Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tony Granato Autographed Card

Tony Granato has had a decent NHL career, especially when you consider he was a 6th round draft pick (120th overall), but it wasn't stellar or spectacular.

He was a member of the All-Rookie team in his first season, playing with fellow Americans Brian Leetch and Brian Mullen, as well as fading Québécois stars Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne, on the 1988-89 New York Rangers, scoring 36 goals and posting 63 points in 78 games, before slumping the following season and being traded to the Los Angeles Kings.

As a King, playing alongside Wayne Gretzky, he would put up his highest numbers: three straight 30-goal, 60-plus-point seasons, culminating with the 1992-93 season in which he gathered no less than 82 points (his only point-per-game season ever), helping the Kings reach the Stanley Cup finals, only to lose to the Montréal Canadiens and unbeatable goalie Patrick Roy.

His production decreased pretty much for the rest of his career after that, and his most memorable moment for the duration of his stay in L.A. was his 15-game suspension for slashing Chicago Blackhawks tough guy Neil Wilkinson in the head. By 1996-1997, he moved to the San Jose Sharks, winning the Bill Masterton trophy, usually awarded to either the player who makes the best comeback or the one who has recovered from the most serious illness or injury.

As a Shark, his goal totals went from 25 (in 76 games) to 16 (59 games) to 6 (35 games), 6 (48 games) and finally 4 (61 games). It is safe to say Gretzky was the biggest part of his success as a player.

His sister, Catherine ''Cammi'' Granato, has had a lot more success, winning 4 gold medals (one at the 1998 Olympics, one at the 2005 Women's World Championships, and two at 4 Nations Cups), and 16 silver medals, and marrying former New York Islanders' scoring menace Ray Ferraro along the way, ensuring her way into the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame.

After his NHL career, Tony became assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche, was promoted to head coach in 2002, only to be fired and re-positioned as assistant in 2004, then re-established as head coach for the 2008-09 season, which turned out to be the worst season in the team's (U.S.) history. Before he was even fired (which occurred in May 2009), Avs president Pierre Lacroix was already interviewing candidates for Granato's job, including the afore-mentioned former superstar goalie Roy.

He is now an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This card (#185) from the 1992-93 Upper Deck series was signed in person by Mr. Granato as he was the Avalanche's head coach, after a game at the Bell Centre, in October 2006. He asked why I wanted this particular card signed, and I said I preferred these early Upper Deck series, as they usually depict players in both their home and away uniforms, that this was my favourite Kings uniform (especially the black jersey on the back picture - what a pic!), and that I didn't like the Rangers nor Sharks. He took his black sharpie out and signed the card very legibly, even oddly so, while looking at me as if I were the biggest hockey nerd he'd ever seen.

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