Sunday, May 17, 2015

David Cooper Autographed Card

Ok, fine, it may be a bit of a stretch to link Team USA's defeat at the hands of Team Russia at the World Championships to this card of David Cooper using his hard slap shot with the Rochester Americans (get it?), but I'm taking it anyway (and I'm saving Mike Richter for later):
It's card #210 from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set (with the Blue Chip Prospect seal in red foil), which he signed for me in person in blue sharpie in the mid-1990s; during that time, I was playing Bantam and/or Midget and/or Juniors, played in the Ottawa region in the summer (there weren't high-level, i.e. AAA leagues, in Montréal in the summer), and was a goaltending teacher's assistant at various hockey schools in Montréal and the Outaouais region. Cooper hails from there, so chances are our paths crossed at one of these schools (I didn't just bring random cards to games I was playing in, but usually had a heads-up when pros were to be coming to the schools). That blue Americans uniform is one of my favourites in the AHL.

Drafted 11th overall in 1992 by the Buffalo Sabres - ahead of Sergei Krivovrasov (12th), Sergei Gonchar (14th), Jason Smith (18th), Martin Straka (19th), Peter Ferraro (24th), Jim Carey (32nd), Valeri Bure (33rd), Michael Peca (40th), Andrei Nikolishin (47th), Mattias Norstrom (48th), Manny Fernandez (52nd), Craig Rivet (68th), Robert Svehla (78th), Matthew Barnaby (83rd), Jere Lehtinen (88th), Marcus Ragnarsson (99th), Adrian Aucoin (117th), Joël Bouchard (129th), Ian Laprerrière (158th), Nikolai Khabibulin (204th), Anson Carter (220th), and Dan McGillis (238th) - Cooper was seen as a sure-shot NHL regular, having posting nearly point-per-game averages in his final two OHL seasons as a defenseman.

He played for parts of four seasons with the Americans, but knew his time within the Sabres organization was up when they sent him to play for the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays to close out the 1993-94 season, after which he signed on with the Toronto Maple Leafs, with whom he would suit up for 30 games over three seasons at the NHL level, before getting traded to the Calgary Flames organization, who sent him to their AHL affiliate St. John Flames for all of 1998-99, producing 18 goals and 42 points in 65 regular-season games and another 5 points in 7 playoff games, showing he was ready to take his game to a higher level.

Finding no employment in the NHL, he set his sights to Europe, where he played for the following decade, in Germany (1999-2000, 2001-02, 2003-04), Russia (2002-03), Italy (2004-05, 2007-08) and Denmark (2005-07), save for one more try with the Leafs organization (2000-01), mostly spent in the AHL.

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