Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peter Zezel Autographed Card

I was always a fan of Peter Zezel. Well, not always, I didn't find out he even existed until the 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee set, but from the moment I saw his card, his name, his position, and his stats - I was fan. More so when I actually saw him play. I liked him so much that I'm willing to pretend he never played for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What I used to do with hockey cards, in my parents' living room, in our apartment on the second floor of a duplex on Melrose between Terrebonne and Somerled, was take all my hockey cards, and hold drafts, separating all of my cards (from different years) and making new teams up, since most sets I had didn't have complete teams (say, all the Habs or all the Rangers).

I'd have favourites, of course, but I always tried to play it fair, letting the flow of the game - and the eccentricities of our carpeting - do their thing. ''My'' team, Les Nordiques de NDG, was always the one with Patrick Roy in nets, and was usually the only one who got the games where officiating was, shall we say, uneven. In the best of worlds, that Roy team would also have Al MacInnis on defense, but not always. But almost inevitably, it had Zezel at centre.

Each team would be comprised of 7 players (a goalie, three forwards, two defensemen, and a backup player in case of injury), and the puck was one that I took from my table hockey set. I kept full statistics of every game, that I wrote on endless sheets of loose leaf paper, then compile all the stats on other sheets, and actually hold 80-game seasons with full schedules that I'd pre-set by hand. And not just the easy stats like goals and assists, but also penalty minutes, powerplay goals (and assists), shorthanded goals (and assists), plus/minuses, empty-net goals, game-tying goals, game-winning goals, the first goal of a game, shots on goal, faceoffs taken and won, hat tricks... I was NHL 09 twenty years ahead of my time.

And many times, at season's end, he would be in the league top-5 for scoring, close to Wayne Gretzky, Peter Stastny, Mats Naslund, Brent Sutter and Brett Hull. He was even named League MVP a couple of times - yes, I even gave out all the awards, even the Rocket Richard trophy, 15 years before it even existed, known in my league as the Guy Lafleur trophy. Needless to say: Zezel was one of the very best players of the league that played out in my mind.

In real life, though he was a very good player, he was never quite as spectacular: four seasons with more than 20 goals, including one with 33, two seasons with 72 points (one with the Philadelphia Flyers and one with the St. Louis Blues), always among the league leaders in faceoffs won and reliable in his own end. All that, and a tendency to have as many penalty minutes as points. And two Stanley Cup finals as a Flyer, both lost to Gretzky's Oilers.

What I didn't know about Zezel (a Serbian name, originally, although he is a ''good Canadian boy'' from Toronto) was that he had hemolytic anemia, a rare blood disorder. It had messed with his health in 2001, and eventually claimed his life (after a spleen-removal surgery and subsequent brain hemorrhage) on May 26, 2009.

A few months ago, I saw a post on Sal's Autograph Blog, where he had purchased a Zezel-autographed card on Ebay, and mentions his small part in the Rob Lowe/Patrick Swayze film Youngblood (he even made fake hockey cards for his character in the movie, which you can find here). From then on, I was also on the lookout for a decently-priced Zezel card on Ebay.

I hoped it would be as the Flyers' #25, but I found this one instead: a 1990-91 Upper Deck Series 1 (card #17). He appears as a Blues (even though the Blues sent him to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Geoff Courtnall in the off-season), but unlike Sal's card, which he signed in blue sharpie over a blue Blues jersey, mine was signed in black, which contrasts enough with his white uniform that the autograph seems clearer (and it looks sharp and great!), and the picture as well. And as Upper Deck was known to try to do at the time, the back picture features Zezel in the team's dark, away jersey. The best of both worlds.

1 comment:

  1. Zezel was known for his Sharpie collection, in different colours to match cards he signed.