Wednesday, March 31, 2010

3 Jaroslav Halak Autographed Items

Even though he brought me terrible news (i.e. a tax audit), Mr. Postman still made my day today by bringing me a special package that contained these 3 autographed items from Jaroslav Halák, who once again this season is the main reason why the Montréal Canadiens are in playoff contention. And just like last time, when he was with the Hamilton Bulldogs, he was kind enough to return a signed item to me in no time at all. Well, three, actually.

I sent them on January 29th (the same day as these two Brent Sutter cards) and received them today, March 31st - and I'm told that's a great turn-around for active players. Surprisingly, I had included a self-addressed stamped envelope, which he used, but he also used one of those ''company machine-stamps'' over it, which was weird, and it's postmarked yesterday, meaning Canada Post was actually effective with this one letter.

After starting off 10-6-0 with a 2.89 GAA and .906% in his rookie year, he only played 6 games in 2007-08 (the rest of the time being spent in Hamilton waiting for Cristobal Huet to be traded), going 2-1-1 with a spectacular 2.11 GAA and .934%. Last season, he finished the season at 18-14-1, 2.86 GAA and .915%.

This year, though, he has really kicked it up a notch: 24-12-3, 2.43 GAA, .923%, and 3 shutouts for the Habs so far (despite a losing streak of late), but also starting every single game for Team Slovakia at the Olympics, leading them to their best finish ever - 4th overall - including a 36-save performance (on 37 shots) against the offensively-stacked Russian team, a performance that seemed to single-handedly kill the Russians' confidence for the rest of the tournament. Oh, and he has only let in 3 of the 18 shoot-out shots he's faced so far this year, resulting in only one loss.

It can be said of some players that they are ''on the verge of great things''; Halák has actually accomplished great things so far when playing against men, even more than he had when he was in junior hockey and playing against teenagers.

Now, about the cards themselves: the top one is from the Montréal Canadiens 2009-10 Team Postcard set (they are now identified by season in the back, which helps a lot), an in-action shot showing him making one of his trademark pad saves; its picture was taken during last season's Centennial year, as can be attested by the patch on his jersey. We also have a clear shot at the right half of his mask from last season, depicting part of Montréal's cityscape, as well as the demonic figure in front. I like how he signed it on his pad - it kind of adds to its design.

Then come two regular-sized cards, both by Upper Deck: first, in the team's red jersey, a 2007-08 Victory Rookie card. I hate asking for autographs on rookie cards, as a collector once told me: ''an autograph is a defect you add onto a card, like bending its corners, and rookie cards are usually the most valuable cards an athlete can have.'' While I know this is no longer true and I'd rather have cards I care for - like meaningful autographs - than cards I'll leave in a shoe box or folder, I still tend to shy away from having them signed, but this time I had to, because not only does it give me a Halak home-jersey card, but also one where his first NHL mask is very clear - Patrick Roy hoisting the Stanley Cup as a Hab, from the 1993 conquest, my favourite goalie ever in the most meaningful Cup of my life. With the trademark demonic head on the forehead and the Slovakian flag on the chin - and I have a soft spot for Slovakia and the way they acquired their independence, too, so it all fits wonderfully.

The third card, the white jersey, is from the 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee set, a throwback set with uncoated, plain cardboard backs and semi-retro feel in front. While I'm not particularly fond of the set itself, I really like the guy on the card, and it's probably the only card I have of him wearing the white road jersey. It's also the only one I have of him wearing a blue mask, one where the usual demonic figure in front actually looks more like a metallic anaconda.

In my fan letter, I had inquired about the different masks and didn't get a reply - but I got 3 of 3 items back, all signed with the same black sharpie - you can tell because the O-Pee-Chee card seems to have killed it - so, really, all's good. And leaving things to my imagination is alright with me, too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Phil Esposito Framed Autographed Lithograph

I guess it's Boston Bruins week!

After the Leo Boivin card, I really wanted to post another vintage Bruins jersey, so I decided to revert back to my collection of framed autographed lithographs by Canada Post, of which I own seven. I have previously mentioned my Ray Bourque and Serge Savard ones, and now it's Phil Esposito's turn, a limited edition, numbered #713/1007.

