Friday, April 30, 2010

Scott Gomez Autograph Card

Maybe he didn't put up too many points on the board in the first round, but Scott Gomez was a big part of the Montréal Canadiens' success in these playoffs with his leadership skills, something he hadn't shown too often during the regular season. Yet there he was, a calming influence in the dressing room, confident but not cocky, dispensing advice to Maxim Lapierre on the bench in between plays...

That's why the New York Rangers offered him a truckload of money and the key to the city so he'd leave the neighbour New Jersey Devils: he'd been there, done that, sometimes with poise, and he knows when to turn the energy level up to make you forget he'd been invisible the week before.

So, today, on the eve of the second series against the Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins, we remember his leadership skills rather than the 15 minutes of misconduct penalties that he took spread over only two games. And we recall he, at least, unlike, say, Sidney Crosby, has a Calder Trophy.

Yes: hats off to Scott Gomez.

This card (#234) is from the 2000-01 Pacific set; it's a special insert card that is exactly the same as his regular card from the set, except for the fact that it came with an autograph in blue sharpie and an additional ''Authentic Autograph'' logo that Pacific deemed important enough to add to the front of the card. These inserts typically sell for $10.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spencer Scott Autograph Card

I wish I would have written this one 25 days ago.. but I didn't have the card yet.

Born on April 4th, 1989, the beautiful model known as Spencer Scott from Dallas, Georgia (a small town not too far from Atlanta) is on the rise.

Eventually, she'd like to be assigned to a brand like Guess? Jeans or Victoria's Secret - and after being Playboy's Miss October 2007, chances are she'll succeed. It has even given her a small role in the Girls Next Door TV series...

For now, she is single, and the most beautiful place she's ever been to is Cancún, Mexico.

Here is a limited (Benchwarmer only 25 made of these purple foil/red back cards) 2008 Benchwarmer Signature Series card (#8 of 12 models who made red back cards). That's why they usually go for $30 or more.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Caroline Beil Autographed Picture

Just like my Britt Reinecke autographed picture, this one featuring Caroline Beil is from a simpler time when an email often was enough to receive a personalized autographed item from overseas.

Nowadays, you're lucky if you get the all items you sent in that self-addressed stamp envelope you included back, in many cases, because celebrities get hassled too often and too many fans turn out to be freaks.

But in this case, Caroline Beil was very generous, taking the time to personalize it to me.

For those who don't know her, she is mostly known as a German TV presenter, first for movie shows, then for celebrity shows. She has also played in films (''Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten'') and TV telenovelas (''Sturm Der Liebe''), released a CD and singles, and been a contestant of the German version of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! All that, plus a divorce and time to write a book when her father died.

And she took the time to write to me. Superb!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jacques Chirac Autographed 8X10 Picture

I've been known to hang in pretty elite circles in my time, but none more than my Political Circle of 2002-2003. They were the months leading to the Iraq war, when most of the planet were telling Americans not to go in there, that it had nothing to do with their will to combat terrorism, that they had no weapons of mass destruction, that removing Saddam Hussein from power would only ignite violence in that country...

The one man who took the most heat in the U.S. at the time was France's Jacques Chirac, Le Président De La République. He was called weak, a traitor, no longer an ally; the French in general were called invader-friendly, Americans in general forgetting that their own independence was facilitated by France taking their side while also fighting the British in Europe, and, more recently, that Chirac had not only been the first foreign leader to call George W. Bush on September 11th to offer support, but also the first to step on U.S. soil after the fact to reiterate his position in person.

It was just that Iraq was never part of those attacks and were a totally separate beast.

All over the world, people marched in protest for the upcoming invasion; political leaders with balls (not just Germany and France, but also Canada, China, Russia and most of the G-10) took a stand against their stronger ally.

I was active myself, writing to world leaders, keeping in contact with politicians I knew and trusted, contemplating running for office myself...

Chirac is the one person I'm proudest to have had answered me. He was probably the smartest politician at the time; he knew exactly what reactions his position(s) would bring forth, but he also knew which consequences would come to happen if he didn't take a stand. He was five moves ahead of anyone else, all while keeping calm, cool, collected and strong. Imagine Barack Obama's faith in mankind, with Bill Clinton's resolve. Just like there are heroes and superheroes, there are politicians and Super Politicians - he is one of the latter, one of a few.

I'm not saying I agree with everything he's done, or how he's done it, but, as President, the one thing that cannot be questioned is that each and every one of his decisions wasn't based on his own beliefs or a party line, but instead was made by asking himself the question: ''Is this a step forward for my country, and the democratic process in my country - or a step back in the evolution of mankind?'' You've got to respect that.

