Thursday, November 18, 2010

Alex Auld: Two Autographed Cards

When people think of Alex Auld, it's usually as a journeyman goaltender who has played for 8 NHL and 2 AHL teams in the past 6 seasons alone, but they forget he is an established and decorated veteran.

Like most NHLers, he was a star in juniors, making the OHL'S Second All-Rookie team in 1998-99 and its Third All-Star Team two years later, to go with his World Juniors bronze medal. Drafted 40th overall in the second round of the 1999 Draft by the Florida Panthers - a high pick for a goalie at the time - he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for two draft picks.

He was long considered the Canucks' top goaltending prospect, much like Cory Schneider right now, and eventually landed the starting job in the 2005-06 season, playing in 67 games with a 2.94 goals-against average and .902 save percentage, winning both the Molson Cup as the player with the most Three Stars selections and the Cyclone Taylor trophy as the team's MVP. When the Canucks didn't make the playoffs, he was invited to play with Team Canada at the World Championships, splitting duties with Marc Denis for a 4th-place finish. Things were looking up.

But the Canucks traded him back to the Panthers, this time for established -and perennial Vezina trophy nominee Roberto Luongo, in a trade that also involved Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, Lukas Krajicek and a draft pick that became Peter Aston. To make matters worse, the Panthers hired bad boy goalie Ed Belfour on the free agent market, and he doesn't take competition too well. One incident in particular left Auld hospitalized.

The next summer, Auld thought the Phoenix Coyotes could be a place where he'd have a place to shine, but with the Anaheim Ducks putting Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers, the offer was too good for the Coyotes to pass up, and Auld was let go in December, traded to the Boston Bruins.

Once again, free agency came along and he signed with the Ottawa Senators, where he beat out Martin Gerber for the starting job. Unfortunately, the trade winds came along again, bringing Pascal Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and to the Dallas Stars Auld went, before concluding the 2009-10 season with the New York Rangers.

All in all, before signing with the Montréal Canadiens this summer, Auld had been the #1 goalie on three different teams and played for Team Canada three times, which is more than most journeymen goalies can say, apart perhaps from HVC darling Fred Brathwaite.

And in addition to having had an interesting career path, Auld also brings a team-first attitude and quite a distinctive signature, as can be attested on these two autographed cards. Love it!

Speaking of ''these cards'', the one on the left is from Topps' 2002-03 O-Pee-Chee set (card #271, labeled Prospects as it was his rookie card) and sees him sporting my second-favourite Canucks jersey (the top being the 80s all-black with the skate logo). The card on the right sees him wearing the Senators' current red jersey, although the angle of the picture makes the Reebok jersey look like a pajama, as of them many do; this one is from the 2007-08 O-Pee-Chee set, this time manufactured by Upper Deck. It's card #653 in the set of 660, and I think the gold border means it's an insert.

I sent Auld a fan letter on September 28th, care of the Habs' practice facility, and got both cards back signed in black sharpie on November 18th - a mere month and a half later.

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