Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mike Smith: Two Autographed Cards

On November 14th, 2017, I sent the following three cards to Mike Smith of the Calgary Flames:
Possibly because his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning was mostly sub-par, he didn't sign the 2010-11 Black Diamond card I sent in:
But along with it in an envelope received in June, were these two signed cards, in fading black sharpie:
I had told him he was now on a team that didn't need him to play like during his Vezina-nominated 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, where his spectacular play led his team to its lone Conference Final, that all he needed to be was himself and that would already be not only good enough but the team's first quality netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff.

All told, he finished with a 25-22-6 record, 2.65 GAA, .916 save percentage (just about league average) and three shutouts (above league average) on a team that underperformed enough to see its coach get fired.

Here's a closer look at the cards he signed, first featuring him in the Arizona Coyotes' white (away) uniform, on card #38 from Upper Deck's 2016-17 MVP set (and a Puzzle Piece for Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux on the back):
And here he is wearing the home burgundy uniform, on card #63 from UD's 2017-18 Artifacts set:
He tagged his uniform number (41) at the end of each signature.

I still believe the Flames - like most teams - don't need a savior in net and that Smith, under these circumstances, can thrive in Alberta. At least one 8-year-old fan thinks the same way.

He was the third-string goalie for Team Canada as it won gold at the 2014 Olympics and the starter with the same result at the 2015 World Championships.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tyler Ennis Autographed Card

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a huge splash in free agency this summer by signing former Buffalo Sabres first round pick (26th overall in 2008) Tyler Ennis to a one-year deal earlier today.

Having been bought out by the Minnesota Wild on a deal that paid him $4.6M per year for four years, Ennis will be making the league minimum this year ($650K) trying to relaunch his career and playing on what many consider to be a top Stanley Cup contender.

However, the Leafs are also the team that wasted the best years of players such as Lanny McDonald, Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Wendel Clark, Mats Sundin, Rick Vaive, Borje Salming, Tomas Kaberle, Phil Kessel, and Darryl Sittler, as well as the pre-retirement years of Brian Leetch, Mike Gartner, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Alexander Mogilny, Ron Francis, James van Riemsdyk and Jean-Sébastien Giguère.

It must be something in the water.

Which is why I'm not to worried about the Northern San Jose Sharks making a splash in free agency this year (that John Tavares player is pretty good) after adding has-been Patrick Marleau last year.

Had I been Ennis' agent, I would have advised him to try to get signed by his hometown Edmonton Oilers instead.

Here he is sporting the Sabres' white uniform from the beginning of the decade, a bit of a throwback to their classic garbs with the unfortunate defect of showing the uniform number on the front, on card #184 from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 set, which he signed in blue sharpie, making sure to add his uniform number at the end:
Ennis is a three-time 20-goal scorer, although it seems his best years are behind him. In his defense, he hasn't put up terrific numbers these past three years because they have been injury-plagued seasons that have seemed to slow him down a bit.

Maybe he can evolve into a dependable third-liner for the rest of what should be his prime years (he's still just 28), although he would have had a better shot at it away from the spotlights and tough press of Toronto, in my opinion.

He signed that card for me around 2014 or 2015, whist with the Sabres.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Zachary Fucale Autographed Card


Who knows best how to build a team, a GM who takes over a team two years removed from a Conference Final and manages to miss the playoffs three times in five years and mortgages 15% of his salary cap on a goalie three years removed from his lone good season, or a GM who builds a Stanley Cup Finalist out of rejects from the other 30 teams in his first year on the job?

GM #2 in this story, the Vegas Golden Knights' George McPhee, just signed former second-round pick, 23-year-old Zachary Fucale, to a one-year, two-way deal, banking on his youth, his pedigree as a three-time Team Canada gold medalist and the fact that despite posting a career-low in save percentage with the AHL's Laval Rocket last year, was the team's best goalie - both from an eye test and statistically. It was just an awful, awful team that was terribly outcoached every single game.

GM #1 truly believes Carey Price is the only player he needs to have that is an NHL-level talent (although, considering last season, even that last bit of sentence is up for debate).

We'll see who's right in due time, but I'd like to say to those who think Fucale is overrated that at the same stage of his career, Price had been supplanted at the Montréal Canadiens' #1 goalie by Jaroslav Halak for three years straight despite the job being Price's every training camp, and Price finished with pedestrian numbers every year:
From HockeyReference
And, of course, it was much worse come playoff time:
ditto
Fucale, despite playing on the worst AHL team of the past decade, displayed some fine control when facing NHL-level talent:


So, yeah, I still believe Fucale can develop into a fine NHL backup before the age of 25 and a starter before he reaches 28, following the career trajectories of Carter Hutton, Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta, Scott Darling (well, he might not be the best example) and Craig Anderson.

