Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Valtteri Filppula Jersey Card

An anomaly in the Detroit Red Wings' system at the time because he hails from Finland and not Sweden, Valtteri Filppula first rose to prominence in 2007-08 as he posted 19 goals and 36 points in his sophomore season and 11 points in 22 playoff games to help the Wings win the Stanley Cup and just kept improving from there.

The next year he posted 40 points through 80 games in the regular season and another 16 more in 23 playoff games as the Wings lost in the Cup Final. In 2009-10 he posted 35 points in just 55 games, and the next season he slipped a bit to 39 points in 71 games (though with 16 goals to show for it), but exploded in the post-season with 8 points in 11 games.

2011-12 was the year he made his mark as the team's second-line center with 23 goals and 66 points, but he opted to leave Detroit after the lock-out and signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning last summer. He responded with a career-best 25 goals and 58 points, but Tampa was swept in the opening round by the Montréal Canadiens mostly because Ben Bishop was injured and couldn't help his team. It was probably disappointing for him, though I would have liked to see him play with Steven Stamkos when the deciding game was tied at two.

It's as good a time as any to feature this 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits card (#FE-VF in the First Exposures sub-set) by Upper Deck:

It shows him wearing the Wings' classic white uniform, with a decent-sized red swatch from a rookie photo shoot jersey.

He has won three bronze medals with Team Finland: two at the World Juniors (including the 2004 one where he made the All-Star team), and at the 2010 Olympics.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jarome Iginla Autographed Card

I (finally, after failing at the 2009 and 2012 All-Star Games) met my former favourite captain Jarome Iginla after a game at the Bell Centre last month, as he had collected an assist in a 4-1 Boston Bruins win over the Montréal Canadiens. He was accepting compliments but the whole team seemed in a hurry to get out of town, and I thought I wouldn't get him to sign for me... but he did.

I told him how for so long, he and Joe Sakic represented the pinnacle of leadership for me (forgot about Saku Koivu, but I wasn't there to make a Buzzfeed list), and how though he's a Bruin now - Montréal's fiercest and biggest rivals - I wouldn't mind if they won another Stanley Cup if it meant his name was to be engraved on it, but that it'd be even better next year with another team (his answer ''let me guess, the Habs?''); then he proceeded to sign this 2001-02 Heritage card by Topps (#40 in the set) in blue sharpie:

It shows him wearing the Calgary Flames' turn-of-the-millennium black uniform with the fiery horse logo - and notice how he wasn't captain yet: it only happened in 2003. Don't let the scan fool you: the card is in great shape (I had a plastic box), but the penny sleeve I put in it afterwards may not have been new.

He has just completed his thirteenth 60-point season and twelfth 30-goal season. He has 560 goals (and counting), over 600 assists, and nearly 1200 points in some 1300 games, plus 32 goals and 63 points in 71 playoff games so far despite rarely playing alongside players of his caliber.

Individually, he has an Art Ross trophy (points leader), two Rocket Richard trophies (leading goal-scorer), a Lester B. Pearson award (now the Ted Linday award as MVP voted by the players), a King Clancy (leadership off the ice and humanitarian contribution) and Mark Messier trophy (best leader) to go with his Rookie Team (1997), First-Team (2002, 2008, 2009) and Second-Team (2004) All-Star nominations and six All-Star Game appearances.

As a team player, he has two Memorial Cups with the Kamloops Blazers, and many gold medals with Team Canada, including at the World Juniors (1996, where he was also the tournament's MVP), World Championships (1997), World Cup (2004) and Olympics (2002 and 2010).

The Hall Of Fame will definitely be calling.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

P.K. Subban Autographed Card

I've been waiting to showcase this card for a while, because I'd sent P.K. Subban 3 cards and a fan letter in November 2011 with special cards, including a Score Hot Rookies card, one of him wearing the Carolina Hurricanes' uniform from an All-Star Game and maybe an AHL card; I never received anything back.

That same season, I met him before a game and he signed this card for me of him wearing the Hamilton Bulldogs' white (home) uniform, from In The Game's 2009-10 Heroes And Prospects set (card #64), signed in blue sharpie:

I hadn't posted it before because I didn't want to double-post the same player in too close a time span, but I think I can write those off at this point and concentrate on what lies ahead.

Subban won his first Norris trophy last season, and while he hasn't been as dominating this year - with Andrei Markov taking back the #1 defenseman spot - he still managed to finish second in team scoring with 53 points, despite having been benched more often than ever before in his NHL career.

He's been back to his old self in the playoffs as well, with two assists in the second game of the Montréal Canadiens' series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He also won his first senior-team Team Canada gold medal at the Olympics this year to go with his two World Juniors gold medals, though he didn't play much as the team's seventh defenseman.

