Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Charles Hudon Autographed Card

I didn't post last weekend because I was on what was probably my last road trip of the hockey season, with two Hamilton Bulldogs games (Rochester and Toronto) and an OHL game as well (in Oshawa). I'll have more to report on that later, but first, I wanted to share a belated signed card from earlier this season, that I wanted to feature when he made the AHL's All-Star Game, but for some reason I passed on it.

Obviously, I'm talking about Charles Hudon, who I featured last year. He stands at 15 goals, 38 assists and 53 points in 68 games (with 62 penalty minutes) in his rookie season at the professional level, where he showed he could stand the rigors and toughness of pro play and perhaps just needs to work on his endurance to withstand the grind an 80-game schedule with consistency.

He was a point-per-game player up until the previously mentioned All-Star Game, and also was in Juniors, not just during the regular season, but also during the LHJMQ playoffs over four seasons. His effort level and determination reminds me a lot of Brendan Gallagher, although he probably isn't as quick; on the other hand, even though he's a few years younger than the Montréal Canadiens' trouble-maker, his defensive play and hockey sense might even be a tad superior.

Should the 5'10'' center and winger fail to develop into a second-line offensive threat at the NHL level (though his adaptation to the AHL suggests he'll be fine), his place on a third line is just about guaranteed.

Five years down the line, the Habs might have a very promising team, with Alex Galchenyuk on the first line, 40-goal man Max Pacioretty still in his prime, Nikita Scherbak another scoring threat, Hudon, Jacob De La Rose as a checking center, Gallagher and perhaps even Tomas Plekanec still around providing effort and leadership, perhaps Daniel Carr also making the team, and maybe grinders like Gabriel Dumont (I still believe) and Michaël Bournival to round out the bottom-six, and a defense comprised of P.K. Subban on the verge of turning 30, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and maybe even Greg Pateryn still on the team, and Zach Fucale manning the pipes. I mean, they're contenders now, and only a major meltdown will stop them from still being so even if the valuable warriors Andrei Markov, Tom Gilbert, Mike Weaver, Dale Weise and Brandon Prust retire with the team and fetch nothing in return (an honor I wish for Markov, Plekanec, Prust and Weise, at least).

I'd also like Devante Smith-Pelly and Eric Tangradi find their game again and enter the five-year plan.

As you can see, I very much see Hudon as an essential part of the Habs' future.

Which is why I was happy to have him sign this card in black sharpie:
It shows him wearing the Chicoutimi Saguenéens' classic white (home) uniform, from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set (it's card #44 in the collection). ITG no longer has the rights to produce AHL cards, so if I want one of him with the Bulldogs, I'll have to acquire some of Upper Deck's AHL cards (because having the monopoly on NHL cards wasn't enough). I used to love that aspect of H&P cards, the fact that Juniors and minor pro players were part of the same set.

Oh well, times change.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pierre Turgeon Jersey Card

515 goals. 812 assists. 1327 points in 1294 games, plus 97 more in 104 playoff games. Five All-Star Games, one Lady Byng trophy, two 100-point seasons (with a high of 132 in 1992-93), three 38-goal seasons, a 40-goal season and a 58-goal season.

Hall Of Fame numbers? Perhaps, but so far, Pierre Turgeon isn't a Hall Of Famer. I understand the reasoning: no Stanley Cups, no scoring titles, no MVP trophies (though he finished in fifth place in Hart voting once), just often - by far - the best player on lousy teams.

The former first-overall pick in 1987 was the Montréal Canadiens' captain in 1995-96, and had been a replacement captain for both the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders prior to that. He was a very skilled top-line center who should not be forgotten.

Here he is wearing the Colorado Avalanche's original burgundy (away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set (card #J2-PT of the Game Jersey sub-set), featuring a matching game-worn jersey swatch:

He retired after two seasons with the Avs, the last one mostly lost to injury.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ron Stern Autograph Card

Ronnie Stern certainly didn't steal his inclusion in In The Game's 2013-14 Enforcers II set with card #A-RS of its Autographs sub-set, showing him wearing the Calgary Flames' classic red (then-away) uniform:

After all, he retired having played 638 regular-season NHL games - mostly with the Flames, but also with the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks - with 2077 penalty minutes to show for it (good for 47th overall in NHL history), and 75 goals (less than Brett Hull scored in a single season), 86 assists and 161 points as well.

He didn't just fight anyone who asked him to - including some heavyweights way out of his category - but also killed penalties effectively and was often a team leader in checks, a lot of them of the ''ouch, that had to hurt'' variety.

He reached double digits in goals three times, with a high of 13 in 1991-92, and passed the 20-point mark the same number of times, with a high of 29 in 1993-94, which is also the year where he scored his lone career hat trick. He was forced to retire at the turn of the millennium because of back injuries, but he was an honest grinder who at times may have hit dirty (I remember a few knee checks).