Phil is the older brother of Tony Esposito, the Chicago Black Hawks' star goalie who helped pioneer the ''butterfly'' technique. Both are in the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Phil also started with the Hawks, centering Bobby Hull and twice finishing in the league's top scorers in his first three seasons, before being dealt to the Bruins. As a Bruin, he became the first player ever to gather 100 points in a single season, and did so with 126 in 1968-69. He would hit the 100-point mark six times in total (plus another 99-point season), and would capture the Art Ross trophy as the league scoring leader five times; he also led the league in goals six consecutive seasons, a feat that would have given him the Rocket Richard trophy each time, by today's standards. He held the single-season goal-scoring record (76 goals) for over a decade until Wayne Gretzky surpassed him, and still holds the record for most shots on net in a season, with 550.

During his Bruins years, he also suited up for Team Canada in the Summit Series; in fact, he was the team's captain and leading scorer. He also played on the inaugural Canada Cup team (1976), on a line with Marcel Dionne and Hull.

In 1975-76, he was traded to the New York Rangers, whom he also captained and led in scoring in 5 of his 6 seasons there. After his retirement, he became the Blueshirts' general manager, bringing a bunch of has-beens (Dionne, Guy Lafleur) to Broadway, before moving on to found the Tampa Bay Lightning, for whom he was also the general manager from inception until 1998; some of his moves in Tampa include signing Manon Rhéaume as the first woman to have an NHL contract and claiming first-overall pick Vincent Lecavalier was going to be ''hockey's Michael Jordan''. He now serves as the Lightning's colour commentary analyst and can be seen alongside Denis Leary on 'Rescue Me'.

Leo Boivin Autographed Card

I'm so close to my goal of having posted daily this month, I just need 5 posts in the next couple of days to make up for the past few days where I couldn't spare time. We'll start with a choice card: Leo Boivin, of the Boston Bruins, card #9 of the 1964-65 Parkhurst ''Tall Boy'' set.

Usually, Parkhurst sets in the late 50s and early 60s only had players from a few teams, mostly the Montréal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, as the brand hadn't secured the rights of other teams, but this particular series also had Bruins cards, obviously. This set was actually manufactured by Upper Deck (for Parkhurst) but commemorates the 1963-64 season, mimicking what Parkhurst would have released as its 1964-65 set.

Boivin wasn't a high-scoring defender, but was the heaviest hitter, defensively, pretty much the Scott Stevens of his era. Even the back of his card states it:
There is no more respected defenseman in the NHL for his remarkable bodychecking ability. With his exceptionally low center of gravity, Boivin is able to deliver devastating hip checks in the manner of 1930s backline legends such as Bruins' hero Eddie Shore. A ten-year veteran at Boston Garden, Leo reached a personal goal-scoring high last year with ten goals.
Oh, yeah, a Big Bad Bruin, just like we love them. Well, at 5'7'', maybe a Tiny Bad Bruin. After two forgettable seasons with the Leafs, Boivin played in Boston for 12 seasons, participating in 3 All Star games, 2 Stanley Cup finals and being named captain of the team - a little bit like Ray Bourque, but without the offensive upside.

After the Bruins, he played in parts of two seasons each for the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota North Stars, before becoming a scout for (and twice the interim head coach of) the St. Louis Blues.

He was voted in the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 1986, and was kind enough to add that to his signature, which was written in blue sharpie and was acquired in person at a Legends Of Hockey game in which he didn't play but was coaching in the 1990s - the card itself was purchased off a friend, who found it in a shoe box in the back of a closet, along with other cards from the dead wax era.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jim Carey Autograph Card

It had been a while, but I do have plenty of autograph cards from the worst set of all time, Upper Deck's 1995-96 Be A Player series, of which I have already profiled Petr Nedved, Pierre Turgeonand Brian 'Mr. October' Savage. This time, what many people have come to dub ''goaltending's one-hit wonder'', Jim Carey.

We all know how he was a rookie with the Washington Capitals and won the Calder and Vezina trophies before getting traded to the Boston Bruins and pretty much falling off the face of the earth, but that's not really how things went down.

Being an American, he played College hockey in the WCHA for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers, with whom he was a WCHA All-Rookie, member of the Second All Star Team, and Rookie Of The Year for the 1992-93 season. He was just as good the next year.

In 1994-95, with the NHL lock-out under way, he went to the AHL to play with with the Portland Pirates. The result? Rookie Of The Year, First All Star Team, and Goalie Of The Year, despite the Capitals calling him up to finish the season in the NHL, where he dominated the opposition, going 18-6-3, which pretty much ensured he'd be the Caps' starter the following year, where he was Rookie Of The Year, Goalie Of The year, and a member of the First All Star Team. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, the team under-performed in 1996-97, and despite his decent individual statistics (2.75 GAA), he lost more than he won (17-18-3) and was sent packing to Boston, as the Bruins thought they could reboot the Massachussets native's career, but Pat Burns elected to go with Byron Dafoe instead. Carey was sent to the Providence Bruins

, in the AHL, and made enough of an impression for the St. Louis Blues to pick him off waivers; unfortunately, a serious inner-ear concussion playing with their AHL affiliate ended his career.

