Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Three Curtis Sanford Autographed Cards

For most of his career, Curtis Sanford went by the nickname ''The Sandman''; when the Vancouver Canucks got him to change it to ''The Big C.S.'' - which doesn't even make sense considering his 5'10'', 190-lb frame - it's like he became more and more prone to injury, which is ironic in itself, considering he went undrafted and got his big break playing for the St. Louis Blues when their 3 other goalies (Brent Johnson, Fred Brathwaite, and Reinhard Divis) all fell to injury in the 2002-03 season.

He played well enough to earn the #1 goalie spot for a while, though, at times playing better than Patrick Lalime, at times sharing duties with Manny Legace. He was even named the NHL's Player Of The Week for the week of November 14th, 2005. But injuries became a recurring theme, and the Blues let him go to free agency; as is often the case with Blues netminders, he was relegated to backup duty when the Canucks signed him, but filled in admirably each time Roberto Luongo went down, including stopping 35 of 36 shots (good for a second star nod) in his first win for Vancouver.

Unfortunately, the acquisitions of Jason LaBarbera and Andrew Raycroft by the Canucks pretty much showed him the door, and he signed with the Montréal Canadiens' organization for the 2009-10 season, who sent him to their AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs to start the season, one thinks before they settled on which goalie to trade between Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price, with GM Bob Gainey leaning towards sending Halak away.

Well, Price choked got unlucky breaks, Halak got hot enough to not only save the Habs' season but played like a playoff MVP, and Sanford again battled through injuries in mid-season, enabling youngster Cédric Desjardins to play enough (and well enough) to go to the AHL All Star game.

With his luck, Sanford should go ahead and get himself a black cat and start walking under ladders, because it can't get much worse!

These three cards were sent with a fan letter to the Bulldogs' home arena (Copps Coliseum) on March 20th, and received back this morning, May 25th, signed with a black sharpie that is on the brink of dying and with his jersey number (#1) at the end, despite his number being 41 with the Canucks.

The card on the top-left is his rookie card from the 2002-03 Topps Total set by Topps (card #438, from a pack I purchased at a dollar store back in the day!), wearing the Blues' white uniform, getting ready for action coming his way. The card on the bottom also sees him in his Blues whites, this time catching the puck in his glove to freeze play on a beautiful, horizontal 2006-07 Upper Deck Series 1 card (#170), while the card on the top-right sees him sporting the horrible blue/green Canucks home jerseys reminiscent of their first NHL jerseys - I strongly prefer the late-80s black jerseys and the stylized-skate logo; it's taken from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Series 1 set.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Darryl Sydor Autographed Card

In the early 1990s, the Los Angeles Kings had a pair of defensemen they thought would share the first pairing for a long time and would bring them playoff success, perhaps even a Stanley Cup. On the right side, drafted 70th overall in 1988, Rob Blake, who would go on to captain the team for 12 seasons, participate in 6 All Star games and 3 winter Olympics (one gold medal in 2002), earn a Norris trophy (1998), and eventually win the Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. On the left side, chosen 7th overall in 1990, winner of two Stanley Cups (with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004), Darryl Sydor.

One of them was a star player for most of his career, while the other accepted to be relegated to 'role player' status for the better good of the team. Thusly, only Blake choked in the playoffs with a star-studded San Jose Sharks team for the past two seasons, and this year while captaining the team.

Sydor had a promising junior career, winning the Memorial Cup with the Kamloops Blazers, registering 95 and 105 points, respectively, in his final two complete seasons with the team. As a defenseman.

This is one of Sydor's rookie cards, from the 1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier set (card #90), by Topps. It's sort of an action shot, taken during a pre-game skate (you can see another King doing nothing at the blue line behind him) in which he's wearing my favourite Kings' home jersey of all time, and #40 - numbers in the 40s were usually reserved for rookies or players not expected to make the team; he would settle on #25 for the rest of his tenure with the Kings, starting in 1992-93. I got him to sign it in black sharpie during the Lightning's 2004 Cup run, when they sweeped the Montréal Canadiens in the second round.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blaine Stoughton Autographed Card

The 70s and 80s in the NHL was a prime era for mustached men who could seemingly fly over the iced surface. I touched upon Michel Goulet's accomplishments here and here, but Goulet had to compete against behemoths of offensive production in the middle of the Gretzly-era Oilers and high-scoring 80s, so while he was always invited to All Star games and Rendez-Vous 87, he never won a scoring title.

Blaine Stoughton did. In the NHL, too, not the WHA (he played for the Whalers in both). It was the 1979-80 season, a season in which the Philadelphia Flyers went 35 games without losing a single game, in which Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne tied for the league lead with 137 points but Dionne got the Art Ross trophy for having scored more goals, while Gretzky scored the Hart; despite being a rookie, Gretzky wasn't allowed to win the Calder trophy for having previously played in the WHA. It was also the season where wearing a helmet became mandatory in the NHL.