Upon retiring, he tried his hand at banking, and now supplies gas companies with drilling equipment. He was born a Quebecer (in Sainte-Agathe-Des-Monts, circa 1967) but I guess he became an Albertan as an adult - and that's fine. (/End of political innuendo). He was also involved in fundraising activities for an organization that facilitated the adoption of orphaned African babies.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lanny McDonald Jersey Card

I'm a sucker for hockey players, defunct teams, winners, and amazing mustaches, so you can imagine how much I value any Lanny McDonald collectible, let alone one that isn't from a ''pure'' hockey set, such as this one, from Upper Deck's 2010 World Of Sports set (card #ASA-36 of the All-Sports Apparel sub-set) showing him wearing Team Canada's red 1970s uniform (most probably from the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup) with a small white jersey swatch:

The back of the card claims the jersey was ''used in an official hockey game'', though it's unclear if that's internationally or in the NHL, which it wouldn't be allowed to name in this set because it's not an officially licensed product. I acquired it in a trade about a year ago. That's one thing I've learned from Hockey History: always trade for Lanny McDonald (even if it costs you a couple of Anze Kopitar cards).

This is the fifth time I've featured McDonald here, and maybe the fifth time I'll mention he captained the 1989 Calgary Flames, the only visiting team in the history of the NHL to ever win the Stanley Cup on the Montréal Canadiens' home ice. Ever.

He was one of the Toronto Maple Leafs' all-time best players, but the uniform I'm fondest of him in is that of the Colorado Rockies. I had a signed card of his from that era when I was a kid, but I think I lost in in a flood in 1998.

He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 1992, the first former Flame to receive that honor. I only mention it because earlier today, he was named its Chair of Board of the famed institution. Congratulations!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Manny Malhotra Autograph Card

In my continuing analysis of who lost the Trade Deadline, I bring you today's candidate, Manny Malhotra. When I last featured him, he had just suffered an eye injury whilst with the Vancouver Canucks, who subsequently shut him down and refused to let him play with the team again.

His spectacular comeback last season, first with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers then the Carolina Hurricanes was impressive, and over the summer he came to the Montréal Canadiens specifically to help win faceoffs (league leader, so, check), and kill penalties (check), thus freeing Tomas Plekanec for more offensive-zone minutes (well, Plek's chemistry with Max Pacioretty on the PK making them perhaps more dangerous short a man than at even strength still gave both pillars of the Habs' offense a lot of time when a man down).

But as the great philosopher Meat Loaf put it, ''two out of three ain't bad''.

However, when the Canadiens acquired hometown grinder Torrey Mitchell from the Buffalo Sabres, it was Malhotra who lost his spot, he of the one goal and four points in 57 games stat line. I mean, I get it, it makes sense, but it's cruel, considering Malhotra had done what had been asked of him, he just couldn't add to that with any secondary scoring to speak of, some of it due to bad puck luck, none of it due to lack of effort.

He had started his career with the New York Rangers, who had made him the seventh-overall pick in 1998, and when playing at home, this is what he looked like:

It's the gold variant version of insert card #241 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set, featuring an on-card autograph signed in black sharpie.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Francis Bouillon Autographed Card

He came back to the Montréal Canadiens in 2012-13 so he could retire as a Hab, finishing where it all started after three seasons in his second stint with the Nashville Predators (all told he's spent 11 years in three stints in Montréal); unfortunately for him, at the end of last year, Francis Bouillon felt he still had some gas left in the tank and didn't want to retire anymore, and the Canadiens wanted to make way for their youngsters.

Both sides compromised with Bouillon showing up for training camp on a tryout, but ultimately he was cut and opted to move to Switzerland on a two-year deal with HC Ambri-Piotta, where he had a decent season, accounting for 11 assists in 31 games so far, on a team that stands in third place in its division with two games remaining in the regular season. Also on the team this season are former NHLers Ryan O'Byrne, Adam Hall, Keith Aucoin, and Alexandre Giroux.

I've always liked Bouillon, a hard-working defensive defenseman with some speed who can pass well and has a decent shot from the point (he was usually on the second wave of the powerplay). Though barely 5'8'', he hit hard in those corners as if he was a full foot taller; his low center of gravity and 200-pound muscle mass definitely had something to do with that, but he was also super-strong, definitely the strongest relative to size in the entire league. He rarely made mistakes on the back end, but he was starting to slow down as he neared the ripe old age of 40 (which he will attain in October).

I met him a few times in the past decade, as he was always a willing participant in team promotions and events, but this particular card was signed last summer, when he came around at the arena that now bears his name a few blocks from my place (and his), where I teach young goalies one weekend per month. It was our last practice before the league's award ceremony (probably in June), and I was happy to have this iconic card of his:
He's raising the team's mythical torch, the emblem of over 100 years (older than the league itself!) of blood, sweat, tears, broken bones and 24 Stanley Cups, most of them as underdogs save for a series of two as a dynasty, wearing the classic bleu-blanc-rouge formerly flannel jersey, the last one to hold it during the inaugural game's player presentation, an honor usually reserved for the captain or star goalie, this time savoured by the comeback hometown kid.

