in 1996 which slowed her career down, but she rose back to the spotlight touring with The Vagina Monologues (2002-2005), which led to some fine TV appearances such as The L Word, Smallville, and R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour, earning an Emmy for the latter.

She's involved politically, supporting Liberal causes such as the environment, fracking regulations, increased financial regulations and is famously anti-war.

And she's on card #A-MK2 from In The Game's 2011 Canadiana set:
It's the Black Version variant, which features a black-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Patrik Elias Jersey Card

Patrik Elias' future in the NHL has come into question for the past three summers and this year will be no different, as the New Jersey Devils announced two days ago that the 40-year-old had undergone surgery on his right knee.

Injuries have cost the Devils' all-time leading scorer no less than 96 games in the past three seasons, limiting him to 19 games in 2015-16, though he did produce 8 points. If I were the team's GM, I would bring him back for a final season if he understood he'd be playing bottom-six minutes with second-unit powerplay time, so around 12-14 minutes per game where he could still contribute offensively but where he would have a sheltered role.

The two-time Stanley Cup champion does deserve the respect of ending his career with the only NHL team he's ever known and not have to Martin Brodeur it elsewhere for a sad half-season. With over 400 career goals, 600 career assists, 1000 points and 1200 games played, he has no milestone to set his sights on and can concentrate on just being a good team player, showing leadership and helping the team's youth develop.

Here's card of his from Upper Deck's 2010-11 Series 1 set (card #GJ-EL of the UD Game Jersey sub-set):
It's a bust shot showing him wearing the team's white jersey, with a matching swatch.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Francis Bouillon Autographed Card

I ran into Francis Bouillon yesterday as we were taking turns talking to a radio station about hockey in general (though he talked mostly about the Montréal Canadiens - saying he thought the Habs were on the verge a winning a Stanley Cup - I talked CBA and cap space, some regarding the Habs, but also of the Detroit Red Wings' options should Pavel Datsyuk choose not to play another season though he's owed $5.5M and will account for $7.5M on the cap).

I'm of the opinion that Bouillon will end up working for the Habs, sooner rather than later, probably as a player development coach, replacing the position left vacant from Patrice Brisebois' departure two years ago.

He's the ideal guy for it: he communicates well, had a lengthy career - 80% of it in Montréal, so he knows the market as well - and became everything scouts thought he'd never be: a rugged, punishing checker in the defensive zone who improved his skating speed almost until the end and developped offensive skills, not stealing his second-unit powerplay time when he got it.

He was deemed too small to ever play a single NHL game - yet he suited up for 776 in the regular season, 55 in the playoffs, and six more as a member of Team USA at the 2003 World Championships, logging more than 20 minutes per game over his career. So, yeah, here's to silencing his critics.

He signed this card for me in blue sharpie:
It's #262 from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Parkhurst set, showing him wearing the Habs' then-home white uniform.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Doug Soetaert Autograph Card

Honestly, I didn't know much about Doug Soetaert until I landed this card a few years ago.

He was the goalie wearing #1 on Montréal Canadiens team pictures in 1984-85 and 1985-86 - I know that because I'm a Montrealer, because I have a thing for goalies, and because I've been looking at those pictures pretty much my entire life, as they are the first ones of Patrick Roy.

I knew he'd signed with the New York Rangers afterwards, having a sub-par outing for them going 2-7-2 with 14 penalty minutes in 13 games - yes, that's more than a minute per - and a whopping 5.16 GAA and dismal .842 save percentage, after which he retired.

What I didn't know was that he spent the second half of the 1970s with the Blueshirts, followed by three seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. You can find a profile of his career here.

Post-retirement, he was VP and GM of the WHL's Everett Silvertips, then assistant GM with the Calgary Flames, scout with European teams falling under the Red Bull (you read that correctly) banner in Austria and Germany, and has been on the Arizona Coyotes' scouting staff since last summer.

He had a pretty cool mask whilst with the Rangers, too, as can be attested on card #A-DS from In The Game's 2011-12 Between The Pipes 10 Anniversary set (part of the Decades - The 1970s and GoalieGraphs sub-set):
It features a black-sharpied on-sticker autograph that is extremely subtle, as is was often the case with ITG. I speak in the past tense, of course, because ITG will cease to exist once it releases its Final Vault product in a few weeks, after an unsuccessful merger with Leaf.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Paul Stastny Jersey Card

There was much chatter when Paul Stastny left the Colorado Avalanche - the organization that used to be located in his city of birth, Québec - for the team from the city he actually grew up in, the St. Louis Blues.

In Game 7 against the Dallas Stars, Stastny's line has totally taken over, paving the way to the team's first Conference Finals berth since the 2000-01 season. That's two teams thus far making it when I would have preferred their adversaries win - the Pittsburgh Penguins have also eliminated the Washington Capitals. My last hope for 50% happiness would be seeing the Nashville Predators dispose of the San Jose Sharks tomorrow.

But back to the Blues, whose depth was superiors to Dallas', and whose goaltending was also far better, with oft-underrated All-Star Brian Elliott besting both Kari Lehtonen (who did have one great game) and Antti Niemi.

Captain David Backes and Team USA defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk both seem poised to leave the Blues, and both seem to want to do it by procuring the team its very first Stanley Cup, leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs as the lone team to not have won it since the late 1960s.

This may have been the first regular-issue card to feature Stastny as a member of the Blues, #42 of Upper Deck's 2014-15 Masterpieces collection and Memorabilia (Jersey) sub-set:
The seemingly hand-painted card features a dark blue game-worn jersey swatch, likely from his days with the Avs.