Monday, September 1, 2014

Kyle Chipchura Autograph Card

After months of looking around for other players who might fit the bill, I decided to cross off #28 of my Habs Numbers Project with this beautiful card of Kyle Chipchura, as chosen by my newest friend:

It's from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Artifacts set (#AF-CH of the Autofacts sub-set), always the best-looking set out there, year in and year out. It's a sticker autograph, signed in thin blue sharpie.

Despite having only been a point-per-game player once in four years of Juniors with the Prince Albert Raiders (the year following the draft, 32 points in 28 games) and having been slotted as a late-second or early-third round pick, the Montréal Canadiens chose Chipchura 18th overall (first round) in 2004, ahead of Travis Zajac (20th), Wojtek Wolski (21st), Andrej Meszaros (23rd), Cory Schneider (26th), Jeff Schultz (27th), Mike Green (29th), Dave Bolland (32nd), Carl Sodenberg (49th), David Booth (53rd), Brandon Dubinsky (60th), Alex Goligoski (61st), David Krejci (63rd), Brandon Prust (70th), Alexei Emelin (84th), Alexander Edler (91st), Johan Franzen (97th), Kris Versteeg (134th), Pekka Rinne (258th), and Mark Streit (262nd).

But the Habs did so not for Chipchura's limited offensive capabilities, but because he was viewed as a tremendous leader and potential future captain: he had already been slated to captain both the Raiders and Team Canada at the World Juniors the following season - which he did, winning gold.

In his first full AHL season, he helped the Hamilton Bulldogs win the Calder Cup (with such stellar players and Andrei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre, André Benoît, and Ryan O'Byrne). He was a bit slow for Guy Carbonneau's all-offense style of play (and later Jacques Martin's all-checking style) on the parent Habs club, though, so the team traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a fourth-round pick in 2009. He found a role as a bottom-six forward with the Ducks for the remainder of the season, but was forced out of the line-up the next year.

The Phoenix Coyotes liked him enough to sign him as a free agent twice, though, and he only missed a total of 4 games over the past two seasons in the desert. Ironically, he scored 5 goals in both the locked-out season (46 games) and last year (80 games); he has two more seasons left on his contract with the now-Arizona Coyotes, at $850K per.

He is a 6'2'', 210-pound center who is good at covering his man close - he's a bit too slow to cover a fast player who has more than three feet's distance to out-maneuver him; his basic defensive zone positioning makes him a fine penalty killer. With his pedigree, size and leadership skills, you'd want to slot him in the #3 role; however, in today's quicker NHL, he's better suited to the fourth line. If the rules get laxer as they seem to want to become, and the clutch-and-grab style becomes fashionable again, then he'd be ideal as a 15-minute, shut-down man.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jeff Hackett Jersey Card

Jeff Hackett wasn't the most affable man, either with fans or the press, but one thing he was very good at was stopping pucks. In his 500-game NHL career, he stopped over 12,500 of them - nearly 4,000 with the Montréal Canadiens alone.

In parts of 5 seasons with the Habs, there were two where he was healthy enough to play the majority of the games; he won the Molson Cup both times as the team's MVP, and even finished in the top-10 in terms of Vezina voting despite the team being dreadful. He finished twice in the league's top-3 for save percentage, another time in the top-5, and once more in the top-10.

Had he played with better teams than the New York Islanders, the expansion San Jose Sharks, the mid-to-late-1990s Chicago Blackhawks, the turn-of-the-millenium Habs and early-2000s goalie cemeteries Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, he may have boosted his wins record by at least 50%, from 166 to close to 250. As it stands, though, he is still 94th on the all-time wins list; to put it in perspective, at least 75 goalies play in an NHL game each year, and the league has been in operation for 97 years.

I really like this card from In The Game's 2012-13 Forever Rivals set (card #BTP-13 of the Between The Pipes sub-set), as it shows a close-up of his classic Habs mask (two kids with Canadiens toques playing in the snow) and a big white game-used jersey swatch:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Joe Murphy Autograph Card

I'm kind of surprised I hadn't featured a card from this set yet, considering my Oilers Numbers Project, but here's who slots nicely for #8, Joe Murphy:

I'd alluded to this card earlier this week, as I had doubles of it and traded one away to the person I'd split a box with for this Warren Young card. It's from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers Collection, and is #FI-JM of the Franchise Ink sub-set.

