Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Paul Baxter Autograph Card

Twenty years ago today, the Québec Nordiques' owners announced they had sold the team and it was moving to Denver where they would win the Stanley Cup 12 months later after acquiring the best goaltender of his time, Patrick Roy of provincial rivals Montréal Canadiens.

They were the team of my youth, and I did switch my allegiance over to the Colorado Avalanche when they got their hands on Roy, because Roy and Joe Sakic were my two favourite athletes - and still are.

Paul Baxter's time with the Nordiques was before my time, however, as he played in Québec in the WHA from 1976-79 then in the NHL in 1979-80 as the franchise switched leagues. Baxter had a couple of 10-goal seasons, but he's mostly remembered as a tough guy.

How tough? How about 962 penalty minutes in just 290 career WHA games tough? How about 1564 penalty minutes in 472 regular-season NHL games, and 162 more in 40 playoff games just for kicks?

Yeah, the man almost had a major penalty per game. As a matter of fact, in 1981-82, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he amassed 409 PIMs (the second-highest single-season total in NHL history) in 76 games. Keep in mind it was his most productive NHL season in terms of points as well, with 43, and the 9 goals he scored were the third-most of his career.

He was also a target of many an opponent's anger, as per Legends Of Hockey:
In one stretch, no less than five players were suspended for a total of 20 games in incidents related to the Penguins' defenceman. On November 21, 1981, Chris Nilan of Montréal threw a puck at Baxter in the penalty box after an altercation, opening up a cut that required eight stitches and netting the Canadien tough guy a three-game suspension. On December 9, Philly's Paul Holmgren was so intent on getting to Baxter that he punched referee Andy Van Hellemond. Holmgren was suspended for five games. December 14, Barry ''Bubba'' Beck and Nick Fotiu of the New York Rangers were convinced Baxter had been up to evil and led a charge of their New York fellows off the bench to correct matters. Beck was gone for six games, Fotiu for one. Finally, normally mild-mannered Blaine Stoughton was sent home for eight games when the league ruled his series of cross checks to Baxter's head was an intent to injure
He is now the President and GM of the NAHL's Wichita Falls Wildcats, after three years as their head coach. He had been an assistant coach at the NHL level, with the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers earlier in his post-playing days.

Here he is, representing the Nordiques in their white (home) jersey, in In The Game's 2013-14 Enforcers II set (card #A-PB of the Autograph sub-set), always a well designed and original release:
He will slot in perfectly as #4 in my Nordiques Numbers Project.

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