Saturday, July 6, 2013

Andrei Markov Autograph Card

With Panini resuscitating past 1990s brands Score, Donruss and the like and re-using some of the early sets' designs, Upper Deck - already manufacturers of the Fleer and O-Pee-Chee formerly-standalone brands - one-upped the retro market with their 2012-13 Fleer Retro set: the main set consists of merely 100 base cards, but there are tons of inserts, all of which use classic Fleer and Skybox designs.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a box for $160 (I've seen them go up to $250), and as I made the count in my head (100 cards per box, including 6 autographs), I figured I may as well go for it. If worse came to worse (say, all ''hits'' being of the Phoenix Coyotes and/or Columbus Blue Jackets) or if it went too well (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and/or Alex Ovechkin), Ebay could become my friend. Almost any other dream situation (finally getting a Joe Sakic or Wayne Gretzky autograph! - didn't happen - or a few Montréal Canadiens players) or regular situation (decent prospects, players I like and respect), I'd keep the cards.

My very first hit was of the Habs player I respect the most, Andrei Markov. While I've seen the card on Ebay since, going anywhere from $1 to $10, in my heart, having pulled it myself, it's pretty much priceless:
It's a sticker autograph, signed in blue sharpie. It's from the 1999 Skybox insert sub-set (card #99-AM), found approximately in every 20 packs. It shows Markov wearing the Habs' white (away) uniform, sporting the 'A' as he has been for three years.

Coach Michel Therrien has taken to calling him The General because his play was so dominating at the beginning of the season, though he seemed to slow down by the end of the season, especially in comparison to young stud P.K. Subban, Norris trophy winner. I, for one, think Subban wouldn't have gotten the trophy without Markov by his side, for one, and also, considering he'll turn 35 in December and his lack of playing time these past couple of years, think his 25 minutes of ice time per game may have been a tad too much in a shortened season where teams played four times a week. Of the old-school Russian mentality, Markov didn't stay at home for optional practices, and never takes a day off unless forced to. Like Charlie Sheen, he only has one gear: ''GO!'' 

With a full season under his belt (he played in the KHL during the lock-out) and now aware of his new limitations (particularly in regards to top-speed and pivoting), he should be back in the shape that made him one of the league's 5 best defenders for a decade, and may be worth putting on the ice for 22 or 23 minutes per game without trouble.

I just wish the once-savvy and knowledgeable Montréal crowd realized how important he and Tomas Plekanec are to the club and stopped talking about trading them. Sure, as their age rises and as their roles diminish, their salaries should do the same, but these home-grown, faithful veterans deserve to retire wearing the CH crest.

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