Monday, September 28, 2009

Two Josh Gorges Autographed Cards

Unlike Maxim Lapierre, Josh Gorges signed each card by adding the correct jersey number on each, thus he wore #7 for the Kelowna Rockets, and #26 for the Montréal Canadiens.

The junior card, from his WHL days as captain of the Rockets is from In The Game's 2004-05 Heroes And Prospects series (card #82), after a WHL title, a Memorial Cup, a Western Conference First All-Star Team nod and a finalist for the league's top defenseman - as well as a participation at the World Juniors for Team Canada. He had been signed as a free agent (he had never been drafted) by the San Jose Sharks, whose uniforms were close in colours as the Rockets'.

The other card, where he is wearing the Canadiens' red jersey, is from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Series 2 collection (card #410), depicting him making a terrible butterfly pass to an unknown teammate, one of many bad plays resulting from being a part of a shocking mid-season trade to Montréal (alongside a draft pick that ended up being Max Pacioretty) for established whiner and coach-killer Craig Rivet. He has since found his game, and his niche on the team, and can be relied upon to step up and fill in at a higher level when one of the team's top three defensemen gets injured.

Both were signed at the Canadiens' jamboree prior to the 2007-08 season.

Two Maxim Lapierre Autographed Cards

From one #40 to another... Maxim Lapierre, promising third-line center for the Montréal Canadiens, my choice for the team's next captain, with two cards from the 2007-08 season.

On the left, an In The Game 2007-08 Heroes And Prospects card (#CC-05), from the Calder Cup Champions sub-set describing how valuable he was in the Hamiltom Bulldogs' championship run, participating on both his team's goals in the decisive game after having been reassigned to the AHL for the playoffs.

On the right, a 2007-08 MVP (#60) card from Upper Deck showing Maxim's stats in his rookie season in the NHL, mentioning that he scored in his first three games.

Both were signed at the team's jamboree prior to the 2007-08 season, both are similar, and both sport ''40'' after Lapierre's name, despite the fact that he clearly wears #26 on his Bulldogs card (the beautiful red jersey), showing he did not want to have to go back there, which of course he did just weeks later. But he came back with a vengeance, never to go back down again, a few weeks after being demoted.

I also like that he looks noticeably older in the AHL card than the NHL one, probably because of the beard, but considering players usually go to the AHL before the NHL and both cards being from the same year, it adds a nice touch.

Both cards also have him in just about the same position, with an open mouth, although he seems in possession of the puck on the MVP card and demanding it on the Heroes And Prospects card. Another noteworthy difference is not between the cards themselves but on the Upper Deck card, as the MVP series sported facsimile autographs on the front... and apart from the exact same 'M', the rest of the signature is completely different from the live one to the printed one. And since both live ones are so strikingly similar, you can wonder if UD didn't feel his actual signature was legible enough and asked him to re-do it more clearly...

Éric Chouinard Autographed Oversized Team Card

For years, from the late 1980s to the early-2000s, I always purchased the Montréal Canadiens' oversized player cards. While they all used to be taken in photo sessions with just about every player striking the same pose without a helmet on, the 1990s brought more and more action shots until all players were pictured during games.

Deadline issues have made it so that awkward situations would at times arrive, such as a player not wearing the same jersey number on the front as is indicated on the back, simply because the picture had been taken during the pre-season when the player's coveted number was not yet available but had become so as time passed.

Also of note on these cards were the facsimile autographs printed on them; in the 80s, the autograph was in front, while in the pictures above, it's on the back. It is fun to note that at times, during the late 80s and early 90s, the autographs differed vastly from players' signatures obtained elsewhere, which is not the case here. Indeed, Éric Chouinard's autograph, gathered by myself at a team-sponsored jamboree in 2002 - months before he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers - looks just about the same, the only difference being he signed his first name above his last name while the facsimile shows it in a straight line.

Chouinard was a Habs first-round draft pick from 1998, smack-dab in the middle of the worst decade in team history - both on the ice and at the draft table. Many have been critical of Chouinard having been chosen ahead of such impact players as Dmitri Kalinin (18th, Sabres), Robyn Regehr (19th, Flames), Simon Gagné (22nd, Flyers), Scott Gomez (27th, Devils), Jonathan Cheechoo (29th, Sharks), Mike Fisher (44th, Senators), Mike Ribeiro (45th, Canadiens), Brad Richards (64th, Lightning), Erik Cole (71st, Hurricanes), François Beauchemin (75th, Canadiens), Brian Gionta (82nd, Devils), Shawn Horcoff (99th, Oilers), Jaroslav Spacek (117th, Panthers), Chris Neil (161st, Senators), Andrei Markov (162nd, Canadiens), Pavel Datsyuk (171st, Red Wings), Michael Ryder (216th, Canadiens), and Karlis Skrastins (230th, Predators).