As of now, Carey is the CEO and President of OptiMED Billing Solutions, a medical billing company in Sarasota, Florida. There is an even more complete blog entry on his career here.

This BAP card (# s189) depicts him wearing Team USA's uniform with the ''World Class'' mention, as he was slated to be Mike Richter's backup in the 1996 World Cup. He is sporting a Shark-like mask, holding a Titan stick high, and his trademark Brian's equipment - all reasons to like him at least a bit (I had a similar setup myself).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ray Bourque Framed Autographed Lithograph

The 1980s and 1990s saw a lot of defensemen have a tremendous impact on the game, from Paul Coffey's ''fourth forward'' to Al MacInnis' and Al Iafrate's powerful slap shots, but the one guy who re-wrote the record books also happened to be a stable defenseman in his own end - Raymond Bourque.

Born in the Saint-Laurent district of Montréal in 1960, Bourque was drafted 8th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1979 NHL draft, behind Rob Ramage, Perry Turnnbull, Mike Foligno, Mike Gartner, Rick Vaive, Craig Hartsburgh and Keith Brown. The Bruins even gave him the #7 sweater that few people had worn since the retirement of legend Phil Esposito. In 1985, they named him co-captain with Rick Middleton, a title he would hold alone at Middleton's retirement in 1988. On December 3rd, 1987, the Bruins retired Esposito's jersey, and Bourque relinquished the #7 sweater for the superstar-friendly #77, the number he'd wear for the rest of his career.

As a centerpiece of both the Bruins' offense and defense, he helped the team's consecutive playoff runs reach 29, not only an NHL record, but a North American pro sport record. Twice he has led them to the Stanley Cup final, both times losing to the Edmonton Oilers.

Always faithful to the Bruins, he never held out for better wages despite being on one of the teams with the lowest payrolls. Even in the face of free agency, he re-signed with the Bruins. By the end of the 90s, as the Bruins were no longer contenders, they offered him to be traded to a contender at least 4 times, until he finally accepted, in 2000. While he had hoped to join the Philadelphia Flyers, he wasn't too disappointed to go to the Colorado Avalanche, who had Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote in their ranks. When they didn't win in his first post-season there, losing in the Conference Finals, they added Rob Blake and won it the next year. Bourque could now retire a champion. He also retired ahead of Paul Coffey in every statistic to lead all defensemen in career goals, assists, and points, despite their retiring in the same year.

Like the Serge Savard one I wrote about in December, this is an over-sized lithograph of a Canada Post stamp depicting Hall Of Famer Bourque, winner of five Norris trophies and all of the ''most accurate shot'' contests he ever took part in.

It is printed on canvas and hand-signed by Bourque himself (certificate of authenticity as well as an original stamp are in an envelope at the back of the frame), limited-edition and numbered 801/1077, and fit into a 16X16 frame; its suggested retail price was $89.95.

Sure, the Bruins were the enemy and the Avalanche are nothing but my beloved Québec Nordiques moved to Denver, but Bourque has meant so much to Boston that I am still proud to hang this in my living room; he was a worthy, formidable opponent, and he even brought the Cup back to Boston upon winning it, and over 20,000 people came to see it, despite his having won it with another team; that's respect.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ales Hemsky Jersey Card

It's been a long time since my days of youth, since the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers tore through the NHL and re-wrote the entire league's record book. This season, marred by injuries, will likely see them finish last overall.

Ever since the surprising Stanley Cup run of 2006, the team has failed to reach the post-season; apart from the usually stellar play of goalies (such as Dwayne Roloson), Ales Hemsky has pretty much been the lone bright spot on the team since then. Injuries, however, seem to be taking their toll on him, as he has only once played in over 80 games in a season (2005-06), and while he is always near the point-per-game mark - even in the playoffs - more and more critics are emerging from Edmonton to the effect that he might never fulfill the high expectations that were thrown his way upon entering the NHL.

