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.

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