Joe Murphy was the first-overall pick of the 1986 draft, ahead of Jimmy Carson (2nd), Zarley Zalapski (4th), Vincent Damphousse (6th), Brian Leetch (9th), Craig Janney (13th), Adam Graves (22nd), Teppo Numminen (29th), Jyrki Lumme (57th), Rob Brown (67th) and Ron Tugnutt (81st). In retrospect, apart from Leetch who was a steal in ninth, any of these players could have been chosen at any position in the top 10. Ironically, half of them would up playing for the Edmonton Oilers.

Usually, a first-overall pick should be a career impact player, or at the very least for a good chunk of it; while Murphy was no Sidney Crosby, he did have a few high-caliber seasons. His career-high for goals (35) and points (82) came with the Oilers in 1991-92, and the line he formed with Martin Gélinas and Graves (who like Murphy had been a Detroit Red Wings draft pick converted from the left wing to the right) was imperative to Edmonton winning its fifth Stanley Cup in 1990 - the lone one without Wayne Gretzky. He also had a 62-point season with the Oilers in 1990-91.

His second-best season goals-wise came following his stint in Edmonton, when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks: he scored 31 with the Hawks in 1993-94. All told, he had seven 20-goal seasons, and four 50-point seasons, which is fairly decent.

He finished his career with 233 goals, 295 assists and 528 points in 779 NHL games, and an additional 34 goals and 77 points in 120 playoff games. His best point-per-game production was with the Oilers and Hawks, but he also spent time with the Wings, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals (though it seems I remember him playing for neither, save maybe the Sharks).

He has played for Team Canada twice, at the 1986 World Juniors (silver medal, finished second in scoring with 14 points in 7 games) and with the National Team in 1985, with 6 points in 8 games.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Peter Mahovlich Jersey Card

Peter Mahovlich was drafted by, started his NHL career with and ended it with the Detroit Red Wings, but will forever be known as a member of the Montréal Canadiens.

In eight and a half season with the Habs, ''Little M'' - then the league's tallest player by a full five inches - had five 35-goal seasons, two 100-point seasons, and won four Stanley Cups.

He was later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and had 114 points in 117 games in a year and a half with them, before heading back to Detroit for two seasons, the last one ending with a stint in the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings.

People in my parents' generation saw him play with the Habs, Pens, and Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series and 1976 Canada Cup; to hear the tales, he was just as important to the mid-1970s Canadiens as Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer, Steve Shutt and Bob Gainey, and probably deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame - but as electrifying as his end-to-end rushes may have been, 773 points in 884 games might fall a bit short - though 72 in 88 playoff games also has to be factored in.

I also have no qualms about putting him among a list of top-15 Habs centers of all time.

So with that in mind, here's a card from Topps' 2001-02 O-Pee-Chee Archives set (#J-PM of the Authentic Game-Worn Jersey sub-set, also numbered #124 as the original card depicted on the front was):

My usual pet peeve remains: it displays a white jersey swatch while showing him in the Habs' red (then-away) uniform. But I don't think there are any of his old Topps/OPC cards that would have shown him in white anyway, so you make do with what you have, I guess.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tatiana Calderon Noguera Autographed Postcard

Here is the third of three returns I had last Tuesday, the token monthly non-hockey-related one, this time featuring race car driver Tatiana Calderon Noguera:

It's a promo postcard, signed in black sharpie; the front shows her current car and a close-up of her face while the back lists fun facts and her three main sponsors.

She is currently in her second season in the European F3 series, her first with Jo Zeller Racing. She participated in the Euroformula Winter Series as well as the Florida Winter Series with Emilio de Villota Motorsport, where she won one race out of 13 (in Sebring).

She has won karting championships, finished in the top-3 in the 6 Hours Of Bogota event twice, and is following the usual course to end up in Formula 1. Coming from the city that has brought Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Alexandre Tagliani and Andrew Ranger to open-wheel racing, F1 is pretty much the only racing series I follow nowadays (and even then, with all the stories of corruption and relative lack of likable pilots compared to 10 or 20 years ago, I follow that a lot less than I used to as well).

