Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fred Brathwaite Autograph Card

Yeah, I have a thing for goalies, and that includes journeyman goalies - the type that have to move from team to team trying to find their niche. Some eventually do, many don't, but it's fun when one you've been following for a while actually does something spectacular.

Such is the case for Fred Brathwaite. I first discovered who he was when I purchased a bunch of 7th Inning Sketch junior hockey cards in late 1990, and one of them was of him, in which he was sporting the Oshawa Generals' uniform. He really stood out, and his statistics made it seem that he could be an impact player at the professional level. I didn't realize until much later that he was short - 5'7'' officially, but maybe even shorter in real life. In contrast, in 1990, I was 12 years old, and already taller than he was.

Brathwaite went undrafted after 4 years of junior hockey, though, and the Edmonton Oilers signed him to a free agent contract for the 1993-94 season - to send him to their AHL affiliate Cap Breton Oilers. After three years alternating between the AHL and NHL Oilers, he spent another two with the Manitoba Moose, then of the IHL, before a stint with the Canadian National Team (when NHLers weren't allowed to play in the Olympics, Team Canada was a semi-pro team onto itself, playing games year-round) before becoming part of the Calgary Flames, where he put up decent numbers (always a save % over .900).

After that, he was the backup for the St. Louis Blues for two seasons, for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003-04, and Kazak Ak-Bars for two years, before returning to North America to play for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL for two more seasons. Then he moved to Germany to play in the DEL for the Mannheim Eagles, where, finally, in 2008-09, he was named the league's MVP with a 2.37 GAA and a spectacular .925 save percentage. He is still playing there this season.

This card (#66) is from In The Game's 2000-01 Be A Player Signature Series, and sees Brathwaite sporting the Flames' late-90s white home jersey with angular black and yellow lines. It is viewed as a ''common'' autograph card, but it holds a special place in my heart.

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