It's from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (card #266 in the collection), a brand that was good at showcasing special moments (such as Nik Antropov modeling the Winnipeg Jets' uniform in front of a plane), and it was signed in thin blue sharpie (the hue and blur is from the penny sleeve).

And though he wore #51 for most of his career, in his final two seasons (100 regular-season games) as a Hab, he wore #55, thus cementing his place in my Habs Numbers Project.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Michal Handzus Jersey Card

Last month, Michal Handzus' agent Matt Keator told reporters his client was eying a return to the NHL next season, after spending this one recovering from injuries and playing in his home country of Slovakia. The news is a bit surprising, considering his last team, the Chicago Blackhawks, chose not to re-sign him and no other team tried to obtain his services.

He has posted decent statistics this year, though, with 18 points in 22 regular-season games with Banska Bystrica HC '05 - the second-highest points-per-game percentage on the team - and 5 points in 5 playoff games so far.

He had won a Stanley Cup with the Hawks in 2012-13 and played in all 19 of their post-season games last year as they fell in the Conference Finals to the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings, but the team felt it would be better served taking their chances with their prospects rather than with the veteran, who had slowed down in the past few seasons.

His defensive play was still stellar, but he could be counted upon less and less in terms of secondary scoring as he seemed to have trouble keeping pace with the play in the offensive zone. But perhaps healing from his injuries gave him enough life back to play in the NHL again - I hope it did.

He has suited up for Team Slovakia eight times in international men's tournaments, posting 9 goals and 28 points in 43 games, with three World Championship medals: one gold (2002) and two silver (2000 and 2012).

Throughout his NHL career, he has garnered Selke Trophy votes nine times, once finishing as the runner-up (1999-2000), and bested the 40-point mark seven times (with a high of 58 in 2003-04 with the Philadelphia Flyers) and four times reaching the 20-goal plateau (with a high of 25 in 1999-2000 with the St. Louis Blues).

Here he is wearing the Hawks' classic white (now-away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #GJ-MH of the Game Jersey sub-set), featuring a black swatch from a game-worn jersey:
He's a pretty big guy at 6'4'' and 220 pounds, and does not shy away from physical play, but the only time he surpassed the 40-PIM mark was in 2003-04, when he spent 82 penalty minutes in the sin bin.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brian Mullen Autograph Card

Brian Mullen was an above-average NHLer (in today's parlance, a ''top-six forward'') and brother of Hall Of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup winner Joe Mullen, who retired as the all-time leading American points collector in the NHL (since passed). Brian played a more rugged style, while Joe's was based more on finesse, but both played in All-Star Games.

Growing up in Hell's Kitchen (Midtown Manhattan), the Mullen brothers were immersed in the New York Rangers' universe; their father even got Brian a job as the visiting team's stick boy at Madison Square Garden, which got him an opportunity to shoot pucks at Atlanta Flames (and Team USA Miracle On Ice gold medalist) Jim Craig once.

He played College Hockey for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers under legendary coach Bob Johnson (who coached Joe on the Cup-winning 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins) after being drafted in the seventh round (128th overall) by the Winnipeg Jets in 1980; there were still fine players available at that point, including Andy Moog (132nd), Doug Lidster (133rd), Steve Penney (166th), Randy Cunneyworth (167th), Patrik Sundstrom (175t), Hakan Loob (181st), and Andy Brickley (210th).

He scored over 25 goals five times (with a high of 32 in 1984-85), and topped the 60-point mark six times (with a high of 71 - in 69 games - that same year).

After five seasons in Winnipeg, he spent four years with the Rangers, then one each with the San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders, that year where they ousted the two-time defending champion Pens in 1993. He suffered a stroke prior to the 1993-94 season, and tried to come back, but a seizure laid those hopes to waste and he retired after accruing 260 goals, 362 assists and 622 points in 832 games.

He wore #19 for  the first ten of his eleven NHL seasons, and here he is with the Jets, wearing their former purplish-blue away uniform:
It's card #26 from Panini's 2012-13 Classics Signatures set (the signed insert version, signed on-card in blue sharpie - you can tell because the spot where the signature is was airbrushed white to show him where to sign). I'm not sure if I'd classify that set as higher-mid-range or lower-premium, but boxes are still available for around $60 for 30 cards, with 5 or 6 autographs per. This one was from a group break.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dustin Brown Jersey Card

Dustin Brown laid a nice hit on Corey Perry last Wednesday in the game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks:



Too bad it led to a teammate looking to ''avenge'' it, seeing as it was a clean hit (which even Brown detractors - and there are many - will admit).