But Tatiana Calderon Noguera is a fresh face full of promise, and we'll see how far she can take her talents and addiction to high speeds.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Michel Goulet: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 1)

I'd been meaning to write to Michel Goulet for so long, first when he was an assistant general manager with the Colorado Avalanche, and more recently as a scout for the Calgary Flames. I finally did, this season, sending him a fan letter and these five cards (care of the Flames) on March 24th, 2014, and receiving them all back, signed in blue sharpie, on August 26th, 2014 - a 154-day return:

Ironically, I waited until this season to send, and I pulled a couple of inserts of him throughout the season, so you'll likely be seeing more of him before year's end.

I was happy to get two more cards of him with the Québec Nordiques, the team he helped define in the 1980s with Dale Hunter and Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny and Marian Stastny; he had eight straight 30-goal seasons, with four straight 50-goal seasons in the middle of those; his 121 points in 1983-84 was a record for a left winger at the time and was the second of four times he's surpass the 100-point mark. He was in the league's top-10 for points three times and made the end-of-the-year All-Star teams five times. He garnered top-10 Selke and Hart votes twice each.

The card on the left is from Topps' 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee set (card #292), while the one on the right is from Topps' 1988-89 Topps set, and is #7 in its NHL All-Star sticker sub-set.

                                (continued in the following post)

Michel Goulet: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 2)

                        (continued from the previous post)

He had 456 goals and 945 points (in 813 games) with the Québec Nordiques alone, numbers likely to have gotten him in the Hall Of Fame by themselves, but factor in the other 207 in 276 games with the Chicago Blackhawks for a grand total of 1152 points in 1089 regular-season NHL games and he was a shoe-in as one of the greatest of all time.

I was happy to get him to sign some cards of himself with Chicago, as my only previous collectible of him as a Hawk was this jersey card. It's a bit weird that one of the cards doesn't picture him with his signature mustache (he shaved it off in what became his final season):

All three cards show him wearing the team's red (away) uniform. On the left is card #430 from Pro Set's 1990-91 Series 2 collection; in the middle is card #50 from Pro Set's 1991-92 Series 1 set (the French Canadian Version); and the card at the right is from Leaf's 1993-94 Series 2 set (card #373).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

George Parros: 7 Autographed Cards

Sometimes, in real life - but also on this blog - I let my cynicism get the best of me. One player I can't do that with is George Parros. He is one of the most likable personalities in the NHL, from his dry sense of humour to his involvement in countless charities (including donating his hair every Christmas to make wigs for cancer-struck kids), to the best mustache in sports, the man is all class.

I had sent him 3 regular-issue cards and two sets of customs (copies he could have kept for himself, which might have been tempting were they nicer-looking!) on May 8th, 2014, and received them all back, signed in black sharpie, with the correct jersey number on each, on August 25th, 2014 - a 110-day return, stamped from California (though originally mailed care of the Montréal Canadiens, so with a Canadian stamp - thanks US Postal).

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings (8th round, 222nd overall) in 1999, the former captain of the Princeton University Tigers didn't just score a goal the first time he made the score sheet, he actually had a ''Gordie Howe Hat Trick'' (a goal, an assist and a fight) against the Dallas Stars. He only played 55 games in L.A. before the Colorado Avalanche took him off the waiver wire, and only played two games for the Avs before they traded him back to California, this time to the Anaheim Ducks.

From his days with the Kings I now have this memento, from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Series 1 set (card #92), sporting jersey #57 of the white variety:

His time in Anaheim was way more memorable, though, as he not only spent the better part of six seasons with the Ducks, but he also won the Stanley Cup with them in 2007. He topped the 100-PIM mark five times in six seasons with the Ducks.

From those seasons, I have these two regular-issue cards by Panini, first wearing the team's black (home) uniform, from the 2010-11 Score collection (card #40 in the set):

And in the white (away) uniform, from the 2011-12 Score set (card #38):

As one of the most respected enforcers of the end of the last decade, Parros endeared himself to fans and teammates alike, which is why I made and included him in the Tough Customer sub-set of my custom Hell's Kitchen 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #TC2):

(He looks just like my godfather in this picture; my godfather's a policeman, not a porn star)
Upon becoming a free agent just about when the lock-out was possible but not yet a certainty, he signed with the Florida Panthers; a year later, he was traded to the Montréal Canadiens, who were looking to add size to their line-up.

