Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ulf Samuelsson Autograph Card

The Eastern Conference finalists will both be teams who play in blue at home and white as visitors, as the New York Rangers have joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as the final teams standing in the Eastern time zone.

As a treat, I will once again feature Ulf Samuelsson, who used to be one of their bruisers on defense for four seasons at the tail end of the 1990s and is now their assistant coach.

''Bruiser'' might be sugarcoating it, though, as he is generally considered one of the dirtiest players of all time, and certainly the dirtiest of his era, holding the title on his own for the second half of the 1980s and sharing it with Bryan Marchment and Darius Kasparaitis in the 1990s. His knee-on-knee hits were on the wrong side of legendary, and his ''Robocop'' nickname is possibly the most sarcastic use of a euphemism hockey has produced in the last 30 years.

Still, he was a force to reckon with, and was actually a very good physical defensive defenseman. As a matter of fact, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired him from the Hartford Whalers (along with Ron Francis) specifically to cement and strengthen their entire six-man defensive unit, which he did right away, helping the team to two straight Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.

Sure, it helps to have enough depth to stick Hall Of Famer Francis on a second line behind Mario Lemieux, with Jaromir Jagr on the wing, and Larry Murphy anchoring the powerplay on defense, but you also need to stop the puck from going in you own net, and that's where Ulf and Kjell Samuelsson came in, along with Tom Barrasso in nets. And playing with Lemieux somehow brought Ulf some respect as a protector rather than a mere instigator - or maybe that's just my childhood innocence talking.

In any event, here he is sporting the Rangers' classic white (then-home) uniform, from Pinnacle's 1997-98 Be A Player set, the signed insert version of card #126, autographed on-card in thin black sharpie:

Sure, he seems like he's open and expecting a pass to help out the offense, but that's not what the opposition players are worried about. His 57 career goals and respectable 333 points in 1080 games (and two Norris Trophy top-10 finishes) kind of do pale in comparison to his 2453 penalty minutes...

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