It is fun to note that 4 other Canadiens draftees of that year became regulars in the NHL (Ribeiro, now the centrepiece of Dallas' offense, Beauchemin, Cup winner in Anaheim now patroling Toronto's blue line, Ryder, twice a 30-goal scorer now in Boston, and the Habs' leader on the blue line Markov), that another one played for a few years longer than Chouinard (Gordie Dwyer), that three picks from other teams now play for the Habs (Gomez, Gionta and Spacek) while another pick from earlier that year, Tanguay, chosen 12th overall by Colorado, was the team's best forward last season before departing as a free agent. Also from the '98 draft, Cole, one of the current NHLers who has had the most success playing against the Habs.

Another side note, Chouinard, who wore #40 for the Habs, was traded to the Flyers for their second-round pick of 2003, which turned out to be Maxim Lapierre, currently wearing #40.

It's too bad he never panned out in the NHL, playing only 90 games in 5 seasons, because he had decent offensive skills and hockey bloodlines: his father played for the Atlanta Flames, and his cousin, Marc, still plays in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim.

Enid-Raye Adams Autographs

Here's a duo I'm very proud of - and that makes me hate myself at the same time.

I'll start at the beginning: Enid-Raye Adams is from Manitoba (Canada), where your chances of attaining worldwide success are slim-to-none, unless your last name is Bachmann or Turner. She moved to Vancoucer, BC (still in Canada) to become an actress - and it didn't work for her right away. So she wrote some material and toured the country as a stand-up comic, which eventually led to an agent taking notice, and film (but mostly TV) roles ensued.

Her sense of humour is wonderful - and she's a master at self-deprecating in real life, too.

I wrote her an honest letter around 2002, saying I was happy her career seemed to be going upwards, what with a Babylon 5 TV movie, a part in Slap Shot 2, one in Undercover Brother, appearances in hit TV shows like The Dead Zone, Stargate SG-1 and Taken - not quite Oscar-worthy (yet), but a definite step up from being the 15th or 20th name appearing in Canadian TV movie Trapped (with Meat Loaf an Callum Keith Rennie).

She could have just been happy I wrote in and done nothing in return, or could have sent a typed note saying ''thanks'' - or a facsimile autographed picture. Instead, she dedicated and autographed a publicity still with a note saying to ''Keep On Rockin' In The Free World'', both a nod to the fact that we're both Canadian but also that I'm a musician first and foremost (before being a blogger, writer and film-maker, that is) - and she added a Babylon 5: The Legend Of The Rangers postcard with a personalized message on the back - and what appears to be a ripped-off price tag!

So every day I can see these two pieces of memorabilia, admire them - and every day I can remember I'm an asshole for never writing back.

Mike Ribeiro - Patrice Bergeron Jersey Card

The Montréal Canadiens - Boston Bruins rivalry has spawned great moments for hockey fans (as well, apparently, as other seasons' SPX sets), and the Montréal-Québec rivalry has spawned countless arguments in Quebecers' families. Here's a card that puts both rivalries to good use - perhaps without even knowing it.

Montréal native Mike Ribeiro, seen here in his former team's jersey, the white Habs uniform, coming off a season where he led the team in points, shares the bill with Québec-born Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins - also in his team's whites.

This card (# WC-MP from Upper Deck's 2005-06 SPX series) is numbered 007/350, and what makes it so special is that Bergeron's side is actually comprised of two colours - back and white - which likely means it was taken from the stripe at the bottom of the jersey, or the sleeve, both of which hold a slimmer chance of making in onto a jersey card as, say, a piece of the chest or back.

Also of note is that this was to be Ribeiro's final year playing for his hometown team, as he was traded to the Dallas Stars before the start of the 2006-07 season, days after having agreed to a raise. In october 2007, Bergeron's playing days were almost over after he suffered a broken nose and 'Grade 3' concussion after a questionable hit from behind by Randy Jones.

Kristopher Letang Autographed Card

Here's another player Québec fans especially got to like and know of late - first from his junior days for the Val d'Or Foreurs, then through his terrific play in two consecutive Stanley Cup Finals for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Indeed, Kristopher Letang's future looks very promising.

