Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mario Tremblay: 4 Autographed Items

Like it or not, Mario Tremblay is a Montréal Canadiens legend, having put up one 25- and four 30-goal seasons, playing on the team's checking (third) line for the historic 1970s, Scotty Bowman-coached team that won 4 straight Stanley Cups. He currently ranks 10th all-time on the team's plus/minus list with an astonishing +184.

He won another Cup in 1986, although he missed the playoffs due to a shoulder injury that would end his career the following September. He then became a sportscaster, with his own segment between the first and second periods of the Habs' Saturday night games on Radio-Canada (the French language CBC) and was quite entertaining, funny, and honest. He would often talk about behind-the-scenes secrets of events he'd witnessed in his playing days, as well as analyze current-game plays.

Unfortunately, those two tremendous successes are often overshadowed by the two seasons he spent as the team's head coach, from 1995 to 1997. Sure, he made the playoffs both years, losing in the first round, but he is solely responsible for the abrupt and controversial departures of star goalie Patrick Roy and beloved tough guy Donald Brashear, the first after letting him endure nine Detroit Red Wings goals in an 11-1 massacre, the latter during a morning skate where he called Brashear the ''n'' word in front of a TV news crew who happened to be filming...

In his defense, Tremblay wanted to be as tough a coach as he was a player, and had to step over Roy's ego and influence to ''take over'' the dressing room. The 1043 penalty minutes he gathered in 852 NHL games molded Tremblay into a man who would be no pushover. As a matter of fact, he is one of only two head coaches in the past 30 years who chose to leave the Habs on his on terms rather than get fired, the other being Jacques Lemaire, under whom Tremblay has served both with the Minnesota Wild (8 seasons) and New Jersey Devils (1 year).

These days, he is back as a TV analyst with RDS (the station that caught the Brashear incident on tape, ironically) where he often displays a tactical knowledge of the game beyond what transpired in his days behind the Montréal bench; he seems to have learned an awful lot behind Lemaire, while remaining the affable, honest talker he was when he first stopped playing.

I sent Tremblay the above 3 cards and a fan letter on March 13th, 2012, and got them all back, signed in black sharpie - with his number 14 tagged at the end of each one - on May 1st, 2012. He was also kind enough to sign one of the two index cards I always enclose to protect my cards:

As for the cards, all of them show him wearing the Habs' red (away) uniform and his classic Jofa helmet, usually worn by European players (and Wayne Gretzky):

The card on the left is from Topps' 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee set (card #193), waiting for the puck to drop during a face-off; the card on the right is from Topps' 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee set (card #123), the back of which mentions his 100-point season (in 46 games!) in Juniors. It may appear blurry, but that's the actual card, not the scan.

While OPC was good at out-of-focus pictures, they also had a nasty habit of airbrushing players' new team jerseys onto old pictures and, like in the next card, not cutting them properly:

Believe it or not, that card was designed to be centered! It's card #192 in the 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set by Topps.

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