He may not have played a lot with the Habs, what with suffering two concussions and being relegated to the press box for the late stages of the season and the playoffs in favour of young prospects, but he stayed focused on the task at hand, trained hard, and supported his teammates as they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. And that will be his legacy here, not the injuries, not the media fanfare over his arrival, not the 85 penalty minutes in just 22 games - his being the ultimate teammate, and putting the team ahead of himself, his expiring contract, his chance a proving he deserves another one. It may have actually cost him a season or two and forced his retirement (well, that and the concussions), but he plowed through, and will continue to do so.

He's already at the next level: his charity, Violent Gentlemen, is slated for an exhibition game against the Ducks at the Honda Center in September.

So the off-the-ice reasons are why I chose this picture as my Habs card in my 2013-14 Series 1 set for Hell's Kitchen (card #38):

Big man, huge heart.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Warren Young Autograph Card

Warren Young was first drafted drafted in 1976, both in the NHL (California Golden Seals, 56th overall) and WHA (New England Whalers, 74th overall) but instead elected to play college hockey.

After his education, he learned about life in the CHL and EHL, two minor hockey leagues with ties to the NHL, and he was a point-per-game player at that level for the most part, but he was also growing into his 6'3'', 195-pound frame and guys wanted a piece of him, so it wasn't unusual for him to have 100-PIM seasons in the minors.

After three failed attempts at a ''normal'' rookie season (with 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points and 19 penalty minutes in 20 games spread over three seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins), he finally got a real shot with the Pens in 1984-85, and he made the most of it, scoring 40 goals with 32 assists for 72 points and 174 penalty minutes in 80 games, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team at 28 years old. Most of his penalty minutes came either from his hard work along the boards, or fights from defending himself or his soon-to-be-famous teammate, Rookie Of The Year Mario Lemieux.

Young was a free agent after that magical season, and the Detroit Red Wings signed him to a lucrative contract, and while his 22 goals were good for third place on the team (behind John Ogrodnick's 36 and Petr Klima's 32), it was far from what the Wings had expected when signing him; his 161 penalty minutes were second only to Bob Probert's 186, though.

He was dealt back to Pittsburgh in the off-season for cash and used pucks, but played 57 games over two seasons with the Penguins, scoring just 8 goals with 21 points.

Upon retiring, he turned to coaching, and has a mostly positive record in 7 seasons in the ECHL. He also coached and played in the defunct roller-hockey league - for the Pittsburgh Phantoms - and had 4 points in 4 games filling in.

I haven't yet purchased or joined a box break of In The Game's 2013-14 Motown Madness cards, but I traded for this one of Young (#A-WY in the set) in exchange for doubles of another card I'll feature soon of Joe Murphy:

As is usually the case with ITG, without the rights to NHL logos, they can neither be reproduced nor shown from the jersey, but they always find a neat way to make the whole design fit. So we have a head-and-shoulders shot of Young in the Wings' classic red (then-away) uniform, over a part of the logo with some visual effects to make it just different enough to win a court case. And ITG are always great at camouflaging their sticker autographs, as shown here by making it fit over a black and white picture of the old Joe Louis Arena, which will soon be demolished and abandoned.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

José Théodore Jersey Card

Has it already been a year since I last featured José Théodore? Residents of Québec will be seeing a lot more of him next season, as the now-hockey analyst woks for TVA Sports, which has secured the rights to all NHL national games, meaning between half and 60% of Montréal Canadiens games, for the next decade.

I only started watching that station during the last playoffs, and felt it was very amateurish, cliché-ridden, and far from the level RDS had accustomed us to. But unless I want to go back to just watching 20-40 games a year, I'll have to get used to it.

Sorry for being so negative for a cool card like this one:

It's from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Ice set (card #CT-JO of the Cool Threads sub-set); while the picture on the front of the card shows him wearing the Habs' white (then-home) uniform, the two-colour swatch is red and blue, and the only time they connect on a jersey is on the red one (at that time it was the ''away'' uniform, now serves for games at the Bell Centre).

Year in and year out, Ice and Artifacts are my favourite sets in terms of design (though this particular sub-set is pretty standard); I prefer O-Pee-Chee, Victory and Score (R.I.P.) in terms of price-to-number-of-cards ratio to send out for autographs, but they're usually plain-lookng, whereas Ice and Artfacts are basically works of art.