Here he is sporting the Halifax Mooseheads' beautiful white uniform, on card #244 from In The Game's 2012-13 Heroes And Prospects set and CHL Rookie sub-set:
He signed it for me in blue sharpie last season, when the Habs called him up without playing him a single second.

Monday, July 2, 2018

2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 2 Box Break

Time for a second-straight box break, yesterday's twin in a way, for Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 2:
Ah, Connor McDavid! I already know I'm in for a better treat than with Series 1!

The first clue to that is that the box is shock-full of Vegas Golden Knights and has players in their new uniforms (too bad Jaromir Jagr didn't last the year with the Calgary Flames):
I thought I could show some nice horizontal base cards as well:
The O-Pee-Chee glossy rookies (in their own special pack) were a treat, and I got a nice selection with Alex DeBrincat, Brock Boeser and Clayton Keller:
And while I could have done away with actual O-Pee-Chee Marquee Rookies in a box of another product, I did land Oscar Fantenberg and Jan Rutta in the regular-issue versions:
And I'll try to get the variant of Christian Jaros signed next year to add to my Sens Numbers Project:
I also got a Young Guns card of Alex Iafallo:
And I was most surprised to fall onto a Rookie Materials insert of Jonny Brodzinski:
And those weren't the only rookies, either, as I fell upon Alex DeBrincat and Ivan Barbashev in the UD Portraits inserts as well:
I also got a pair of veterans in the UD Canvas sub-sets, Johnny Oduya and the long-retired Ed Olczyk, seen here messing around Rick Wamsley's net:
Maybe I was luckier with my pulls, or maybe it's just a much better set, but this one's a pretty big upgrade from Series 1.

I give it a solid 8/10.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

2017-18 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Box Break

This post has been four months in he making...

I moved on April 1st, and it was pretty hectic, to say the least. It took me about a month to have all of my things in the new apartment, it took a while to get the internet service connected, then my laptop died (and with hit a couple of hundred scans I'd prepared for upcoming posts).

That, and my new job is taking so much of my time.

However, I wanted to celebrate my new place with a couple of box breaks...

So here is the first one, for Upper Deck's 2017-18 Series 1.
 Parkhurst rookies? Yep, and they're good too:
Here's what the regular-issue base cards look like:
As usual, a nice, clean design from Upper Deck, the picture bleeding all the way to the side of the card, weird and unique angles, oddball jerseys, and the player's complete career statistics on the back, complete with at least one fun fact.

I also got a good selection of Young Guns rookie cards in Haydn Fleury, Jack Roslovic and Evgeny Svechnikov:
There were three Shining Stars, Jeff Skinner, Nicklas Backstrom and this one of Alexander Wennberg:
These have a look reminiscent of the Black Diamond series, where the rest of the play is faded out to leave the player front and center.

Then there's the now-classic UD Canvas cards, like this one of Nikolaj Ehlers (and another one of Rick Nash):
These are nice to get signed, as their texture really lends itself to the marker's permanence well.

I fell upon two UD Portraits, one of David Krejci and this one featuring Marc-Édouard Vlasic:
These are standard fare at this point, black-and-white bust shots more often than not.

There are a bunch of cards I can't wait to get signed in this batch, but nothing that really stood out. I could have done without a Leaf on the front of the box, particularly in a year when there's an all-Leaf set (Centennial), but the Parkhurst rookies made up for that.

I rate this one a 7.5/10.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nicolas Deschamps Autographed Card

Nicolas Deschamps was a second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks (35th overall in 2008) after posting better than point-per-game averages over three seasons in the LHJMQ, mostly with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens.

He then had up-and-down seasons in the AHL, oscillating between nearly point-per-game runs and a few deeply ineffective ones as well, such as his lone assist in 12 games with the Syracuse Crunch in his last go-round in 2014-15.

He mostly toiled around in Europe for the past four seasons, spending time in Austria, Finland, Germany, and Sweden, before finding his niche with France's Rouen Dragons, with 20 goals, 28 assists and 48 points in 44 games so far for the second-place team (with a 30-9-3-2 record in 44 games).