This nice card is #146 in In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set, once again a very pretty one - and the first one to include both John Tavares and Evgeni Malkin. This set had AHLers on the verge of NHL success, junior players and international futures stars who had played in either the World Juniors or World Championships - a great way to see future stars in different (and, at times, simply bizarre) uniforms. I like the Foreurs' jersey in this one, reminiscent of the old Minnesota North Stars uniforms, a team that is missed.

This card was taken from a pack, sent to Letang, care of the Foreurs, by mail - and returned by mail as well. I also like that the card's design gives an obvious spot in which the player can sign - and I like that Letang used a fat-point blue sharpie, making his signature illegible-but-retaining-that-rookie-feel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

P.K. Subban Autographed Card

He's got all the offensive talent you could want, the team just wants him to polish his defensive skills... but the people of Montréal can hardly wait for P.K. Subban to finally make the team. In the meantime, he's with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Here's a guy who is so refreshingly self-confident (yet not a jackass like Kanye West) that when he was drafted, 43rd overall in second round by the Canadiens, he told general manager Bob Gainey and his staff: ''you made the right choice''. But team management, always reluctant to give youngsters a chance, will take their time with this one.

Which is why I love this set, the 2007-08 Heroes And Prospects collection, by In The Game (this is card #77 in the set): you get guys who might not be in the NHL soon - if ever - in a professional-grade card, not like the cheap, thin cardboard Classic uses, and not the old design-challenged 7th Inning Sketch junior hockey series either.

This beautiful card shows Subban in the Belleville Bulls' black jersey, with colours remiscent of the old Vancouver Canucks jerseys', which I sorely miss these days, what with their current ugly retro look using their very first colours in a ''I want to be the Sharks'' way.

It was sent to him, care of the Bulls, by mail - and it was returned by mail as well.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jason Spezza Patch Card

Here's another useless specialty card Upper Deck tried to pass off as special: a card incorporating a patch commemorating the choice of Jason Spezza as the second overall pick of the 2001 draft. Not a patch he wore, not one that was on the jersey he was given on that day, nope...

As it states on the back of card #PS-JS from Upper Deck's 2007-08 O-Pee-Chee Premier set:
You have received a manufactured patch hockey card. On the front of this card is a manufactured patch. Enjoy your card!
Wow, thanks. And they went as far as to number the damn thing, 044/199.

So they went through the trouble of having 199 of these patches made for Spezza alone, and who knows how many other players too...

They could have saved themselves the trouble of doing that and just produced a card that was blank in front, and read, in the back:
You have received a blank-fronted Jason Spezza card representing every time he's backchecked last year. That's why your card is blank. It was that, or have people in Asia sow a patch that has barely anything to do with the player involved, who likely will never know it ever existed, and passing it on to you as a collectible. We chose not to be jackasses, we hope you enjoy our honesty!
The Ottawa Senators' forward, one of the best playmakers in the league, deserved better. So did the once-amazingly valuable O-Pee-Chee Premier set.

Jarome Iginla Jersey Card

Now that Joe Sakic has retired, Jarome Iginla is probably the best leader left in hockey. Once a promising young gun in a big-name trade that sent Joe Nieuwendyk to Dallas to win the Stanley Cup, Iginla evolved into a Hart Trophy winner that could, in any given year, score 50 goals. Unfortunately (for him), he never plays with good enough players to allow him to do that, but he's carried the Calgary Flames' offense on his broad shoulders for the better part of a decade now, which is still quite something.

This card from Upper Deck's Classic Portraits series of 2002-03 (#C-JI), bearing the sub-set mark of 'Classic Stitches' (because simply saying 'jersey card' or 'game-used jersey card' is probably copyrighted for a competing set... by the same manufacturer...) is still puzzling; first off, the piece of jersey is all black, like Calgary's then-road jersey, but the one in the picture is their home (white) one, which does have a black bar, but it seems a bit thin to be the patch from the card. Also, the set is called 'Classic Portraits'... but Upper Deck has only been making cards since the early 1990s, so revisiting the 50s' and 60s' layouts seems not only a lack of inspiration, but also a dick move to me. Especially since they now produce (own?) the brands that were made back then, i.e. Parkhurst and O-Pee-Chee...

