Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gilles Meloche: 2 Autographed Cards

We have all seen the San Jose Sharks make their way to this year's Stanley Cup Final, on the strength of the strong play of Logan Couture, Marc-Édouard Vlasic and the impressive leadership of Joe Pavelski (yes, I admit it).

But did you know the Sharks have roots that date all the way back to the 1960s, namely the California Seals? Indeed. Though the Seals were founded by Barry Van Gerbig and first sold to Charles O. Finley, it was the Gund Brothers (George and Gordon) who were the first to really take the team to heart.

So much so that when it became impossible to continue operating in the Bay Area, they relocated it to their hometown, forming the NHL iteration of the Cleveland Barons before merging with the Minnesota North Stars. The North Stars' minority owner Howard Baldwin threatened to move the team to California claiming poor attendance record, and in a twist that only the Bronze Era NHL could come up with, decided to mediate the ownership's power struggles by awarding the Gunds a new expansion team - the San Jose Sharks - and half the North Stars' roster as further compensation.

As a mark of respect for the organization's roots and their own history with the league, they decided to use teal as the team's main colour, just like in their days manning the Seals (under Finley's watch, the team had temporarily been renamed the Golden Seals and were mostly using an Oakland Athetics-style yellow as their main colour, matching his other team).

The Seals were god-awful; they had one good forward (Carol Vadnais) and one of the best goalies of his era in Gilles Meloche; the rest were pretty much AHLers, which explains why the team has one of the worst records in league history.

Meloche has an All-Star Game on his resume, and when sharing the net with Don Beaupre in Minnesota formed one of the best tandems in the league, reaching the Cup Final and semi-finals in a short period of time.

Here he is in two of his three most memorable uniforms (I couldn't get my hands on a card of his with the Barons), from In The Game's 2011-12 Between The Pipes set, first with the Seals on card #182 (part of the La Belle Province sub-set):
And here he is sporting his classic North Stars mask - which he had re-made for the Minnesota Wild/Stars' alumni game this winter - on card #132, from the Decades: The 1970s sub-set:
He signed both in thin black sharpie.

Upon retiring, after playing three seasons for the franchise, Meloche spent nearly 20 years as the Pittsburgh Penguins' goaltending coach, winning three Stanley Cups in the process. He's now a part-time special assignment scout for the team.

In another ironic twist, Baldwin owned the Pens as well... he was the team's chairman when it elected to go to bankruptcy in 1998.

George Gund died in January. The Sharks honored him as a builder on the night they played the Montréal Canadiens

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