Eager to catch the attention of NHL scouts, Hemsky played his junior hockey with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL, who had made him their first choice in the midget European player draft. In his rookie season with the Olympiques, despite having to adapt to new surroundings, Hemsky scored 36 goals and gathered 100 points, made the All-Rookie team and won the Mike Bossy trophy as the best prospect in the league, an honour won the previous year by Antoine Vermette and the following year by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Other recent recipients include Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier and Alexandre Daigle...

In his second junior season, he scored 27 goals and finished with 97 points in 53 games, after the Oilers had made him the 13th overall pick of the 2001 draft.

He managed to collect 30 points in 59 games in his rookie season, despite being a healthy scratch for 23 games and playing limited minutes on the third and fourth lines. In his second season, he scored 12 goals, doubling his output from the previous year. By 2005-06, he was a team leader, managing 77 points in 81 regular-season games and 17 points in 24 games in the Cup run; the following season, he lead the team in scoring with 53 points - in a mere 64 games.

Before the 2007-08 season started, he was named one of the team's alternate captains, and he didn't disappoint nor crumble under the pressure, finishing first in points (71) and assists (51), while reaching the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career; in 2008-09, despite only playing in 72 games, he again led the team in points (66), but led it in goals as well, for the first time, with 23.

With his skill set, it is safe to say he can now be counted on to have 20-goal, point-per-game seasons, even on terrible teams like the current Oilers squad; if he were to be surrounded with better talent, he could flirt with the 25 goal/90-point mark, perhaps even 30/100. Considering other winners of the Mike Bossy trophy in the Québec junior league such as Vermette and Bouchard, Hemsky's statistics are vastly superior; in fact, they now resemble more those of a Saku Koivu, who was considered an elite player - when healthy - for most of his career.

What I like the most about this card (#10), an Authentic Game-Worn Jersey card numbered 159/250 from Pacific's 2003-04 Crown Royale set is that the piece of jersey contained in it is from the team's third jersey, designed by then-co-owner Todd McFarlane (the Calgary-born creator of comic-book series Spawn, also noted for his work drawing Batman and Spider-Man). The overall design is reminiscent of the Gretzky-era Los Angeles Kings jersey, while the logo, a stylized oil drop with gears and five smaller drops representing each of the team's Stanley Cup conquests... a work of art.

And for those who might like him for the wrong reasons, say the fact that he's blonde and has nice eyes, here's a whole entry on just that, from Hockey For The Ladies.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Erin Tietsort Autograph Card

It seems someone wants me to have every single copy of these Erin Tietsort 2008 Benchwarmer autograph cards (card #26)! Indeed, I had previously written an entry on my three Ebay-purchased copies of this card, and a friend was kind enough to send me a fourth one.

This time, her signature resembles the middle card in my previous entry; they are just about identical.

I wonder how many of these Benchwarmer have produced. I don't think I'm anywhere near.

Although Tietsort is known primarily for being a (beautiful) model, she has also been in two Reality TV shows, Sunset Tan (in which she runs a tanning salon) and Reality Obsessed, a show about Reality TV shows, which shows her behind the scenes of Sunset Tan. She is also MySpace friends with my band.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Steve Sullivan Autographed Card

Timmins, Ontario. The place Shania Twain and Stompin' Tom Connors have called home, and where hockey players are bred: Frank Mahovlich, Pete Mahovlich, Don Lever, Dave Poulin, Allan Stanley, Walter Tkaczuk, Eric Vail, Dean Prentice, Eric Prentice, Shean Donovan, Art Hodgins, Bill Barilko... and Steve Sullivan fits right in with those legends.

Plagued by injuries, worse than even Robyn Regehr and Steve Bégin, he has only twice played over 80 games, both times with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was even forced to sit out the entirety of the 2007-08 season with back pain, and many thought he would never play an NHL game again. He proved them wrong, of course, winning a Bill Masterton trophy in the process, an award that I think ranks among the 5 most important that the NHL hands out - along with the Vezina (best goalie), Hart (MVP), Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) and Lester B. Pearson (MVP as chosen by the palyers) - because it rewards dedication to the sport and force of character, two key elements of the game.

Sullivan had his first impressive NHL season in 1998-99 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring 20 goals and netting 40 points, but the Leafs were disappointed in him to start the 1999-2000 season when he only managed an assist in 7 games, so they shipped him to Chicago, where he bested his stats as a Leaf 4 times, with seasons of 22, 34, 21 and 26 goals in his first seasons, and 15 goals - but 43 points - in his first 56 games of the 2003-04 season before the Hawks sent him to the Nashville Predators for two second-round picks after Valentine's Day; he added 9 goals and 30 points in 24 games with the Preds to become their top left winger.