But back to Stoughton: he scored 56 goals that year, to lead the league, tied with the Los Angeles Kings' Charlie Simmer. Unfortunately for them, the Rocket Richard trophy was not yet in place, so they didn't win any hardware for their feat.

In less politically correct times, he was also on a line called the ''LSD Line'' with Rick Dudley and Rich Leduc, for the Cincinnati Stingers. More importantly, though, he played his junior career with the Flin Flon Bombers, in Manitoba. Flin Flon, yes. One of Canada's best names for towns, with Medecine Hat and Thunder Bay. He was inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, where he shared the spotlight with such legends as Terry Sawchuk, Bryan Hextall, Andy Bathgate and Bobby Clarke.

And to think he was drafted by the Québec Nordiques in the WHA draft... would have made for some interesting early 80s!

This card was originally purchased with hundreds of others at a flea market, in a grab-bag of old cards; it's a 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee card (by Topps, card #132) and shows him wearing the Hartford Whalers' first away jersey in the NHL; I had no idea who this guy was, but I liked his mustache and thought the jersey looked retro (I was used to the late-80s improved version). Years later, in 2005, I went to a card convention in Toronto and he was a guest signer, and I knew I'd seen his name somewhere before... so I looked through all my cards and found it. His line was one of the shortest (barely 15 minutes of wait time when, say, Darryl Sittler had over 3 hours), and most people didn't even have a picture or card for him to sign, he was just signing 3x5 blank pieces of cardboard... I was glad I had the card. In all honesty, though, I'd gone to the thing for Cam Neely, who was there for his Hall of Fame induction, but his line-up was way too long and I didn't bother. Plus, I only had a Panini sticker for him to sign. And he was a former Bruin. And he didn't have facial hair. No regrets!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Michel Goulet: Two Autographed Cards

I already had a post here where I talked about his stats and, mostly, the cause of his retirement, so I won't repeat it in this post, but one thing I really wanted was to have some Michel Goulet memorabilia in his Québec Nordiques uniform.... and now I do.

All it took was a ''home-and-home series'' pitting alumni from the Nordiques versus former Montréal Canadiens players to get a chance to bring old 80s cards and get them signed.

As a kid, I always preferred the underdog Nordiques to my home-town Habs (except for Patrick Roy, of course, my childhood hero), perhaps as a gesture of defiance, or maybe because their jerseys were spectacular (particularly when they added a red contour to their numbers and lettering in the 90s), but for whatever reason, they were my team.

And from the Nordiques, Joe Sakic and Peter Stastny were the definite defining players, but also Mario Gosselin in nets, Jeff Brown at the point, and Goulet, one of the purest goal-scoring machines of the 80s: 4 straight 50-goal seasons, 7 straight 40-or-more-goal seasons, never less than 20 goals in any season except his very last, where he scored 16 but only played in 56 games before a freak injury forced him to retire. A sad exit for one of the defining moustaches of the 80s.

He was kind enough to sign both cards I brought with another fan's blue sharpie. I didn't hang around too long because so many people were there asking for autographs, and I didn't want to hog the place to myself, but I kind of regret not explaining to him why I chose those two specific cards instead of my usual ''one of every uniform'', but I'll do it here.

Firstly, on the right, is a 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee card (#77), its picture taken during a pre-game skate (as was common for cards in the 80s). I particularly like it because his usual afro looks more like a perm, and because I like to be reminded that he wore Jofa equipment - usually worn by European players at the time, whereas North Americans would wear CCM. Also notice the stick he's using: a white Titan with red lettering - it's the Wayne Gretzky model (with fac-simile autograph on it) that so many of us kids in the 80s were using ourselves, until The Great One was traded to Los Angeles and switched to Easton aluminum sticks on the way.

On the left is a 1988-89 Topps card (#54) where he's sporting the usual blue 'away' uniform (again during the pre-game skate, obviously before a game against the Boston Bruins), but on his right arm, on top of his number is a patch for 'Rendez-Vous '87', an international hockey match-up that replaced the All-Star game that year and was held in Québec City (Goulet was on the NHL team that faced the Soviets, with fellow Nordiques Clint Malarchuk and Normand Rochefort). He really seems to be having a blast on this card!

The Topps card is special to me, because those cards were pretty much unavailable in Canada at the time; The Topps Company were releasing O-Pee-Chee in Canada, and Topps in the U.S. - mostly the same set with the same design and pictures and players, only the Topps set usually had much fewer cards, probably because hockey is more of a niche/big market sport in the U.S., while it's the main sport in Canada. I was not aware of this at the time. But when the sports card market exploded in 1990 and a bunch of card shops started opening, some of them imported the Topps cards; for novelty's sake, I often traded an O-Pee-Chee for its Topps twin - even though they were often worth a little less, usually a 10-25% difference - and it's the case here. Fun/fond memories, though.