Sunday, October 17, 2010

Miikka Kiprusoff: Four Autographed Cards

He's been the best goalie in the world for the past 5 years - bar none. It's not even close. Three Vezina nominations (probably would have been more had his Calgary Flames not failed to reach the playoffs last year), one Vezina trophy (should have been 3, but Martin Brodeur stole two in seasons during which he reached career milestones while not being the actual best goaltender playing), the lowest goals-against average in modern NHL history (1.69, which he followed with an astonishing 1.84 in the playoffs) - and international success, what with 2004 World Cup silver and 2010 Olympic bronze medals while playing for Finland, clearly the usual underdog in the top-7 international hockey teams, behind at least Canada, Russia, Sweden and the United States, often behind the Czech Republic as well, usually on par with Slovakia. Except Finland - and Miikka Kiprusoff in particular - never chokes, whereas at least one team in the Big 4 usually does.

I sent Mr. Kiprusoff these 4 cards and a fan letter (care of the Flames) on September 30th and received all 4 back, signed in black sharpie with his jersey number (34) on each, on October 14th - two weeks later. I had no idea if I'd get any back, if he'd sign them, or what. You hear a lot about Jarome Iginla being a great guy, but I'd never heard anything about ''Kipper'' - good or bad. All I knew was he has a charitable soul that gives away $10 per save he makes to the Rainbow Society of Alberta, an organization that grants wishes to children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. And considering the amount of saves he makes, it's quite a high number. But the best goalie in the world took a bit of time to sign these cards for me - and by the looks of it, it may have caused his sharpie its life!

What I wanted to do, in case he did sign, was send him four Upper Deck cards with him wearing different jerseys; I like diversity. For that purpose, I sent the card that is on top left in the picture, card #17 from the 2005-06 SP Authentic set, the late-90s/early-00s black jersey with the ''flaming horse'' logo that was originally designed only for 1998, the ''Year Of The Horse'' and the classic logo on the shoulders; from that same era - same mask, easy way to tell - the home (white) jersey, top right, which resembled the mid-90s jersey in that it had a diagonal stripe below the logo, but had the flaming horse on the shoulders instead of hockey-esque patterns from this 2006-07 O-Pee-Chee checklist card (card #675).

While the jersey on the card on the bottom left might look like the previous one, it's actually part of the Reebok Edge set, for which the flaming horse logo was replaced on the shoulders of the white (now the 'away') jersey by the flag of Canada and the flag of the province of Alberta, while the V-neck was replaced by laces. This is card #163 of the 2008-09 Victory set.

The card on the bottom right actually sees him sporting the same jersey - albeit with the team's 30th Anniversary logo on the chest - and is from the 2010-11 Victory set (card #35); I actually sent this one as a token of appreciation, saying he could keep it if he wanted to, given that it was brand-new and he probably hadn't seen a copy of it yet. But he signed it nonetheless. What's fun to note about this one is that he's wearing Bauer equipment for the first time (he'd usually wear Vaughn) and his mask is now pretty much a black-and-white version of the one he had in the first cards, with his nickname ''Kipper'' now on the side rather than the chin.

Also, notice the way he holds his blocker and gloves in each of the four pictures: never the same way. His technique is just about near-perfect, yet he finds ways to tweak it just enough to mess with his oppoenents' research on him. A brilliant athlete and amazing performer.

For a more complete back-story on the man whose older brother Marko once played for the Montréal Canadiens (and was forced to cut his mullet by team management!), I would refer you to the post I published earlier this year. Caution: it contains more than a healthy dose of Brodeur-bashing.

No comments:

Post a Comment