The next two seasons, he produced like a first-liner: 31 goals and 68 points in 69 games in 2005-06, and 22 goals and 60 points in 57 games the following season; that's when the back injury took its toll, and he missed just about two years of play, returning for 41 games in the 2008-09 season, managing 11 goals and 32 points.

During his stint as a Hawk, and now that he's in Nashville, he's pretty much the only player of those teams I'd have loved to have on my team, despite the injuries (keep in mind, those were the pre-Jonathan Toews Hawks... there's a guy I'd trade two captains and 5 first-round picks for!).

This card (#27) is from Parkhurst's 2003-04 Original 6 set, manufactured by In the Game that year; a friend of mine had a bunch of cards from that set, and I didn't feel like purchasing a box of them just to get a few players I wanted (I was still a full-blown Québec Nordiques fan back then), so we agreed on a few trades, and this was one of the cards I had to have. Then, during the time he spent away from hockey because of his injury, he came to Montréal to see back specialists, one of whom introduced me to Sullivan so I could get this card signed. I told him how big a fan of his I was (I even knew his stats by heart) and wished him health, even if it meant he wouldn't play hockey again, and he replied, very calmly but very convincingly, that he would, indeed, play another NHL game. He did, and I taped it, and I cried, and it was amazing.

He signed it in black sharpie, very legibly, and spent time with anyone who wanted to meet him. A class act, all the way.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Steve Bégin Autograph Card

One of the most lovable grinders in the NHL, Steve Bégin is now on his fourth or fifth different team, the Boston Bruins, but he started out as a Calgary Flames draft pick before belonging to the Buffalo Sabres, who put him on waivers, where he was claimed by the Montréal Canadiens. He had his best years as a Hab, and was a definite crowd favourite.

He was praised for his gritty, emotional play and work ethic; he once tried to hit a Bruins player and missed, falling face-first in the boards, losing teeth and bleeding profusely in the process; he just told the trainers: ''patch me up, I'm going back in''. The next day, it was announced he had needed over 30 stitches to close the wound.

Like Robyn Regehr, he wore an 'A' on his jersey as a statement to his force of character. Sure, he never played a full NHL season, but he can't be expected to, because he plays the game harder than anyone else. He blocks shots, not only with his skates and leg pads, but also with his groin. Here's a video tribute to the man - watch as he avenges a hit on Georges Laraque - that's right, the tiny Bégin was the league's toughest enforcer's bodyguard. Also check the picture at 4:04, when he leaves a scrum in order to go in another fight to protect the team's best player, Andrei Markov.

He has never scored 15 goals in a single NHL season, and wasn't even a point-per-game player in junior hockey; it didn't stop the Val D'Or Foreurs from retiring his number and for the Flames to pick him 40th overall (second round, 1996). He won the 2006-07 Jacques Beauchamp trophy as the Canadiens' best unheralded player, the ''fourth star award'', if you will.

This card (#228) is from In The Game's 2001-02 Be A Player Signature Series set, just like the Chris Phillips card I mentioned a few days ago, except it is a ''premium'' insert, as it is ''gold''. It was also signed in black sharpie directly on the card, and is one of the cards I care about the most.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tomi Karhunen Autograph Card

I went to WalMart today for pants and found none. But it's not situated anywhere near downtown, and I didn't want to leave without actually purchasing anything for my troubles, so I grabbed a box of In The Game's 2007-08 Between The Pipes cards - $15, 12 packs, 60 cards - and pulled out one autograph, this one: Tomi Karhunen.

I'm a big fan of goalies, but I must admit I had absolutely no idea who this kid was, so I did a bit of research, and here's what I came up with: almost nothing.

The only Wikipedia entry he has is in Finnish, his official OHL page has no picture, no text, and only one season's worth of statistics, and his hockeydb card checklist page doesn't even name his being on any In The Game cards...

Luckily, the EuroHockey site can tell me that he went back to Finland after one year in Ontario junior hockey, and that he is still of age to play in the U-20 team, i.e. World Juniors age. And the Puck Agency blog mentions he was named the OHL player of the week for the week ending November 18th, 2007, after winning three road games while posting a 1.33 goals against average and .953 save percentage.

That's it. Sorry!

His card looks good, though, but I would have preferred seeing him in the dark, away Sarnia Sting colours than the white one. But it's a nice signature, in black sharpie, on a sticker that was later apposed o card #A-TK.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Paul Gagné Autographed Card

In the summer of 1980, things were looking good for Paul Gagné, as he was drafted in the first round of the NHL draft by the Colorado Rockies (19th overall). In his rookie year, 1980-81, he scored 25 goals and the Rockies named him their ''top rookie'', although it's a pretty dubious honour...