One thing's for sure, his is one of the next two Habs jerseys I'm buying, along with Alex Galchenyuk's.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Donald Audette Autograph Card

I made my predictions for the first round of this playoff season on my regular blog, and I followed my heart for all of the series except one (I'm rooting for the Detroit Red Wings against the Boston Bruins, who I believe are a stronger team with a much better goalie). That means I'm rooting for the Los Angeles Kings in their series against the San Jose Sharks, so I thought I'd feature a card that referenced them:

It's from In The Game's 1999-2000 Be A Player Millennium Signature Series (card #121 in the set), a beautiful silver foil autographed insert card signed in thin black sharpie of Donald Audette, one of the consistent 25-30 goal scorer of the Dead Puck Era.

Oddly enough, in the year and a half he spent in L.A., he had a great impact, finishing second on the team in both goals and points in his lone full season with the team in 1998-99 despite playing in only 49 games. His 18 goals were a long way from Luc Robitaille's 39 (in 82 games), but two ahead of Glen Murray's total of 16 (in 61 games); his points total of 36 was far behind Robitaille's 74, but one ahead of Rob Blake's 35 (in 62 games) and two ahead of Jozek Stumpel's 34 (in 64 games).

He would have his best offensive output with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2000-01, with 32 goals, 39 assists and 71 points in just 64 games, which was his second-highest games total, behind only the 77 he played with the Buffalo Sabres in 1993-94. He never once played a full season.

All told, he finished his career with 735 NHL games played with 6 different teams (two stints with the Sabres), 260 goals, 249 assists, 509 points and 584 penalty minutes in the regular season. He also has 21 goals and 48 points in 73 career playoff games. He wasn't a Hall Of Famer, but his All-Star Game appearance (in 2001) wasn't a fluke either, he was a solid performer for most of his career.

These days, he's an amateur scout for the Montréal Canadiens, and I sent him a fan letter (through the team) earlier this season.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jacob Markstrom: 3 Autographed Cards

Jacob Markström is a 24-year-old Swedish goalie who already comes with an impressive pedigree, having dressed for Team Sweden 5 times thus far: at the U18 once (4th place), the World Juniors twice (silver in 2009 when he was also named the tournament's top goalie, bronze in 2010) and the World Championships twice (gold in 2013, bronze in 2010) - and probably another appearance at the Worlds this year.

He has a good butterfly and the perfect size (6'3'' and just under 200 pounds) for his style, a good glove hand, good agility and covers his angles well. With a proper goaltending coach to look for the best angle to put his legs in, he'll be able to cover up the five-hole and reach the space next to the post accurately enough to only have to work on his blocker-side and lateral push for the next decade or so.

The first player selected in the second round in 2008, he was the third goalie drafted but already has achieved a lot more than the two chosen ahead of him, Chet Pickard (18th) and Thomas McCollum (30th); as a matetr of fact, Jake Allen (32nd), Braden Holtby (93rd), Dustin Tokarski 122nd), Kevin Poulin (126th) and Anders Lindback (207th) are the only other goalies in his draft class to have made the slightest impact in the NHL so far.

Like all of them, Markström has proven to be too good for the AHL (his save percentage in the minors is above .920 over 4 seasons) and just needs to find his groove behind a capable NHL defense, which his original team - the Florida Panthers - could not provide. He was traded from the Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on March 4th (with Shawn Matthias) for Roberto Luongo and Steven Anthony, but it remains to be seen if the Canucks can rebound and provide him with better stability.

Ironically, if nothing changes in front of the crease, he'll be sharing the net with Eddie Lack, who served as his back-up in 2009-10 when both were with Gävle Brynas IF.

I had sent Markström a fan letter and four cards on March 17th, 2014 and received three back, signed in black sharpie, on April 16th (2014), a 30-day return. He kept the card showing him with the Rochester Americans, but sent back the three of him with the Panthers.

I'll start with the best-looking uniform, the newest version of the red (home) one, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #83):

And now, the white (away) uniform:

The card on the left, from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 set (card #122) shows the Reebok Edge version of the white uniform, with the ugly blue piping in front, whereas the one on the right, from Panini's 2012-13 Score set (card #213) shows the jersey as it always should have been.

Though it would have been nice to have him in the Americans' uniform, I'm more than happy with this return as is. If anything, I'll try him again in a couple of years with cards of him with the Canucks. This brings my reception total for letters sent in 2014 to 12/70.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Darryl Sutter: 2 Autographed Items

Darryl Sutter was a heck of a hockey player, and is proving he's also a heck of a coach, losing in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Calgary Flames in 2003-04 and winning the Grail with the Los Angeles Kings in 2011-12.

