Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Larry Robinson Autographed Card

A lot of people don't seem to think the Los Angeles Kings have much of a shot in these upcoming playoffs; I think they're a big-name player and a goalie away - and there is the chance that they already have the goalie in Jonathan Bernier. In any event, they have the best chance of advancing to the Finals since the only other time they've been there, the 1993 shocking Montréal Canadiens Cup championship.

Ironically, 1993 was the season after Larry Robinson retired, after spending three years as a King, whose then-owner Bruce McNall (now considered a career criminal) convinced him to extend his playing career after the Canadiens didn't offer him a new contract following the 1988-89 season.

He is the Habs' record-holder for +/- (+120, the second-highest total in NHL history), and is the league leader with 20 consecutive playoff-bound seasons, six of which ended with Stanley Cup championships, and one Conn Smythe (1978, three months before I was born) to go with his two Norris trophies.

He is considered to have given the hardest legal check in the history of the game, against the Philadelphia Flyers, one that not only single-handedly put an end to the reign of the Broad Street Bullies, but that also displaced the boards! Watch it here.

While he always credits co-members of the so-called Big Three Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe for his success, he bears many a grudge with the Canadiens' organization, usually viewed by alumni as ''classy''; he never really forgave the team for naming Bob Gainey captain of the team in 1981 nor for pushing him aside in 1989 despite 17 years of loyal, quality service; upon his retirement, he had said numerous times that if the team were to retire his number, that they should do it sooner rather than later, because it's an honour he felt went to the families of player for their sacrifices; by the time they did so, his parents and brother (who was a huge Habs fan) had passed away. It's no wonder why he was presented by his boss, New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and that he, in turn, spent most of his speech comparing a hockey team to a family.

Then again, Lou spent his career imitating the Habs' dynamics and hiring former Habs (Robinson, Pat Burns, Claude Julien, Jacques Laperrière, Jacques Lemaire, Mario Tremblay) to win 3 Stanley Cups of his own - all of which bear Robinson's signature (one as head coach, one as assistant coach, and the other as scout).

At least he looked good as a King, I just wish he would have kept his mustache. It's my favourite Kings jersey, too, so this 1990-91 Pro Set card (from the first Pro Set set) really means a lot to me, especially since Larry signed it when he was in town to have his jersey retired; I spent a few minutes with him, reminiscing about having met him many times in my childhood, either through my grandfather who had not only been a journalist at Montréal-Matin but had also housed Canadiens' players in his NDG apartment, to Larry's many times skating with the kids in public parks in winter in NDG and Westmount.

It's too bad  the Habs had to make it harder on him than they needed to; he fully embraced our culture, had a great sense of humour (his repeat appearances on comedy show 100 Limite can attest for both of these points) - and he was one of the greatest hockey players of all time - TSN put him at #24 in their top-100.

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