He signed this card for me in 2012-13, a season during which he spent time with both the Toronto Marlies and the Hershey Bears in the AHL:
It's card #97 from In The Game's 2008-09 Heroes And Prospects set. It shows hiom wearing the Sags' beautiful blue (away) uniform.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Eric Brewer Autographed Card

The Olympics are upon us, so what better time to add to my Team Canada Numbers Project! with #3, Eric Brewer , wearing Team Canada's white (home) uniform, on card #256 from Upper Deck's 1998-99 Choice set and World Junior Showcase sub-set:
Brewer was one of the better defensemen to come out of the 1997 draft, as can be attested by both his being taken 5th overall, his 271 career points and 792 penalty minutes in 1009 regular-season games, and his being captain of the St. Louis Blues for parts of three seasons. He's also won Olympic gold (2002), World Championship gold (2003, 2004 and 2007), a World Cup title (2004) and World Juniors silver (1998).

Other notable defensemen selected in 1997 include Paul Mara (7th overall, 253 points and 776 PIMs in 734 games), Nick Boynton (9th, 144 points and 862 PIMs in 605 games), Scott Hannan (23rd, 217 points and 625 PIMs in 1055 games), Henrik Tallinder (48th, 142 points and 378 PIMs in 678 games), Joe Corvo (83rd, 310 points and 241 PIMs in 708 game), Brian Campbell (156th, 504 points and 277 penalty minutes in 1082 games), and Andrew Ference (208th, 225 points and 753 PIMs in 905 games with one Stanley Cup).

All told, yeah, despite finishing with a career -99 and only appearing in the playoffs four times in a 16-year career, Brewer was arguably and objectively in the top-3 at his position in his draft class.

He signed that card for me in blue sharpie whist with the Tampa Bay Lightning, probably during their long post-season run in 2011.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

My Team Canada Numbers Project

Well, I have Numbers Projects for so many teams now (my Habs Numbers Project, my Oilers Numbers Project my Sens Numbers Project, my Canucks Numbers Project, my Nordiques Numbers Project, my Flames Numbers Project and my Expos Numbers Project), I figured why not make one for Team Canada as well?

It'll be easier in some regards with all the national teams at all the levels (including but not limited to the World Juniors, the World Championships, the Spengler Cup, the Canada/World Cup, the Summit Series, and the Mens and Womens Olympic teams), but I'm again at a loss for #99 (Wayne Gretzky) and likely will be for my entire life.

I'm sticking to hockey, but who knows, maybe I'll get to add some from other sports as well.
So far, I have featured 28 players representing a total of 24 jersey numbers.

Here they are:

1: Braden Holtby: check!
3: Eric Brewer: check!
4: Chris Phillips: check!
5: Samuel Morin: check!
10: Brayden Schenn and Charles Hudon (also wore #16): check!
11: Zachary Boychuk: check!
12: Lanny McDonald: jersey card check!
13: Caroline Ouellette: check (and check again)!
14: Thomas Hickey: check!
16: Charles Hudon (also wore #10): check!
17: Marcus Foligno: jersey card check!
19: Alexandre Daigle: check!
20: Guillaume Latendresse and Louis Leblanc: check!
22: Frédérik Gauthier: check!
23: Rob Niedermayer and Daniel Audette: check!
24: Patrice Brisebois and Logan Couture: check!
28: Nathan Beaulieu: check!
29: Marie-Philip Poulin: check!
30: Dustin Tokarski: jersey card check!
31: Geneviève Lacasse and Olivier Roy: check!
32: Charline Labonté: check!
37: Patrice Bergeron: jersey card check!
51: Ryan Getzlaf: jersey card check!
97: Joe Thornton: jersey card check!

Captains: Poulin, Hickey

Friday, February 2, 2018

Brandon Prust Autographed Card

I got a great surprise in the mail today, one I had abandoned any hope of getting back:
That's a return from Brandon Prust, who signed card #269 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set in black sharpie adding his Montréal Canadiens uniform number (8) at the end and returned it by mail.

It's been so long that I no longer remember the year when I sent it (probably two years ago), but I remember I'd also sent him cards of his with the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers.

I guess he has time now that's he's retired and joined the coaching staff of the OHL's London Knights.

I met him last summer, and he really thought he still had a shot at making an NHL lineup, so much so that I believed him. In his prime, particularly with the Rangers and Habs, he was a terrific grinding third-liner who played with a physical edge. he could score 5 goals per year, get 15-20 points and 150 penalty minutes while playing against the opposition's second line and killing penalties.

