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.

No comments:

Post a Comment