Brown and the Kings have stepped into gear in the past month, when pressure started to mount on them as they were falling dangerously far out of playoff contention. Statistically, most of their players are having off years (Jeff Carter, a former 50-goal scorer, currently has 25 and is on pace for just 30 to lead the team; Mike Richards is in the AHL; Anze Kopitar is 14 points away from a point-per-game pace; and the Kings' captain himself barely has 10 goals), but as we saw both times L.A. have won their Stanley Cups, all they need is to enter the playoffs - even as the final seed - to win it all.

It won't necessarily be pretty, but when these guys turn it on, it's on!

After featuring the Team USA stalwart twice in his team's former uniforms, I thought I could mix it up with the current white (away) one, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set (card #AF-BR of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), featuring a huge, matching white swatch from a game-worn jersey:

It's a decent colour scheme for the Kings, reminiscent of the 1990s Wayne Gretzky era, but with modern lines rather than a single colour except for the extremities. I probably prefer the 1990s garbs, but not by too much.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mark Stone Autograph Card

I don't know if you saw this goal from last night, but wow, what a play by Kyle Turris, finished by Mark Stone. Play of the year candidate, for sure:

And with that (and the spectacular play of Andrew ''The Hamburglar'' Hammond, of course), the Ottawa Senators move to within just four points of the Boston Bruins and the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, with Hammond riding a 11-0-1 record so far in his NHL career, and the team itself having gone 14-2-2 in its last 18 games.

Stone himself is one of the league's top rookies so far this year, with 18 goals, 28 assists and 46 points in 67 games. The 6'3'', 200-pound, 22-year-old power forward likes to check along the boards to retrieve pucks, has a good shot, and passes better than most good shooters usually do; he has improved his skating (though he still is no Taylor Hall, obviously), and his Hockey IQ is often referred to as being ''off the charts'', pretty much becoming a take-over machine (ranking along the lines of Marian Hossa and Ryan O'Reilly, ahead of Pavel Datsyuk!), and he could eventually turn into a threat on both the power play and penalty kill, à la Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec.

As long as he keeps a cool head about it and continues forward with the same work ethic, there is no limit to what the former sixth-round draft pick (178th overall) can achieve.

He now wears #61 for the Sens, but wore #16 a couple of seasons ago (which belongs to Clarke MacArthur now), as can be seen here:
It's card #45 from Panini's 2012-13 Prime set (part of its Prime Signatures sub-set), signed on-card in blue sharpie and numbered 3/99.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Brett Clark Autograph Card

From 2005-06 until 2010-11, Brett Clark had an interesting run as a reliable shut-down defenseman who could pass the puck and block shots - the type of player who would nowadays earn close to $4M per season, manning the second powerplay unit, not unlike Josh Gorges today.

Clark may have been drafted by the Montréal Canadiens (6th round, 154th overall in 1996), but he spent his best and most productive years with the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he had two of his three 30-point seasons, and his lone 10-goal season.

He left the team as a free agent prior to the 2010-11 season, as he had 31 points (on 9 goals) in 82 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning that year, only to regress the following season with 2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points and a minus-26 rating in 82 games on a disappointing Lightning team that missed the playoffs.

After that, he had to go through the AHL (via the Oklahoma City Barons) before signing on for 8 games with the Minnesota Wild to finish the 2012-13 season, and things went full circle as he ended his career playing 53 games with the Lake Erie Monsters, the Avs' AHL affiliate in 2013-14.

All told, he played 102 games over two seasons with the Habs in the early stages of his professional path, as can be attested in this card from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set (the gold variant of the signed insert card):

It shows him wearing the Canadiens' classic bleu-blanc-rouge uniform (then-away, now-home), as he wore #29 before it was retired for legendary goaltender Ken Dryden, and is signed on-card in thin black sharpie.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Jordan Schroeder Jersey Card

When the playoff contenders made their moves at the trade deadline, everybody was debating who won or lost trades; arguably, one team who won when they added depth was the Minnesota Wild, which means that one player who had made his place with them (admirably filling in for veteran Matt Cooke), Jordan Schroeder, has lost a bit, not having suited up since March 6th despite 3 goals, 7 points, and a +2 rating in 18 games this winter.

The former Vancouver Canucks first rounder awaits his turn, patiently biding his time until he can return to the line-up while players who were scratched by bottom-dwelling teams (Sean Bergenheim with the Florida Panthers, Chris Stewart with the Buffalo Sabres) audition for a permanent spot in the NHL as their contracts both expire at season's end.

There's usually something to be said about team chemistry, but the Wild don't care, as they're riding Devan Dubnyk's coattails straight to to postseason.

I do think Schroeder's play was appreciated by his hometown team, and I'm confident he'll see some ice time in the playoffs, and probably make the team from training camp next season.

