Tuesday, August 17, 2010

André Savard Autographed Card

At 6'1'' and 185 pounds, André Savard was a big man for the NHL of the 1970s; it's no surprise both the Boston Bruins (NHL, 6th overall) and Québec Nordiques (WHA, 3rd overall) made him their first round pick. His junior career with the Québec Remparts had been spectacular: an average of over two points per game in all four seasons, good for 172 goals and 279 assists (451 points) in 206 games, and a well-rounded defensive game to boot.

In fact, the back of this very card - in addition to a fac-simile autograph - states that as soon as he joined the Buffalo Sabres, he became ''an integral part of the club's improved defense''. It also states he was voted the most popular player on the team, although they don't say if it's an honor bestowed by fans or the players themselves.

He finished his career with the Nordiques, who by 1983-84 and 1984-85 were in the NHL; he managed to score 29 goals and garner 34 assists - good for 63 points - in 95 games with the team, not bad for a 12-year veteran. He also served as their head coach in the awful 1987-88 season, and came back as an assistant from 1992-94.

In 1994, he was named as co-head of the scouting staff for the Ottawa Senators, whom he helped turn around from a terrible expansion team who didn't draft well to a perennial regular season powerhouse pretty much overnight. In 1999-2000, he was back behind the bench as the Sens' assistant coach, but a front-office job was waiting for him in Montréal the next season, when he replaced Réjean Houle as the Canadiens' GM and stacked the team's prospects pool for successor Bob Gainey. Then it was back to coaching as assistant to Michel Therrien for the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they lost in the Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. He definitely has an eye for talent that begs to be given a voice in the NHL, either as head of scouting or as an assistant to a GM.

This particular card (#253), from the 1978-79 O-Pee-Chee set, which was released the month I was born, was signed in black ball-tip pen by Mr. Savard; the signature looks like a cross between his first and last names from the fac-simile autograph on the back of the card. It was signed in person at a hockey clinic in the mid-to-late 90s in the Ottawa region, where he was a guest speaker and I was an assistant to the goalie teacher for the summer - and playing with the Sens' Bantam AAA team on days off.

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