Erin Tietsort Benchwarmer Autograph Card

Here's a special trio of cards - three Erin Tietsort autograph cards available in packs of 2008 Benchwarmer model cards.

Benchwarmer are the most reknowned model cards manufacturers - ahead of even those by Sports Illustrated and Playboy, but I feel they may be working their girls a little too hard...

Look at these three autographs: they have obvious similarities, namely the 'E' and 'T', but it seems I got cards from each stage of the day she spent signing them, from the beginning when she was happy to clearly sign her whole name, to the middle when she started shortening it, to the very end when, really, it's more of a blur or a doctor's presciption.

All three cards were purchased from Ebay, from different sellers, they just happened to be so drastically different (I didn't even mean to purchase three of a kind, I had just bid on 3 in the hopes of getting 1, as these little buggers sell fast and high).

But Benchwarmer guarantees, on the backs of the cards, that all autographs are genuine. And knowing how other card companies have disappeared from the market for not being true to their word (hello, Pro Set!), I doubt anyone would try fooling their collectors that way again.

Jaroslav Halak Autographed Card

Those of you who know me know I was a hockey goalie for half my life, making me quite judgemental of goalies in particular. And the one goalie I have the most doubts about is Carey Price. Mostly because I just don't see 'it' - nothing he does can not be done by anyone else.

And it so happens Price has always had Jaroslav Halak to contend with in the Montréal Canadiens' organization. Halak may be a bit on the short side, but his feistiness and desire to win make him a spectacular goalie to watch - and it so happens his statistics often surpass those of Price. Plus, he has twice led his team almost single-handedly to a playoff spot, only to watch another goalie spoil it for him in the end (Cristobal Huet, who I also like, and Price).

This beautiful card depicting Halak in the Hamilton Bulldogs' red uniform, which looks great on him, was taken from a pack of In The Game's Between The Pipes set for the 2007-08 season, then was sent to the Bulldogs by mail and returned by mail as well.

Saku Koivu Autographed Card

Saku Koivu, the Montréal Canadiens' 10-year captain, as beloved for his intensity and constant effort as he was hated for not speaking French and having captained the worst decade in team history...

Here's a card from before those days, when he was just a top prospect, a local hero, having just scored 43 points in 47 games in Finland's professional league - for Classic's 1994-95 Hockey series.

Classic didn't have the rights to display NHL or NHLPA players, so instead they published cards from the minor leagues, the juniors, and international teams. It was a cheap way to get rookie cards before anyone else, but the market never really recognized the brand as being serious.

This autograph was taken by someone trustworthy at the Habs' pre-season jamboree in the mid-2000s.

Marty Turco Jersey Card

Upper Deck seems to really like their ''two jerseys on one card'' idea, because they're doing it on another collection, this time, 2008-09's Artifacts label, the Treasured Swatches subset, with the tagline that reads 'authentic jersey swatch'...

Limited and serial-numbered 157 out of 199, this card (#TSD-MT) features former All Star goalie Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars, who has fallen on hard times of late.

I also have to add that I really hate the Reebok Dallas Stars jerseys, with the large-font DALLAS and player number on the front like a bad football jersey. And Turco's golden equipment wasn't his best idea ever, either.

Nicklas Lidstrom Jersey Card

So what does a company do when having one piece of jersey on a card doesn't differentiate it from others anymore? Let's put two!

Here, there seems to be two different tints of red for this Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom jersey card. Two different jerseys? Optical illusion? Who knows... in any event, you've got one or two pieces of a sweater worn by one of the 5 best defensemen of all time.

This card (#AF-NL) is from Upper Deck's 2008-09 SP Game-Used Edition and bears the Authentic Fabric insignia.

Michael Ryder And Phil Kessel - Jersey Card

Oh, serendipity! Here's a jersey card that features Michael Ryder in a red Montréal Canadiens jersey, and Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins, with a black jersey piece (it is unclear whether it's the black shoulder on the white jersey or a piece of the darker one). Each has had a 30-goal season in those uniforms.

But Ryder is now a Bruin, and he's scored 27 goals in his only season there so far. Ironically, his salary of $4M per year for three more years is what put the Bruins over the cap and forced to trade Kessel (who had scored 36) to the Leafs a couple of weeks ago... so neither of these players are still with the team they're pictured in.

This is from Upper Deck's SPX Hockey series, for the 2008-09 season, which also happens to be the only one these two players have played together as teammates. It isn't serial-numbered, but bears the card nuber #WC-RK.