In the meantime, here he is wearing the Canucks' white (away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition (card #RF-SC of the Rookie Fabrics sub-set), featuring a big blue jersey swatch from a photo shoot:
I think his speed and hockey sense will keep him in the big show for a while, even on a fourth line. I, for one, would rather have a skilled fourth line than a slow, rugged one in today's NHL.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bill Muckalt Autograph Card

Bill Muckalt. To many, that name is synonymous with ''journeyman NHLer'', but to me, he was a prospect whose career was ultimately derailed by injuries and who was part of two of the biggest trades of his time: the one that sent Félix Potvin to the Vancouver Canucks, and the one that sent Alexei Yashin to the New York Islanders and Zdeno Chara and Jason Spezza to the Ottawa Senators.

Drafted by his hometown team, the Canucks, in 1994, Muckalt spent 4 years honing his craft in the NCAA before turning pro, and he proved to be an instant hit, with 16 goals, 20 assists and 36 points in 73 games in his rookie season in 1998-99, good enough for the Isles to want him as the centerpiece - and Kevin Weekes as the replacement netminder - when the Canucks went and got Potvin.

Unfortunately, injuries came along pretty early, limiting him to 12 appearances the year of the trade and 60 games the next full season (in which he still managed to score 11 goals and collect 26 points) before they sent him packing to Ottawa, where he was buried in the depth chart behind right wingers such as Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, and Chris Neil. Not able to do himself justice as a power forward behind such a skilled group (and one tough enforcer), he was released at the end of the season, signing a free agent contract with the Minnesota Wild, where a dislocated shoulder would hinder him for two full seasons.

Upon retiring, he turned to coaching, and after stints in minor Junior-level leagues has now been an assistant coach with the Michigan Tech Huskies for the past 4 seasons.

This card, from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set (#291 in the collection, signed on-card in thin black sharpie) shows him in the Canucks' turn-of-the-millennium black (away) uniform:
He shares the spot for #17 with Ryan Kesler in my Canucks Numbers Project.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Joe Thornton Jersey Card

Well, it's been an awkward year for Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks, as well as for the team who made him the first-overall pick in 1997, the Boston Bruins. Both teams are on the playoff bubble, and if I were a betting man, I'd put the odds of the Bs making it at 65%, while those of the Sharks dwell below the 20% mark.

Of course, the clown show continues in San Jose, and after stripping Jumbo Joe of the captaincy in an improvisation-filled summer of 2014, GM Doug Wilson explained a couple of days ago that Thornton had trouble taking the pressure that came with the role, to which Thornton replied he should ''shut his mouth''.

But the team isn't dysfunctional. At all.

I'm not the world's biggest Thornton fan. As a matter of fact, I like to remind everyone that unless he was used on a fourth line on a super-duper All-Star team (see: Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics), he's a perennial choker. But that's just judging from what the man, himself, achieves on the ice (or doesn't); it's nothing personal, apart that I like to see Bruins fail.

This situation, however, is attacking the man's character as a human being; and some of it wasn't even all bad: Wilson went on to say Thornton took the losses so badly he lashed out at people, without mentioning who. If it's a teammate who wasn't giving his full effort, it's actually commendable - and the captain's job - the say something. If it's his wife and kids, then obviously they have anger management classes for that.

I just wanted it said that I though Wilson's tirade was low. At the very least, it's something that should remain behind the locker room's doors.

Here's a throwback of Thornton in happier days, wearing the Bruins' white (home) uniform, probably while getting swept in the playoffs when facing the Montréal Canadiens, from Upper Deck's 2003-04 Series 2, card #FF-JT of the Franchise Fabrics sub-set:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kevin McClelland Autograph Card

Kevin McClelland was one tough hockey player. Tough enough to replace Dave Semenko as the resident Edmonton Oilers policeman, serving as one of Wayne Gretzky's on-ice bodyguards through four Stanley Cup victories - two against the Philadelphia Flyers, and one against the Boston Bruins. Yeah, just that.

He surpassed the 200-PIM mark in four straight seasons in the middle of the 1980s, followed by a 183-penalty-minute season with the Detroit Red Wings (in just 61 games) in 1989-90, then seasons of 199 (in 34 games!), 221 (55 games) and 233 PIMs (in 39 games!) in the AHL.

On the other end of the score sheet spectrum, he did manage to have three consecutive 10-plus-goal seasons and had over 20 points in 5 of 6 seasons with the Oilers, with a high of 36 in 1985-86. He had garnered some Selke Trophy votes the previous year, despite finishing the season with a minus-11 rating...