That 25-goal season would be the most goals he would score in a single NHL season, although he did score 24 in 1984-85 as a member of the New Jersey Devils. Like most members of the 1981-82 Rockies, he made the move to the New Jersey swamps when shipping tycoon John McMullen purchased the team.

Gagné arrived a year too late to be coached by Don Cherry, the Hockey Night In Canada xenophobic commentator who managed to spit out a few memorable quotes during his lone season with the team, including:
"We couldn't win at home and we were losing on the road. My failure as a coach came when I couldn't find any other place to play."
During that 1979-80 campaign, the team's slogan was: "Come to the fights and watch a Rockies game break out!" Classy.

Injuries seem to have plagued Gagné's career, seeing as he never once played an entire 80-game schedule, and apart from the 1984-85 season where he played 79 games, never played more than 61.

There is no record of his playing anywhere between the 1985-86 season (his last as a Devil) and the 1988-89 season that he split between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the AHL Newmarket Saints. His 16 games with the Leafs were not the last he would play in the NHL, as he played another 9 with the lowly New York Islanders in 1989-90, but spent most of the season with their AHL affiliate Springfield Indians.

Then he was off to Europe, first in Germany with EV Landshut in 1990-91 - 44 goals - and 1991-92 - 30 goals), then in Switzerland, four years with the EHC Olten (39, 16, 37 and 22 goals, respectively), the Zurich SC Lions (8 points in 8 regular-season games, 1 point in 4 playoff games), and three seasons with EHC Biel/Bienne, usually averaging 66 points in 40 games.

When he retired in 1999, at the same time as Rich Chernomaz, who was playing in Germany, they retired as the last two active players to have played for the Rockies. Joe Cirella, who left the NHL in 1996 to play a final season with the Cologne Sharks of the German league, is the former Rockies player to have lasted the longest in the NHL.

His cousin's son is MLB pitcher Éric Gagné, so it's safe to say that athleticism runs in the family.

To date, this is the lone Rockies card I have that bears an autograph. It's from the 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set (by Topps, card #75), and was signed in person, with a black ball-point pen at a 2009 Québec Capitales game where Éric was pitching.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

3 Suzi Lorraine Autographed 8x10s

She goes by many names - Kelli Summers, Suzi Leigh, Suzi Shareaux, Suzie Lorraine - but the one name that seems o stick the most is Suzi Lorraine. She's a soft-core queen, but is mostly known for being a Scream Queen, a legend of the b-horror movie genre.

Some of her most-renowned films include: (2003), The Lord Of The G-Strings: The Femaleship Of The String (2003, guess what film it's based on!), Torment (2008), Spiderbabe (2003), Satan's School Of Lust (2002), Holocaust Holocaust (2008), and the amazingly-named Bikini Girls On Ice (2009, should be as obvious as Snakes On A Plane, really), of which here is the synopsis, lifted from the imdb page:
When a bus-load of women's college soccer players get stranded on their way to a bikini car-wash fundraiser, they decide to set-up shop in front of an abandoned gas station on the edge of town. Little do they know the place is the stalking-grounds for a homicidal maniac mechanic named Moe.
Oh yeah.

There's a ''ladies of horror'' blog who has devoted an entry to her.

She has also had bit parts in mainstream films, such as the Hugh Grant-infected Music And Lyrics (2007), as well as a recurring waitress part in the everlasting soap opera As The World Turns.

She is also an accomplished writer - she is a columnist for Horror Mania Magazine, a mainstream horror publication based in Italy and also writes a "Diary of A Scream Queen" column for Gorezone Magazine, based in the UK, as well as writing the screenplay for the movie Won Ton Baby (2009), in which she also plays - and model.

As a model, she has appeared in numerous ads (Nike and Mercedes spring to mind, classy, eh?) as well as graced the pages of countless publications, such as GQ, Esquire, FHM, Modern Bride Magazine, and Filmmaker Magazine, and she has appeared in many music videos, CD covers, and swimsuit magazines; she also appears in the 2010 Hot Honeys And Hunks Of Horror calendar, alongside Julie Strain, Tom Savini, Lloyd Kaufman and Tiffany Schepis, and all proceeds of the sale go to breast cancer research. If you'd like to do your part and purchase one, you can do so here.

I'd love to have her play in one of my movies. I really should work on getting funding.