Now he'll be able to share his passion with teenagers and young adults, showing them that playing balls-out with your heart on your sleeve can lead to fanbases still respecting you years after you've left town and marrying a local celebrity.

What's cool about this card is that it also features captains Brian Gionta and Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) in the background, proving my point about his usage and usefulness.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My Habs Numbers Project: An Introduction

So many hockey collectors have ''special projects'' they pursue to make their hobby even more fun, from trying to gather specific cards from every single Vancouver Canucks goalie to having an autographed card of every player who has reached the 1000-point mark.

I decided to start a project myself: to gather a special piece (jersey cards could work, but ideally an autographed card) from a player from every number worn by a member of the Montréal Canadiens.
Here's a look at the task that's ahead of me, starting with those I have:

Head Coach: Scotty Bowman: check!
1: Brian Hayward, Roland Melanson and Rick Wamsley: check!
2: Gaston Gingras (also wore #29): check!
3: Sylvain Lefebvre once (then twice), and Brian Engblom: check!
4: the one and only Jean Béliveau: check!
5: Stéphane Quintal and Guy Lapointe: check!
6: Ralph Backstrom: check!
8: Brandon Prust: check!
10: Guy Lafleur: check!
11: Claude Larose and Ryan Walter: check!
12: Yvan Cournoyer and Mike Keane: check! (also: Darcy Tucker)
13: Alex Tanguay: check!
14: Mario Tremblay: check! (also, Tomas Plekanec, who also wore #35)
15: Réjean Houle once, (then twice), and Bobby Smith: check! (also: George Parros)
16: Henri Richard: check!
17: Georges Laraque and Benoît Brunet: check!
18: Valeri Bure: check!, and Serge Savard: signed lithograph check!
20: Phil Goyette: check!
21: Brian Gionta: once, then twice, and Christopher Higgins: check!
22: Steve Shutt, Steve Bégin and Gilbert Dionne: check!
23: Turner Stevenson: check! (twice)
24: Andreas Dackell: postcard check!
25: Vincent Damphousse: check!
26: Josh Gorges: check!
27: Alex Kovalev: jersey card check!
28: Kyle Chipchura and Éric Desjardins: check!
29: Gaston Gingras (also wore #2) and Brett Clark: check! 
30: Mathieu Garon: postcard check, Peter Budaj, and David Aebischer: check!
31: Carey Price: check! (also Jeff Hackett)
32: Travis Moen: check!
34: Peter Popovic: check!
35: Alex Auld: check! (also, Tomas Plekanec, who wore #14 as well)
36: Marcel Hossa (also wore 81) and Matt D'Agostini: check!
37: Steve Penney and André Racicot: check!
38: Jan Bulis: postcard check!
40: Maxim Lapierre: check! (also, this Éric Chouinard postcard)
41: Jaroslav Halak: check!
42: Alexander Perezhogin: check!
43: Patrice Brisebois and Andrew Cassels: check!
44: Stéphane Richer: check!
45: Gilbert Dionne: check!
46: Andrei Kostitsyn: 8x10 check!
47: Brendon Nash and Stéphan Lebeau (also wore #50): check!
48: Jean-Jacques Daigneault, and James Wyman: check!
49: Brian Savage: check!
50: Stéphan Lebeau (also wore #47): check!
51: David Desharnais: check! (also wore #58)
52: Craig Rivet: postcard check!
54: Patrick Traverse: postcard check!
55: Francis Bouillon (also wore #51): check!
57: Blake Geoffrion: check!
58: David Desharnais: check! (also wore #51)
59: Brock Trotter: check!
60: José Theodore: check and check again!
61: Raphael Diaz: check!
63: Craig Darby: check!
64: Greg Pateryn: check!
65: Robert Mayer: check!
67: Max Pacioretty: check!
68: Yannick Weber: check!
70: Zachary Fucale: 4x6 picture check!
71: Louis Leblanc and Mike Ribeiro: check!
72: Mathieu Carle: check!
73: Michael Ryder: check!
74: Alexei Emelin: check!
75: Yann Danis: check!
76: P.K. Subban: jersey card check!
77: Pierre Turgeon: check!
79: Andrei Markov: check!
80: Ben Maxwell: check!
81: Lars Eller: check!
84: Guillaume Latendresse: check!
91: Scott Gomez: check!
94: Yanic Perreault and Tom Pyatt: check!

