Monday, March 1, 2010

Rod Brind'Amour: 2 Autographed Cards

Rod Brind'Amour is probably the saddest story of the 2009-10 season so far: stripped of his captaincy, he has been a healthy scratch numerous times as he can't seem to find his offensive groove on a team that is fighting not to finish in last place.

The faster post-lock-out game had already claimed the careers of such gifted players as Vincent Damphousse and Pierre Turgeon before stars like Brett Hull, Claude Lemieux and Jeremy Roenick realized they, too, were too slow for where the game was headed. But Brind'Amour only seemed to get more dependable, even winning a Stanley Cup in 2006.

But first things first: he was on his way to becoming a star for the Michigan State Spartans in 1988-89 when the St. Louis Blues picked him with the 9th overall pick of the 1988 draft, and he had such a tremendous season there that the Blues suited him for 5 playoff games that same year, during which he scored 2 goals, including his first goal on his very first shot. The following season, he scored 26 goals and added 35 assists (for 61 points) to be named to the All-Rookie Team at left wing, even though he spent half his time at center; Mike Modano got the nod at center. He may have hit a sophomore slump in his second year, his point production decreasing by 12 points, but his 93 penalty minutes (as opposed to the previous season's 46) also show that he was honing his game as a power-forward and leader, often protecting teammate Brett Hull from increased coverage and never backing away from physical play.

Such play gathered the attention of the Philadelphia Flyers, who traded Murray Baron and Ron Sutter for Brind'Amour and Dan Quinn; he was the cornerstone upon which the Flyers of the early 90s would be built, alongside Kevin Dineen and Eric Lindros. Already an alternate captain, he was the one who was called upon to wear the 'C' when Lindros got injured, which tended to happen more and more often as the years passed. He played 8 full seasons with the Flyers, always nearing or surpassing the point-per-game mark, including three straight 30-goal seasons to start his tenure. He also holds the Flyers' ''ironman'' record of 484 straight games played.

During the 1999-2000 season, though, the Flyers were into making changes, and sent Brind'Amour (along with back-up goalie Jean-Marc Pelletier) to the Carolina Hurricanes for their future captain, Keith Primeau. Two years later, the Hurricanes made it to the Cup finals. Four years after that, with Brind'Amour having been named captain before the start of the season, they actually won the Stanley Cup, and even if Cam Ward eventually won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoffs MVP, many at the time considered Brind'Amour to be the main reason the 'Canes had won. He was, however, named the league's top defensive forward, winning the Frank J. Selke trophy both in 2006 and 2007. As a Hurricane, before this season, he had never gathered less than 51 points (achieved twice, in 2007-08 in 59 games, and in 2008-09 in 80 games).

These two cards were signed a year apart - you can tell it's the same hand writing, but different-brand sharpies, although both were black. They were both signed in the late 90s, when he was a Flyer, once in Montréal after a game and the other time at a Chicago card show, and both times he told me I should update my collection to show him in the uniform he prefers.

What I like with these cards is the subtle difference from one year to the next: both are early-90s Upper Deck creations, both with white borders, both from sets with a full-colour picture at the back, although the 1990-91 Upper Deck one (the card on the left), being from the All Rookie Team sub-set, contains extra text instead, while the 1991-92 Upper Deck only mentions the Blues at the bottom, not the city where they play, and has the logo for the NHL's 75th anniversary. Also note that the jersey from his rookie card has a shamrock-shaped crest on the shoulder with the letters 'DK' in the middle - they serve to commemorate the passing of broadcaster Dan Kelly, who was the Blues' play-by-play man for over 20 years before lung cancer got the best of him. A banner with the same symbol hangs from the rafters at Scottrade Center, where the Blues play, and the press box also bears his name.

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