Born the same year my mom was (1958) and drafted the year I was born (1978), Darryl Sutter spent his entire career with the Chicago Blackhawks, whom he also coached for three seasons. He played parts of 8 seasons with the team, captained it from 1982 until 1987 (with Bob Murray taking over for 30 games while he was injured in 1985-86), and finished his career with 161 goals, 279 points and 288 penalty minutes in 406 regular-season games - and an even better 24 goals and 43 points in 51 playoff games.

I had sent Sutter a fan letter and two cards (one wearing each of the Hawks' uniforms, home and away) on March 30th, 2014, care of the Kings (the team he's currently coaching), and got one back, signed in red sharpie, along with a signed index card, on April 16th (2014) - a 17-day return. The card he returned is the one depicting him in the Hawks' red (away) uniform, from Topps' 1985-86 Topps set (card #100):

It shows him getting ready for a face-off, with the same stoic face he still has today. After Brent (once and twice) and Ron, he is the third of the first-generation Sutters I have gotten to since starting this blog; I also have a swatch card of Brandon's (Brent's son), who is part of the second generation of hockey's Royal Family.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gary Leeman: 6 Autographed Cards (Part 1)

So my last three returns involve former Calgary Flames... I had sent Gary Leeman these 6 cards on April 1st, 2014, and got them all back, signed in blue sharpie with his jersey number (11) tagged at the end, Tuesday, April 15th (2014) - a 14-day return!

Leeman had an extraordinary career in which he played just about every possible role on the ice (though fairweather fans always ''blamed'' him for not repeating his high-scoring prowess from his days with the Toronto Maple Leafs).

And I get that, really I do. I mean, improving from 21 goals (52 points) in 1986-87 to 30 goals (61 points) in 1987-88 to 32 goals and 75 points (in just 61 games!) in 1988-89 to an astonishing 51 goals and 95 points in 1989-90, Leeman looked like he could compete with Brett Hull for a long time. But after struggling through injuries and an ever-changing cast of teammates for the following year and a half, he was sent to the Flames in the largest trade of all time, as 10 players changed teams, with Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Kent Manderville, Ric Nattress and Rick Wamsley headed to Toronto, and Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit, and Craig Berube going to Calgary.

But the Flames only gave Leeman two half-seasons before shipping him off to the Montréal Canadiens to finish off the 1992-93 season, and his 18 points in 20 games were impressive, particularly when one considers he wasn't even on the team's top two lines. As a matter of fact, on that Stanley Cup-winning team, he came after 40-goal right winger Brian Bellows, center-turned-winger Denis Savard, checking winger Mike Keane, 97-point center Vincent Damphousse, 94-point center Kirk Muller, sniper Gilbert Dionne, and future 50-goal man John LeClair on the depth chart. Oh, and the best defensive center of all time in Guy Carbonneau, who needed his 20 minutes of ice time per game to check the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mats Sundin and Pat Lafontaine.

So Leeman succesfully went from go-to sniper to ''cog in the machine'', but too many people still wanted him to be the 50-goal man even well into his 30s, so the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues miscast him themselves, forcing him to expatriate himself to Germany to end his career; he did end up with 15 goals and 56 points in 54 games with the Hannover Scorpions over two seasons to finish in style.

All in all, we're talking about a guy who played nearly 700 NHL games, played for three different Canadian teams (and two more in the AHL - the St. Catharines Saints and Fredericton Canadiens), was one goal short of the 200 mark, put up 466 points and 24 more in 36 playoff games, and has his name on the Cup. He can be proud of himself every time he looks in the mirror, because he has accomplished a lo during his career. Enough to warrant my featuring three cards of his with the despised Leafs...

And here they are, all showing him wearing their classic blue (away) 1970s-1980s uniform:

On the left, from Pinnacle Brands' 1990-91 Score (American) set (card #40); at center, from Upper Deck's 1990-91 Series 1 (French Canadian Version) set (card #243); and on the right, from Topps' 1989-90 O-Pee-Chee (card #22), during a pre-game warm-up with Ken Wregget behind him.

                           (continued in the following post)

Gary Leeman: 6 Autographed Cards (Part 2)

               (continued from the previous post)

And now, for three cards depicting him with the Calgary Flames, all of them taken during the NHL's 75th Anniversary season (as can be attested from the patch on the font of his jersey) and all of them with a mustache proving he's a natural redhead, first with the classic red (then-away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 1991-92 Series 2 (French Canadian Version) set (card #528):

And finally, wearing the Flames' seldom-seen-on-cards white (home) uniform:

On the left, making a swift change in direction in front of the Boston Bruins' bench and back-up goaltender Daniel Berthiaume in particular, from Pro Set's 1992-93 Parkhurst set (card #254 of the French Canadian version); on the right, from Pinnacle Brands' 1992-93 Score (card #171 of the French Canadian version), we have Gary Leeman back-checking.

