Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rick Wamsley: Two Autographed Cards

I was a bit young to remember Rick Wamsley as a member of the Montréal Canadiens, where he spent the first 4 years of his illustrious career and shared the Jennings trophy in 1982 with Denis Herron, but I was getting seriously NHL-curious after the Habs' 1986 Stanley Cup (I was 7 years old) and could already tell Ron ''Le Prof'' Caron was building a great St. Louis Blues team when he traded for Wamsley, before dealing him to the Calgary Flames.

Caron had been the Habs' assistant GM for many years (and many Cups) when he took on the main job for the Blues, and one of the first things he did was bring Wamsley along with him. In his tenure, he brought such star players as Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Doug Gilmour and Al MacInnis to St. Louis; but by 1988, Wamsley had been deemed expendable, due to the Blues' drafting of Curtis Joseph.

But that was never a problem: Wamsley moved on with the Flames and in his first full season with the team, in 1988-89, he was ranked 5th in the league with a 2.96 GAA (yes, the high-scoring '80s were a different time!) and, more importantly, finished the year not only with his name engraved on Lord Stanley's Cup forever, but also as a member of the only visiting team to have ever won the Cup on the Canadiens' home ice - the only team in 101 years to do that.

He then spent two more full seasons with the Flames, seeing less and less ice time (36 games in 1989-90, 29 in 1990-91) as time progressed, in favor of Mike Vernon. He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in January of 1992 but would only play 11 games for them in the course of two seasons, so he's not really tainted by their aura of perpetual defeat.

You want to know his worth to GMs of his time? When he was traded from the Habs to the Blues, Caron felt he was worth two draft picks who became tough-guy and Team Canada member Shayne Corson and two-time 50-goal man Stéphane Richer; when the Blues let him go, it was to acquire Brett Hull; and when the Flames themselves shipped him to Toronto, it was with Doug Gilmour for 50-goal man Gary Leeman and 4 others in a 10-player deal. Those are impressive names, forever linked to Wamsley.

Since retiring, he has spent time as both a scout and goaltending coach for the Leafs, Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets and now the Ottawa Senators since this summer, where he was reunited with Pascal Leclaire, who had his best seasons with the Jackets under Wamsley's tutelage.

Which brings me to these two cards. I sent them to him along with a fan letter on September 22nd and received both back, signed in black sharpie, today, October 12th, a very quick turnaround considering it encompassed rookie camp, training camp and the start of the regular season. The card on the left is from Topps' beautiful 1989-90 O-Pee-Chee set (card #204), while the one on the right is from the 1990-91 Upper Deck set (card #10), back when Upper Deck's trademark design was a white contour for all its series in all sports.

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