Captains: Béliveau, Gionta, Turgeon


Which means I'm looking to fill these:

7: This will be the hardest, seeing as Howie Morenz died in 1937 and the number was soon retired...
9: There are signature cards of Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard, but I don't think I'll ever be able to afford one!
19: This one will likely be between Terry Harper and Larry Robinson
33: Of course, my boyhood idol is Patrick Roy. Richard Sévigny would also be fine.
39: I think I also have a Reid Simpson one, but I'd love to upgrade to a Cristobal Huet or Enrico Ciccone
53: Rory Fitzpatrick and Ryan White have worn this number the longest
56: David Wilkie, Alain Nasreddine, Scott Fraser and Stéphane Robidas are the only ones to have worn this number in Montréal
62: It's a toss-up between Duncan Milroy and Frédéric St-Denis, but I did send St-Denis cards this season
66: Has only been worn in pre-season games
69: another pre-season number
78: I probably have some Éric Landry stuff somewhere...
82: It'd be nice to have Donald Audette's signature on a Canadiens' product
83: I don't even remember Éric Bertrand, but I'll gladly take the refresher course
85: never been worn, huh
86: Jonathan Ferland
87: never been worn
88: Chris Higgins wore it for a short while, as did Xavier Delisle
89: never been worn
90: I have lots of Joé Juneau cards, none of them signed
92: never been worn
93: the one and only Doug Gilmour
95: goalie Olivier Michaud would make my day, but Sergei Berezin would be fine as well
96, 97, 98, 99: have never been worn

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2017-18 Parkhurst Hockey Blaster Box Break

The minute I saw this blaster box of Upper Deck's 2017-18 Parkhurst, I knew I was going to buy it, and I knew I was going to write about it. And I'm fairly happy with the cards I pulled, too.

First, though, this is what the cards themselves look like, starting with the regular-issue base cards:
Green is the defining colour of Upper Deck's current iteration of the brand, as can be attested by these and last year's cards, and it's a good look.

That being said, there are different-coloured parallels, such as the "red" variants:
I was also happy I pulled quite a few Vegas Golden Knights players:
One of them was even part of the Prominent Prospects sub-set:
One semi-original, semi-cool but come-to-think-of-it,I've-never-seen-before sub-sets is East vs West, as can be attested by these Jonathan Toews and Evgeni Malkin cards:
Perhaps the nicest-to-have sub-set is the Rookies:
And one of them was of the "grey" variation, of prized prospect Owen Tippett:
I was happy to land one of the most exciting young players in the game, Patrik Laine, in the Blow The Horn red foil sub-set:
And if the East vs West sub-set reminiscent of past All-Star Games isn't enough, the pseudo-Olympic International sub-set gets the job done:
Cool side note: even though it wasn't the case at the time, all three players I pulled are now captains of their teams.

Perhaps even more so than last year, I think UD scored a home run with this set this year.

Another 8.5 in my book.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Brandon Sutter Autographed Card

Mark this one as the biggest success story of the evening: Vancouver Canucks second-line center Brandon Sutter scored the game winner in his return from a 21-game absence due to a lower-body injury.

The former first-round draft pick (11th overall, Carolina Hurricanes, 2007) has only reached the 40-point mark once in his nine-year NHL career so far, but I do feel like he's a fine #2 center on a playoff team or an excellent #3 on a Stanley Cup contender; he is good at keeping and retrieving the puck, won 54.3% of his faceoffs last year (but realistically should hover around the 52% mark most years), draws penalties and takes very few, leading some to speculate that he may have been the Canucks' most useful player last year. Then again, the Canucks were a tire sale last year.

But he does fall into the third tier, below the elite stars (Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron) and the dependable veterans who are sometimes award-worthy (Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Kesler).

Still, it's nice to see him get his legs back. Welcome back!

Here he is from his WHL days, wearing the Red Deer Rebels' burgundy (away) uniform, on card #118 from In The Game's 2006-07 Heroes And Prospects set (and Prospect sub-set):
He signed it in blue sharpie during the 2014-15 season.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gilbert Brulé Jersey Card

Congratulations are in order for Gilbert Brulé, who was named to Team Canada's 25-man Olympic roster for the 2018 Winter Games. He'll be joined by the likes of Rene Bourque, Ben Scrivens, Chris Kelly, Christian Thomas, Maxim Lapierre, Mason Raymond, Derek Roy, Chris Lee, Maxim Noreau, Justin Peters and Kevin Poulin.

He was drafted 6th overall in 2005 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, while many thought the Montréal Canadiens would have jumped on the chance to take a francophone center with the fifth pick; instead, the Habs chose Carey Price, but the behemoth center they should have taken fell to the 11th spot (Anze Kopitar).