Sure, he played in Detroit for a year, and with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets for a few games, but he's an Oiler through and through, so it makes sense that In The Game chose Edmonton's white (then-home) uniform to use on card #A-KM of their Autograph sub-set for their 2013-14 Enforcers II set:
Upon retiring, he moved directly to coaching, first as an assistant with the OHL's Barrie Colts, then as the head coach of the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders, then as an assistant on the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs, and he's been in the CHL/ECHL for the past decade or so, twice winning Coach Of The Year honors, once with the Memphis RiverKings and once with the Wichita Thunder.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nik Antropov Jersey Card

So it looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs are combining their yearly pre-playoff meltdown with a half-planned tanking to get in on the McEichel sweepstakes along with perennial bottom-feeders Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers.

I, for one, hope Buffalo finishes last - which will ensure them of at least picking one of Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid, and that the Oilers or Colorado Avalanche win the lottery to get the first pick. I'd hate to see one of the two blue-chip prospects save a dwindling franchise when fans from other markets have been supporting their crappy teams through thick and thin.

The Leafs just haven't been the same since the days of Mats Sundin and Nikolai Antropov, where the two towering and tough centers plowed through the opposition and helped build the Bay Street Bullies identity that former GM Brian Burke loved so much.

Antropov was the only Leaf I liked, so I collect his cards even though he's mostly shown with a team I'd rather avoid, like here, where he's sporting their classic white (then-home) uniform, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch:

It's from Fleer's 2008-09 Fleer Ultra set (card #UA-NA of the Ultra Uniformity sub-set) by Upper Deck.

He's currently in the final season of a two-year contract with the KHL's Astana Barys club, so maybe he'll cross back to this side of the pond eventually - he is, after all, a Canadian citizen now, though he still plays for Team Kazakhstan internationally.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Trevor Kidd Autograph Card

My last Trevor Kidd post, in 2009, was short and sweet - perhaps a tad too much so. Writing that a goalie with a GAA above 4.00 in Juniors was rarely chosen in the first round was one thing, but I could have played Devil's Advocate and at least mentioned that the greatest goalie of all time, Patrick Roy, had GAAs of 6.26, 4.44 and 5.55 in the LHJMQ, playing at least 44 games each time. Granted, he was a third-round pick, but he still became the only NHLer in history to win the Conn Smythe three times. Perspective, they call it.

Ok, so Kidd was no Roy, but he did finish 7th in Vezina voting in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, playing in an astonishing 43 of 48 Calgary Flames games and who had an even better season in 1997-98 with the Carolina Hurricanes, going 21-21-3 with a 2.17 GAA and .922 save percentage in 47 games. With the Hurricanes, who as a whole went 33-41-8, or, if you will, 12-20-5 without Kidd.

There's a lot of vitriol on the interwebs about Trevor Kidd, and a bit of fun delusion too (one person compares him positively with Martin Brodeur, and while I agree with all of their anti-Brodeur arguments in general, he still did get all those wins, despite the system he was in rigging his statistics).

But just like I credit Brodeur for his three Stanley Cups and wins (and losses) records, Kidd has two World Juniors gold medals with Team Canada, Olympic silver and a shutout at the 1992 Albertville Games, and a Memorial Cup as the starting goalie with the Spokane Chiefs in 1991. He has 140 career NHL wins, and 19 shutouts despite usually playing on pretty bad teams. No one can ever take those away from him.

And he had style, pizazz. He had long rock star hair, artistic goatees, and his equipment stood out, as can be attested by this 1998-99 Be A Player card from In The Game (#22 in the set, signed on-card in black sharpie), showing him in the Canes' white (home) uniform:
He turned into what I thought I would become, as a fellow fan of Brian's gear - and he got to keep his uniform number (37) on all four teams he played for.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Patric Hornqvist Jersey Card

Patric Hornqvist tied his goals totals (22) from last season two night ago, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 Pittsburgh Penguins shutout win against the Los Angeles Kings in 24 less games than he required a year ago; he might not tie his career-high of 30 from 2009-10 (then again, playing with Sidney Crosby can work wonders on someone's statistics), but could very well reach his second-best mark of 27, from 2011-12.

Prior to being traded for James Neal last summer, Hornqvist had played his entire NHL career with the Nashville Predators, who had chosen him with the 230th and final pick of the 2005 draft - the one where Crosby went first overall.

In his younger days, he was seen as a bit of a long shot to make it to the NHL because of his lack of speed, but he's worked on it enough that it doesn't look like much of a problem anymore. Like many other players from Sweden, his positioning and defensive play is elite-level, as is his work ethic and team spirit. He rounds those attributes with decent stick-handling and a quick and deceptive wrist shot.

I got this card of his in a re-pack I bought at a Giant Tiger last summer - it was my ''guaranteed hit''; it's originally from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Ultimate Collection (card #DT-PH of the Ultimate Debut Threads sub-set, numbered #123/200), featuring a huge white swatch from a jersey worn in a photo shoot:
It shows him wearing the Preds' blue (home) uniform from last decade.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Velvet La Touche Autographed Picture

I attended a very fine spectacle last Saturday, as I made my way to Café Cléopâtre for an evening of burlesque performances - expertly timed with my finishing Season Two of Boardwalk Empire right before - one in which every performance was a crescendo of intensity and showmanship, culminating with the evening's headliner, Velvet La Touche.