It's funny, because at the time, I didn't purposely collect the French-Canadian versions of sets even though they were readily available to me; but in 2003 or so, I came across a bunch of unopened 1992-93 boxes that went for under $5 each at a discount store and stocked up - and most of them were of either the bilingual or all-French kind, and the fact that those were rarer on Ebay or for American traders in general - and perhaps also to the players themselves - made me appreciate them a bit more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Joel Otto: 4 Autographed Items

I got mail at my old place on Monday, one that made it there despite there not being enough postage on the envelope (thanks, Canada Post employees, some of you have a heart!) and that only took 21 total days round trip. I'd written Joel Otto a fan letter that I sent along with these 4 cards on March 24th, 2014, care of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen - where he is an assistant coach - and got them all back on April 14th (2014), signed in black sharpie, with the clearest signature I've seen in a long time:

In today's NHL game, Otto would have been a prized commodity: a 6'4'', 220-pound right-handed centerman who played tough, won face-offs and was among the top-3 of his generation in shutting down the opposition (second perhaps only to Guy Carbonneau, in my opinion, with Bobby Carpenter in third place). If neither of them rings a bell, picture Tomas Plekanec's shut-down ability, Patrice Bergeron's ability in the dot, and Ryan Getzlaf's size - in one mean player.

A two-time Selke nominee, he won the Stanley Cup in 1989 as a member of the Calgary Flames, with whom he spent the first 10 years of his career before moving on to the Philadelphia Flyers for the final three. Except for his last season, he was always good for 40-60 points, close to 20 goals and over 150 penalty minutes a year, and his playoff statistics are also impressive: 27 goals, 47 assists, 74 points, and 205 PIMs in 122 career games, and astonishing stats when his team went deep in the postseason: a 5-10-15 output in 20 games in 1985-86 as the Flames lost the Cup to the Montréal Canadiens, and 6-13-19 in 22 games in 1988-89 as the Flames took their revenge on the Habs.

A Minnesota native, he represented Team USA many times internationally, including at two World Championships, the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups (he was team captain for the latter), the 1996 World Cup (which the U.S. won), and the 1998 Olympics.

Let's have a look at the cards, first those showing him wearing the Flames' classic red (away) uniform, starting with this 1990-91 Score (American) card (#128 in the set) by Pinnacle Brands, with the 1989 Cup Finals patch on his left shoulder, entering the offensive zone in control of the puck:

Next up is this Pro Set 1991-92 Series 1 card (#37 in the set), sporting the alternate captain's 'A', which was pretty much a fixture on his chest:

And a sticker from Panini's 1992-93 Panini set (#43 to stick in the collector's album), sporting the NHL's 75th-anniversary patch that all teams wore that year, fighting for prime in-slot real estate in front of the New York Rangers' Joe Cirella:

And finally, showing him in the Flames white (then-home) uniform, from Pro Set's 1992-93 Parkhurst set (the French Canadian Version, card #253 in the collection), sporting both the 'A' and the 75th patch in a weirdly-cropped picture that barely shows Los Angeles Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey:

Again: what a tremendous return!

I am fairly confident that he will be on the Calgary Flames' coaching staff before long, as an assistant (possibly associate) coach in charge of both the powerplay and the penalty kill - in which he both excelled.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kitana Baker Prop (Baseball Cap) Card

Kitana Baker's career has really taken off since first being ''discovered'' through Playboy's Girls Next Door contest, gaining major fame through her Miller Lite commercials in 2002 as one of the ''Catfight Girls'' with fellow model Tanya Ballinger, enough to start hosting shows on E! and The Playboy Channel, and to have cameos on WWE programming.

She has had small parts in such films as Auto Focus, Intolerable Cruelty and The Scorpion King, as well as in the 2008 flop B-movie-with-decent-actors-in-it Toxic, alongside Tom Sizemore, Susan Ward, Dominique Swain, Danny Trejo, Bai Ling, Lochlyn Munro and rapper Master P.

She was a Benchwarmer regular from 2003 until 2010, and this card is from packs of the brand's 2008 Signature Series collection:

As stated on the front of the card and obvious because of its colour, this ''Prop Card''  (#PC 7 of the 15 in the set) features a piece of the baseball cap she's sporting in the picture, possibly the largest item of clothing she has on. It just might be the thickest card I own, at nearly half an inch.

It is one of two BW swatch cards I own (unless I have another one hidden somewhere that I'm forgetting about) and is probably the one with the highest ''book value'' though, like most of my cards, I don't plan on ever selling it.

I do still have unopened boxes of this set, though; I might sell those some time in the future.