This picture came with his final letter to me, early in 2003 and reads ''Avec mes cordiales amitiés'', which roughly translates as ''with my warmest regards'', but with an undertone of ''friendship'' as well. I display it proudly.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chad Kilger Autographed Card

There's a man named Claude that most Montréal indie musicians know - primarily as the booker for one of the city's finest venues - but who is also a great big hockey fan in his own right. He had a message for our scene today, and especially to those writing the Habs off as ''already dead''. To the untrained eye, it could seem just like capitalized words ''Never Die!'' over and over in red and blue with the Habs' logo copied and pasted a bunch of times, but the subtext is actually much richer, in fact; it speaks to the heart of the team's fans, their passion for the sport, their desire to help carry its team to places even its players doubted even existed; it's a City whose fans have seen 24 Stanley Cup championships, whose football team (the Alouettes) won their own Cup less than six months ago, whose soon-to-join-the-MLS soccer team also just came off their own championship, and a town that boasts no less than three current boxing World Champions, including Lucian Bute, current titleholder (and six-time defender) in the prestigious 168-pound category.

That's what that board post was alluding to.

Speaking of Montréal's great fans, this card (#255) Pinnacle's 1996-97 Score set, was signed by Chad Kilger at a September 2002 Canadiens Jamboree. Having been a 4th overall first-round pick in 1995, Kilger always knew he was loaded with talent, which was confirmed when he was traded to the Habs for Sergei Zholtok, as he started scoring goals and adding assists at a frantic pace as soon as he came into town, so much so that team management believed they had found their next superstar - and first power-forward in a long time. Unfortunately, as soon as he hit a slump, his ice time shrunk, and he was soon relegated to third-line status, but always given powerplay time because of his terrific set of skills.

And that's why he was in the mood that he was in at the Jamboree: training camp was over, he was again set to start the season on the checking line, but everyone knew he could be better than that - himself included. So he didn't feel like answering too many fans' questions and requests. He did sign my card in blue sharpie. I picked a card picturing him in the long-gone Winnipeg Jets' uniform for the simple reason that the only other uniform I had him in was of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and I wasn't a fan of that team, so I preferred going with the defunct one instead.

Eventually, he wore Habs brass' patience a little too thin and was put on waivers, and to make matters worse, the team that picked him up was long-time Habs rivals Toronto Maple Leafs, with whom he would enjoy moderate success on a line with two other former Habs, Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker, a checking line known for getting in the heads and pants of the other teams' best players - and for their hard partying habits off the ice. Until the Leafs lost patience too, and sent him to the Florida Panthers for a third round pick - and that's when things got interesting.

He didn't really want to play for the Panthers, and he had off-ice issues to deal with, so he asked the team for a leave of absence, which they granted. But when the agreed-upon date of his return came to pass and Tucker had neither shown up in Florida nor was taking the team's calls (and the same could be said for his agent), the team had no other choice but to suspend him. At the beginning of the following season, he didn't report to training camp, either.

As a matter of fact, the only other time we hard from him again was when he became a Cornwall, Ontario fireman, because it seemed his father, who was the city's mayor, may have helped push his candidature a bit.

So, to bring this full circle, I'll say two things:
1. Once a Hab, always a Hab, as we've seen in the Centennial celebrations
2. ''Habs Never Die'', we just don't ever give up.

Don't give up, Chad. Do whatever your heart tells you is right, and keep fighting the good fight.

Oh, and in regards to hockey experts everywhere: please, don't come tell me 4th-overall draft picks with great size and tremendous skills always, automatically, eventually, turn into franchise players. Sometimes they score an awful lot of goals when they come to their new team, but sometimes they stay relegated to third-line duty for the rest of their careers anyway.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Erik Estrada Material Swatch Card

I heard the cries: ''someone call the cops because Martin Brodeur just stole himself another Vezina nomination!''

Well, here he is, and not just any cop - a member of TV's CHiPs (which was the acronym for ''California Highway Patrol'', by the way), Officer Francis ("Frank") "Ponch" Poncherello, or as he is known in real life, Erik Estrada.

CHiPs was really Estrada's biggest role, and he played in all six seasons of the show's run, although a contractual dispute kept him off the first seven episodes of the fifth season. His regular partner, Larry Wilcox (Officer Jonathan A. Baker) played in the first five seasons. Estrada didn't know how to ride motorcycles before getting the gig, so he had to enter an extensive eight-week program to learn before shooting started; most of the time, Wilcox and Estrada actually rode the bikes themselves and performed the smaller stunts. And throughout the course of the series, they never took their handguns out.

After CHiPs, Estrada worked mainly in Spanish telenovelas (those cheap Spanish-language soap operas) and appeared in many a Reality TV show; he also does voice work in cartoons, namely Sealab 2021. He can also be seen in videos for Bad Religion, Eminem and Butthole Surfers.

In addition to all that, he is always involved in charitable work, as can attest this segment of his Wikipedia page.

This card (#TS-EE), from the 2008 Donruss Americana II set, by the company now known as Donruss Playoff LP (TV Stars materials sub-set) features a square swatch of material guaranteed to have been worn by Mr. Estrada. Look at it, look at its colour: it's pretty obvious it's from a CHiPs uniform, too. It is numbered 467/500.