Friday, October 15, 2010

Dale Hunter: Two Autographed Cards

I sent Dale Hunter a fan letter (care of the OHL's London Knights, which he owns and coaches) along with three cards on September 21st and got two of them back signed in beautiful blue sharpie (one of them slightly smudged but awesome nonetheless) on October 12th, two days ago, the same day I got the Rick Wamsley cards I wrote about last.

Some people might be disappointed in ''only'' getting two of the cards sent back, but I keep in mind that he didn't have to sign any of these nor return them in the first place. The only reason I sent three is I was hoping to eventually get one card of him in each of the uniforms he wore autographed. The card on the left sees him wearing the Québec Nordiques' blue (away) 1980s uniform (all-white letters and numbers), from Upper Deck's 2002-03 Foundations set (card #77), while the card on the right sees him wearing the Washington Capitals' early-1990s white (home) jersey with the alternate captain's A on his chest, from Topps' 1992-93 O-Pee-Chee Premier set. A fun thing to note is that while OPC Premier's first set was considered a ''premium'' set of cards (more expensive packs, less prints than regular sets), it was such a big success that for future editions - including this one - the price per pack remained high but they were printed in astronomical numbers, hence devaluating it.

The card Hunter kept were of the Capitals' mid-1990s blue ''away'' jersey (with the ''eagle'' logo), which had the distinction of having the captain's C on its chest - I'm guessing it meant as much to him as it did to me.

You see, if the Nordiques had chosen that path, they easily could have had two captains: Hunter and Peter Stastny. If the team was a family, Stastny was the moral center, the one who made those around him better, the successful eldest son, or even the mother; however, Hunter was the hard worker, the obvious ''dad'' figure, all-construction hat and dirty work boots, willing to do what needed to be done for the unit to thrive. If Stastny was grace, Hunter was grit. A yin to the other's yang, they worked particularly well at completing one another. But as the Nordiques grew on some hard times, both were traded away, and so was perennial 50-goal man Michel Goulet. Ironically, Hunter was traded for a draft pick who would become Joe Sakic, the future cornerstone of the franchise, the captain who would bring the Colorado Avalanche 2 Stanley Cups upon leaving Québec.

But the Capitals greeted Hunter with open arms. They gave him the C, and they even retired his #32 sweater. And with Dino Ciccarelli and Scott Stevens, they weren't adverse to some hard-hitting action. And, sure, the man snapped one night and garnered the longest suspension in NHL history (21 games), but the other 1407 regular season and 185 playoff games he participated in, he was a master at walking the fine line between being in control of his emotions and being the player who gives the most out on the ice. We're not talking about a cheap-shot artist like Bryan Marchment or Ulf Samuelsson here - we're talking closer to a Mark Messier or a Gordie Howe, a leader and a gentleman off the ice who played with a fiery passion and was adored and respected for it but sometimes would go beyond what others were capable of, usually without drawing a suspension, often drawing a penalty. He is, after all, the most penalized player ever to gather 1000 points in the NHL, which also explains he's the one who achieved that feat in the most games as well.

If they do bring the Nordiques back, some numbers deserve to go up in the rafters. 26 and 19, sure, maybe even 16 - but let's not forget 32.

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