Peter Forsberg Jersey Card

Many hockey commentators and fans saw Peter Forsberg as more talented and a more complete player than Joe Sakic. Not me. He may have been faster, slicker, and would hit more, but he didn't have Sakic's wrist or backhand shots, and he definitely couldn't take a hit like him either. Which led to the final 7 years of his career where he'd attempt comeback after comeback only to miss more than half the games and never really be comfortable playing. And stints with the Nashville Predators and in Sweden.

What he was, though, was the second piece in the best duo in the NHL, tantamount to (at least) the Colorado Avalanche's second Stanley Cup.

This jersey card has a piece of the team's predominant burgundy 'away' jersey, from a set I know nothing about. It's manufactured by Upper Deck, limited edition (69/100), and the ront of the card mentions UD Play Makers Limited, which I assume is the collection, and Player's Club Gold Jersey, which I assume to (only) be what they call jersey cards in this collection. The card number, as is usual for these, has the player's initials in it (#J-PF).

That's the problem when a company makes too many sets - not only do the same players and same type of memorabilia intertwine, you get lost in their very titles and abandon looking anything up because it takes too long.

Sergei Samsonov Jersey Card

Oh look - a white piece of jersey... somehow fitting for a player who was lame, boring and afraid to get dirty when he came to the Montréal Canadiens after being a scoring threat for the Boston Bruins (the team from this jersey). Yup, that's midget Sergei Samsonov, free agent bust.

This 2005-06 Upper Deck Series 2 card (J2-SV) was a letdown just like its player - I was never a fan, not when he was a hated Bruin, not when he was a flake-out Hab, not when he was a hated Hurricane. I was happy when he was an unknown Black Hawk, because I had totally forgotten about him. And the box that contained the pack that contained this card had a picture of a Steve Yzerman jersey card. You hope for Yzerman, you'll "settle" for (or be even happier with) Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg... you get Samsonov.

I was hoping some of his sweat hadn't made it onto the jersey, then I remembered we're talking about a player who didn't get within 90 feet of the opposition's net, so I'll be fine.

Joe Sakic Jersey Card

Here is perhaps my favourite hockey player (skater) of all time - Joe Sakic, in his white Colorado Avalanche uniform (card # F-JS, celebrating former first-round picks, which I guess was one way to make the Upper Deck Ice collection somewhat different from all the others the company releases every year).

I'm a big fan of this card, because it's certified as being game-used (not just during a photo shoot as some are), the piece on the back is glued on crooked, and it sports a cool Sakic picture, but I'm not a fan of the trend it's a part of, which is to incorporate in cards pieces of memorabilia touched by a player for a short amount of time. It started with jerseys, but they ran out of them, so they started using photo-shoot-worn jerseys, but even that got old, so now they're at pieces of sticks and gloves - and even arena boards.

Britt Reinecke Autographed Picture

German model and TV hostess Britt Reinecke sent me this genuine autographed picture years ago (2001 or 2002), back in my earlier autograph collector days, when things were much simpler - a simple email often was enough to receive international mail. That's what it took here.

Stéphane Quintal Autographed Card

This one's good on so many levels. First off, we're talking about a decent hockey player, but a common one nonetheless, from a brand whose cards aren't worth much either. So, on the regular market, this regular card is not only not worth much to any collector, but some might actually get frustrated to have so many copies of it.

The card is #257 from the 1995-96 Fleer Ultra Extra series, made by Fleer/Skybox at the time, who were more known for their baseball (under the Fleer mokiner) and basketball cards (Skybox).

The player is stay-at-home defenseman Stéphane Quintal, a steady blueline presence who once in a while took the gloves off to protect his teammates. He is seen here taking a slap shoot, something he didn't do a lot of. So you have a rare pose by a local player in the local team's uniform; it may not be of much value to others, but to me it does.

The autograph was taken by someone trustworthy at a team function.

Simon Gagné Autograph Card

Upper Deck makes all hockey cards nowadays, even those by formerly recognizable brands, such as O-Pee-Chee. This one is part of the O-Pee-Chee Premier collection for 2008-09 (card #PP-SG), and is numbered 62/100.

Also of note is that this card was produced while Simon Gagné was still rebounding from a serious concussion. We all hope he regains his All-Star form (and health, obviously) soon.

It's an ok card, but I feel the O-Pee-Chee Premier crest is a bit too big, hiding too much of the player. It's really too bad, because he has a neat up-close pose and is sporting the assistant captain's A.