All three of these autographed pictures can be purchased directly from her website store, for $15 each. She also sells autographed copies of DVDs of her movies ($20 each) and magazines she's graced the covers of ($15).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alex Kovalev Jersey Card

And now, the enigmatic Alex Kovalev!

The first Russian ever drafted in the first round (1991, 15th overall), he started his NHL carer with a bang, winning the Stanley Cup in only his second season, accumulating 21 points in 23 playoff games with the New York Rangers. With Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov and Sergei Zubov, he was part of the first Russian crop to have their names on the Cup.

He would be sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he would amass 95 points in a single season (2000-01) before being sent back to the Rangers in a salary dump in 2003; he would only last parts of two seasons in his second stint in the Big Apple, before the Montréal Canadiens acquired him for Jozef Balej and a second-round pick.

Although he only scored one goal for the Habs in 12 regular-season games, he made up for it by scoring 6 goals and amassing 10 points in 11 playoff games. It was the beginning of a new era for Canadiens fans, as they got to witness the stick handling wonder that can be, at times, Alexei Kovalev.

He has all the talent in the world - the best hands, amazing moves, a precise wrist shot, passing abilities, a mean streak, undeniable leadership qualities, and a knack for giving his best exactly when it's needed, be it an All Star Game presented on home ice (and being named Player Of The Game ahead of the Ovechkins and Malkins), or in the playoffs, or when something important is on the line. It's why, in Montréal, he was known, simply, as L'Artiste - when he's on, it's like witnessing Van Gogh painting, Mozart creating music, ''Captain Sully'' landing a plane in the Hudson river - it's poetry on ice.

With all of his ''upside'', it's a wonder why he never once finished a season with 100 points or 50 goals and why he isn't, consistently, a point-per-game player.

The last few times he represented Russia in international play, he captained them to victory; since they've snubbed him, except at World Championships, they have disappointed. To ignore a guy who thrives in Big Moments doesn't make any sense to me - unless they're trying to ''break'' him, and I think he's too old for that.

During the summer of 2009, because his agent was too slow in answering Bob Gainey's offer, he had to settle for playing with the Ottawa Senators for the next two seasons. He's just an hour away, and he comes back to Montréal every so often, but it feels weird not having him around anymore, yet having retained many of last season's trouble-makers... way to cleanse the room...

I really like this card. It's from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Series 1 set, UD Game Jersey insert (#J-AK), and the patch of jersey bear the exact same colours as the Mike Ribeiro card I showcased a few months back - a big piece of red, a small blue line, taken from the jersey's waistline. Also like the Ribeiro card, he is shown in a picture wearing the team's white jersey when the patch is clearly from the team's red (home) uniform.

Also, I didn't go as deep into Kovy's career as I have with other players, because I recently sent him cards to sign and if/when he sends them back, I'd want to have more stuff to say!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chris Phillips Autograph Card

Granted, expectations were high when the Ottawa Senators picked Chris Phillips with the first overall choice in the 1996 NHL draft - you expect that pick to have an immediate impact on your team.

To his credit, though, he wasn't a bust like Alexandre Daigle or Alexei Yashin, and, apart from maybe Daniel Brière (Phoenix Coyotes, 24th pick), he's as solid as anyone else chosen in the first and second rounds that year, although reigning Norris winner Zdeno Chara was picked in the third round. And it wasn't exactly a weak year either, a whole bunch of guys ended up playing in the NHL, but apart from Chara, there weren't any NHL hardware winners, just occasional All Stars (Tomas Kaberle), good second-liners (Jean-Pierre Dumont) and tremendous role players (Steve Bégin).

And Phillips is right up there with the best of them. With the departures of Chara and Wade Redden, he is now counted upon the best on the team's top shut-down pair with Anton Volchenkov; he can also fill in on the point on the second powerplay unit and sees most of the ice time shorthanded.

He has represented Canada four times - twice winning gold at the World Juniors (1996 and 1997), and twice obtaining silver at the World Championships (2005 and 2009). He's 4 in 4, so if I were Hockey Canada, I'd keep inviting him...

This card (#007) was found in a pack of In the Game's 2001-02 Be A Player Signature Series cards, signed in black directly on the card; Phillips even went a little over the allotted space. It generally sells between $10 and $20.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Robyn Regehr Jersey Card

If the Calgary Flames end up making the playoffs, Robyn Regehr is one guy they'll be glad to have on their blue line. He is the prototypical shut-down defender, huge and quick, able to move the puck and armed with a decent shot, both speed-wise and for accuracy.