The pin-up and glamour model made her best impression of a 1950s oblivious housewife mixed with 1990s opioid-pill addict pretend-happy lady who turned a kitchen scene into a bloodbath, and it was the best five minutes of my year so far.

Prior to that, the record belonged to the moment when I opened an envelope with my name on it that was waiting for me at the door... containing this:

That, folks, is how you turn a curious bystander into a fan.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cam Fowler Jersey Card

Cam Fowler is barely 23 and has already had his fair share of winning, with gold medals with Team USA at the World Juniors (2010) and U-18s (2009), as well as a silver medal at the U-17s (2008) to go with a Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2009-10, posting 55 points in 55 games in the regular season and another 14 in 19 games in the post-season.

He made the All-Star Team in all of those tournaments save for the World Juniors, and yet fell to the 12th position in the 2010 draft, behind Taylor Hall (1st), Tyler Seguin (2nd), Brett Connolly (6th), Jeff Skinner (7th), Alexander Burmitsov (8th), Mikael Granlund (9th), Dylan McIlrath (10th) and Jack Campbell (11th).

During the draft, he was often compared to Chris Pronger and Dion Phaneuf, but not only he isn't as huge nor as physical as they are, he's also a much more fluid skater and passer, with a less intense slap shot. In that regard, he's probably closer to another former member of the Anaheim Ducks, Scott Niedermayer. At 6'1'' and closing in on 200 pounds, he might become more physical than he currently is, but I don't foresee him turning into the next Scott Stevens any time soon. A potential NHL All-Star, perhaps, and in the meantime, a solid defenseman on one of the league's top teams.

Here he is wearing the Ducks' white (away) uniform from the last few years, from Upper Deck's 2012-13 Series 1 set (card #GJ-CF of the Game Jersey sub-set), featuring an orange game-worn jersey swatch:
I'll be looking to add him to my hockey pool next fall.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lee Fogolin Autograph Card

Lee Fogolin was drafted by and started and ended his NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres, but he will probably best be remembered for his time with the Edmonton Oilers.

Originally thought of as a short-term defensive solution while the Oilers' kids were getting ready for prime time, Fogolin instead developed into  one of the best shot-blockers of the 1980s, and a tough customer who could punish opponents who took liberties on his teammates; for the better part of the 8 seasons he spent patrolling the Edmonton blue line, he accrued over 100 penalty minutes (usually around 150) - save for the 17 in 35 games in his last season, and a remarkably low-key 92 PIMs in 1982-83.

He had such an impact that he was made the team's captain for two seasons, until he voluntarily relinquished the title to Wayne Gretzky after the 1982-83 season - the type of move only a self-assured leader would make.

He won two Stanley Cups with the team and represented it in an All-Star Game before getting traded back to the Sabres, where he would retire after 9 games at the end of the 1985-86 season. He also reached the Finals unsuccessfully with each team.

His father, Lee Fogolin Sr., also won the Cup, with the Detroit Red Wings in 1949-50.

Here is Fogolin Jr., in all his captain's splendor, wearing the Oilers' classic blue (then-away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers Collection, which is card #FI-LF of the Franchise Ink sub-set, featuring a blue-sharpie on-sticker autograph:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Curtis Glencross Swatch Card

To me, in his seventh season with the Calgary Flames, Curtis Glencross was part of the fabric of that team, but maybe the 6'1'', 200-pound alternate captain was too much a part of the team's recent and unsuccessful past, he who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer and seemed poised for a big raise that Calgary's current administration didn't see themselves giving him- and they sent him to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline for a second- and third-round pick in June.

I say sure, he gets injured a lot (he's only played over 70 games twice in the NHL), but he gets points in over 50% of his games, sometimes even over 60%, so while the totals around 15-25 (goals) and 40-50 (points) are ideal middle-six numbers, his points-per-game averages ranks him in definite top-six territory, so in that regards, yes, I see him earning between $4M and $5M per season starting this summer.

More than just known as a hockey player, I've also seen his name associated with the Special Olympics a lot; he seems like a great guy to have in a locker room.

Here he is wearing the Flames' white (away) uniform, with his usual 'A' on the chest, from Panini's 2013-14 Crown Royale set (card #L-CG of the Lords Of The NHL sub-set), featuring a small black game-worn swatch:


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Michael Sgarbossa Autograph Card

Not all trades are blockbusters, and yesterday's deal between the Colorado Avalanche sending Michael Sgarbossa over to the Anaheim Ducks for stay-at-home minor-league defenseman Mat Clark didn't make many of the Trade Deadline recap shows, but the undrafted center from small-town Ontario has been pretty consistent at the AHL level, producing at half a point per game on terrible Lake Erie Monsters teams where no one in the top-20 in scoring is in the plusses.

