Monday, September 28, 2009

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.

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