But what he has the most is determination. He is the youngest-ever winner of the Bill Masterton trophy, which he won at age 19, after making his NHL debut in 1999-2000 despite having broken both legs in a car crash in the summer of 1999 - doctors even said it was unlikely he would walk before the end of the year, yet he was on the ice on October 28th for a game against the Ottawa Senators, after having played 5 games with the AHL St. John's Flames.

That's just what he does, defy the odds; born in Brazil and raised early in Indonesia where his brother Richie was born (their parents were Mennonite missionaries, preaching Jesus' Word through nonviolence), he only started playing hockey in Saskatchewan when he was 7, three years behind the other kids. But by the time thw WHL went into the bantam draft in 1995, he was the Kamloops Blazers' first-round pick. By the 1998 NHL draft, he was the Colorado Avalanche's first pick (19th overall), but he was traded to the Flames in the deal that sent Theoren Fleury to Denver.

Throughout his career, he was injured more times than just about any of his teammates: rib, abdominal and wrist injuries in 2002-03; torn ligaments in his foot in the Stanley Cup final in 2003-04; a knee injury in 2005-06; another knee injury in the 2006-07 playoffs; a puck to the face and a dep bruise on his foot from blocking a shot (that was believed to be a broken foot for some time) in 2007-08; yet another knee injury in 2009-10 to end his season at 75 games.

And yet, he is as effective as he's always been, despite the numerous knee injuries, two of which could have ended his career. Don't ever tell this guy he can't do something, unless you actually want it done is all I'm saying. That's why he wears an "A" on his jersey.

And although he didn't participate in the 2010 Winter Games, he has represented Canada numerous times before: at the 1999 World Juniors (a second-place finish); 2000 and 2005 World Championships (fourth and second place, respectively); the 2004 World Cup (gold) and the 2006 Turin Olympics (a disappointing seventh place that shocked the nation).

He follows in his parents' footsteps, as he is very active in helping the less fortunate, both in his community and around the world; he made a trip to Mozambique for the Right To Play foundation, and co-heads (with his wife) the Impact Foundation that helps kids deal with ''the challenges of growing up'' in Calgary.

This card (#U-RR) is from Fleer's 2006-07 Fleer Ultra set, subtly produced by Upper Deck (the address on the pack and cards barely states ''UDC'' and that the cards are ''by permission of Fleer LLC) and bears the Ultra Uniformity trademark as well; it incorporates a black piece of a Flames jersey, most likely from the dark, away jersey. Viewed as a ''common'' jersey card, it usually fetches around or less than $20, but I, for one, am glad to have a Regehr in my collection - what a guy!

Yan Stastny Rookie Jersey Card

Lost in the Trade Deadline shuffle was the news that Yan Stastny (Peter's older son, Paul's brother) was sent back to Canada...

Drafted by the Boston Bruins, he played his first NHL game with the Edmonton Oilers before being sent back to the Bruins with Marty Reasoner and a draft pick that became Milan Lucic, for Sergei Samsonov, a steal if I've ever seen one. Then he was sent to the city where he grew up, as the St. Louis Blues gave up a 5th-round pick to get him in 2007, and he was sent to the Vancouver Canucks (who immediately sent him to their AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose) a week ago.

Born in Québec, raised in St. Louis and of Slovakian descent, Yan (and Paul) could have played for either of those countries, but both chose to represent the U.S. in international competition - Paul at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Yan at the 2005 World Championships. In doing so, the Stastnys became the first family ever to suit up for four different countries in international play - Peter had played for Czechoslovakia, Canada (as a naturalized citizen for the 1984 Canada Cup) and Slovakia.

Not quite the offenive threat his father, brother and uncles (Marian and Anton) were, Yan can be counted on for a point every two games at the AHL level, statistics that should, eventually, be enough to grant him access to the NHL again in the future, as a third-or-fourth liner making the NHL minimum wage.

This card (#RM-YS), from the Rookie Materials insert sub-set of Upper Deck's 2006-07 Series 2 set, features a white piece of a Bruins jersey that was worn in a photo shoot and appears on the front through an R-shaped gap, and twice bears the mark of being 'Authentic'... it is considered a ''common'' rookie jersey card, seeing as Yan is nowhere near a star NHLer, but for a Nordiques fan like I who was a huge Peter fanatic (until 1989, he and Gretzky were my two favourite players), having a piece of memorabilia from his professional hockey-playing son is still something special.

The Habs should go get this guy, bring him back home.