Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ralph Backstrom Autographed Card

As I mentioned when I first started mapping out my Habs Numbers Project in May, I did already have a Ralph Backstrom autographed card I hadn't featured on here yet, thus making his jersey number (6) one less I have to look for in my quest to have a collectible from every number worn by a Habs player (ideally an autographed item).

Backtrom played for the Montréal Canadiens for 12 full seasons, and parts of 15 in total (he played only 5 games in his first two in the NHL, and only 16 games to start out the 1970-71 season after requesting a trade), but was an important player until late in his career.

With the Habs, he played in six All-Star Games and won six Stanley Cups (only three of them coinciding, meaning he was a dominant player for at least nine in total), won the Calder trophy as the league's best rookie in 1958-59, and led the team in scoring with 65 points in 66 games in 1961-62 despite a line-up that included Jean Béliveau and Henri Richard.

He moved from the NHL to the WHA after splitting the 1972-73 season between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Black Hawks, and managed to put up 33 goals and 83 points in 78 games with the Chicago Cougars in 1973-74. In an odd 1975-76 season he started with the Denver Spurs, which turned into the Ottawa Civics for a handful of games mid-way through the season before folding, his rights were sold to the New England Whalers, where he finished the season and played the next one. All in all, for that year with three teams, he had 35 goals and 83 points in 79 games.

All told, he ended his career with 278 goals and 639 points in 1032 NHL regular-season games (and 27-32-59 in 116 NHL playoff games), and 100 goals and 253 points in 304 WHA games (plus 10-18-28 in 38 WHA playoff games).

He was an important player in hockey history, and one who witnessed a lot of weird things, including playing for the Civics who never even had the time to design a logo or uniform and just played with their Spurs uniforms without the crest - oh, WHA! - winning only one game, losing five, playing only twice on ''home'' ice, with the players never notified of either the team's relocation (they allegedly had their only clue hearing the Canadian national anthem during a road game) nor its dissolution a couple of weeks later.

He was in town during the Habs' Centennial celebrations, and I met him at a banquet with a lot of other former alumni; it is there that he signed this 2008-09 Canadiens Centennial card (#70 in the set) by Upper Deck in black sharpie, though it was my guest who approached him with it and not myself:

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