Don't get me wrong, Sgarbossa will need to round out his play without the puck if he aims to stick in the NHL, and perhaps add some grit or will into his game, because his offensive skills - while not bad - aren't nearly enough for him to have a permanent spot on an NHL second line.

He had a spectacular 44-point (in 57 games) rookie campaign in the AHL that led him to an All-Star Game in 2012-13, but was limited to 20 points in 49 games last year (though he had 5 in his first 8 games) and 23 in 40 this season, both a sign of a regression and a testament to just how bad his surroundings were.

Here he is, wearing the Avs' burgundy (home) uniform with the awful piping, from Panini's 2013-14 Contenders set (paper-thin card #206 of the Rookie Ticket and Dual Rookie Class sub-sets), signed on-card in blue sharpie:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cory Conacher Swatch Card

Well, the NHL trade deadline has come and passed, and plenty of ''untradeable'' players switched teams, namely Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, and frequent traveler Cory Conacher. I wrote about Conacher back in November (career and history) and December (saying he hopefully finds his game back in the AHL), and he has done just that, with 5 goals, 17 assists and 22 points in 28 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, although he just came back from an injury.

Nevertheless, the Vancouver Canucks liked what they saw in him and decided he was worth trading away former Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Dustin Jeffrey - who himself had 41 points in 49 games with the Utica Comets - to acquire.

This now marks Conacher's fifth organization (and possibly seventh and eighth teams if he suits up for the Canucks) in three seasons, but while it shows many teams giving up on him, it also shows a bunch willing to give him a chance, thinking his game is close enough to where they want it to be to think they might be the team that makes him click. And while I think the Canucks have more of a sure-shot with their other trade deadline acquisition in Sven Baertschi, I also haven't given up entirely on Conacher either. And as a fellow diabetic, I wish him nothing but the best.

And so, fo the third time this season, here he is wearing the Ottawa Senators' colours and logo:

It's from Panini's 2013-14 Playbook set (card #B-CON of the Breakout sub-set and part of last season's Dual Rookie Class), showing him wearing the Sens' red (away) uniform, with a matching decent-sized ''event-worn'' jersey swatch. It's numbered 22/199.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Henri Richard Autographed Card

Guess whose birthday it almost is today? Henri Richard, the ''Pocket Rocket'' Hall Of Famer was born on February 29th, 1936, so while he's lived for 79 years so far, his actual birth date fell on a Leap Year and has only come 19 times.

But the Pocket Rocket was always one for abnormal numbers: his 11 Stanley Cups in 20 years playing for the Montréal Canadiens is an average not likely to be repeated any time soon; he broke into the NHL at age 19 in 1955-56, playing on a line with his older brother and legendary Hall Of Famer in his own right Maurice 'Rocket' Richard (the first man to score 50 goals in a season and 500 in an NHL career) and Dickie Moore, another HOFer himself. All three have their jersey numbers retired by the Habs, as well.

The year of his fifth birthday, he won his first Cup; four years later, on his sixth birthday, he won his fifth. His brother wore jersey #9, Henri played in nine All-Star Games.

He managed to captain the Habs for four seasons, following reigns by other HOFers such as Émile 'Butch' Bouchard, the Rocket, Doug Harvey and Jean Béliveau. And while he was often compared to his sibling, his actual playing style was less of the rugged, tough, I'll-show-you variety and more along the lines of Dave Keon and Stan Mikita, or David Desharnais and Johnny Gaudreau nowadays: small, speedy, shifty and slick. Another difference between the brothers is that Maurice was a goal scorer while Henri was a better passer, twice leading the league in assists. And as bizarre as that sounds, Henri reached the 1000-point mark while Maurice did not (his regular season totals end at 965, while he posted another 126 in 133 playoff games).

I have met Henri Richard many times in my life. I was often in environments which facilitated meeting former players, particularly those like him who do so much for the community and associate themselves with events for youth teams. My mom also reminded me of a funny/sad moment when I saw her last Christmas, about when my grandfather died in the early 1990s when I was a pre-teen; he'd been a journalist and newspaper editor in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and Mr. Richard came to the funeral - as many other former Habs did. And as he left us after wishing his condolences, apparently I turned to my mom wondering if I should have asked for his autograph, and she told me I'd have plenty of other opportunities later where the circumstances would lend themselves more to it.

And I did. She says she still has a box with things I had signed from my childhood, stored somewhere in her house, I'll have to look for that some day, but for now, here's a 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects card (#3 of the Hockey Hero sub-set) from In The Game, signed in thin blue sharpie at a team event two summers ago:

His uniform number (16) is tagged at the end, and his youthful head shot is a nice change from the previous cards of him I'd featured, more from the twilight of his terrific career.