While Brulé could never muster up a 20-point season in three tries with the Jackets, his passage with the Edmonton Oilers was slightly more memorable, because although he spent parts of two seasons in the AHL in his three years with the Oilers organization, he also put up 17 goals, 20 assists and 37 points in 65 games with the team in 2009-10, more than doubling his production from the four previous seasons combined.

His time in Edmonton was marred by injuries, though, from a knee injury off a dirty Adam McQuaid hit to a severe flu to a high-ankle sprain to a stomach virus to an abdominal injury to a concussion, he was seemingly never in good enough shape to play.

Then there was the issue with the Phoenix Coyotes sending him to the AHL and Brulé opting to "retire" instead, effective January 1st, 2014... a situation that lasted four months, as he signed in the KHL in May, for the following season.

His stat line was average for his first three seasons in the Kontinental League, but he's had a star-like production since last season:
Courtesy of HockeyDB
Point-per-game seasons are pretty rare in the KHL.

At 31 years of age, he may have a year or two left of "prime" play left in him, but perhaps he's burnt too many bridges for an NHL return.

In any event, being named to the Canadian National Team in an Olympic year is quite an achievement, and while I'm not sure hiring Willie Desjardins as head coach was the wisest decision, GM Sean Burke sure knows what he's doing.

Here's Brulé on a Frankencard that represents how most people see him in North America*, as a doomed prospect from the Jackets and Oilers, on card #GJ-GB from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a dark blue game-worn swatch from a jersey worn during his time in Columbus.

*of course, there was that time when he gave a hitchhiking Bono a ride...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1994-95 Action Packed Pins

 
Regular readers know my fondness for one of the nicest collectors out there, sometimes The Hockey News/Beckett Hockey contributor and creator of PuckJunk, Sal Barry.

I can easily credit Sal for getting me back in the collectibles game, because I abandoned card collecting in the mid-1990s when cards I could see worth worthless were being sold at $50-100 a pop, roughly a year before I took a decade-long hiatus from following my hometown team, the Montréal Canadiens, although I did continue following the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche in the postseason.

In 2000 and 2001, I started seeing packs of cards at dollar stores and would buy one or two once in a while, and in 2002 I bought a decent bunch and fell upon this Nikolai Antropov autograph card, which piqued my interest and brought it back to a 6/10; when my interest in though-the-mail (TTM) autographs peaked in 2009, Sal's website, personal blog, and tips on how to obtain autographs made it go up to 11, so much so that I also went digging through my old stuff that was in my Mom's attic. (Coincidentally, she was about to throw them out).

A couple of weeks ago, Sal wrote an article for Beckett on ill-fated 1994-95 hockey sets by a company named Action Packed and went more specifically into their set of lapel pins in another article on PuckJunk, then proceeded to hold a contest on his Twitter feed to draw three "packs" at random.

And I won!

This is what they look like as photographed by my smartphone:
Clockwise from left, that's Patrick Roy in his iconic Habs mask, Mike Modano, Doug Gilmour and Sergei Fedorov, four of the best players of their era. There's a case to be made for Roy as the best goalie of all time (and I often do), and there's also one to be made for Hart Trophy winner Fedorov as the most important piece of the Detroit Red Wings' 1997, 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cup-winning teams; where Modano stands as one of the best American-born players of all time may be up for debate, but he certainly makes my current Top-5, and Gilmour was tremendous in 1988-89 and 1992-93, perhaps the best player skater not named Wayne Gretzky of those two seasons.

This was supposed to be a 50-player set of the best players in the world.. and Terry Yake:
from PuckJunk
Well, Alexandre Daigle did play a long time but ended up being a marginal player instead of the Pierre Turgeon-like superstar he was sold as being by the scouts of the era. The same can be said of Pat Falloon, and there were a couple of, uh, fighters in the lot (Dave Manson, Marty McSorley, Bob Probert) as well as serviceable players who were not necessarily stars, such as Dmitry Khristich (wrongly spelled on the checklist), Stéphane Richer, Geoff Courtnall, Rick Tocchet, All-Star by default Geoff Sanderson, Tomas Sandstrom, Steve Thomas and Kevin Stevens.

Like I told Sal, I probably would have purchased the Roy at the time if it'd been below $25, but I wouldn't have bought a pack out of fear of landing a few too many Yakes...

It's a great product, though.

Thanks again, Sal!