Friday, December 10, 2010

Darrin Shannon: 3 Autographed Cards

Don't let the formatting fool you - all these cards are regular-sized!

I sent Darrin Shannon - of Buffalo Sabres, Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix Coyotes fame - these three cards and a fan letter on November 30th, 2010 at his office, and got them back today (December 10th), all signed in blue sharpie, with his jersey number (34) tacked onto the end of his signature. An ultra-fast response from one of the game's smartest men of the 1990s - he did win the Canadian Major Junior Scholastic Player Of The Year in 1988, after all.

Sure, some people view him as a bit of a ''first round bust'', seeing as he was the Pittsburgh Penguins' first pick of the 1988 draft (4th overall), ahead of Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind'Amour and Teemu Selanne in his round, and of tough guy Link Gaetz, sniper Alexander Mogilny, the still-going Mark Recchi, All Star defenseman Rob Blake, and rocket scientist Joé Juneau in subsequent rounds.

But you know what? The year before, the Pens chose Chris Joseph first, and the year after Shannon, it was Jamie Heward. So, with 250 points (87 of them goals) in 506 regular season games on very average teams, and with 17 points in 45 playoff games showing he was just about producing at the same rate when it really mattered, Shannon may have been is without contest the Penguins' best first-round pick between Zarley Zalapski and Jaromir Jagr.

Those who collected cards in the early 90s surely had a gazillion copies of his Upper Deck rookie card, on which he is sporting the Buffalo Sabres' uniform. I deliberately did not send that one, instead focusing on his period as a Jet, a now-defunct team. I was lucky enough to have some in which he sports both the team's home and away jerseys, which was rarer at the time because the NHL didn't own the rights of every picture taken in NHL arenas as it does now (in collaboration with Getty Images), so many photographers would opt out of going to certain cities (such as Winnipeg) and hold out for contracts in more tourist-friendly arenas and areas, such as New York state, or Toronto.

Which explains why the card on the top-left, from the 1991-92 Pro Set Series Two set (card #515) was taken on Long Island. The one on the right, the home jersey with the NHL's 75th Anniversary patch, is from 1992-93 Pro Set (Series One), and is card #218 in the set. I stopped purchasing Pro Set cards after my first box of the 1991-92 set (as many people did), so you can imagine how hard it was to track down the 92-93 card; it was a common card - not even worth a penny, technically, on the market - that cost me $1.50 on Ebay, plus $3 shipping. But it was imperative I had it, so I could send it to him to get signed.

The card at the bottom is my favourite of the three; it was manufactured by Upper Deck and is from the 1994-95 Parkhurst SE set (card #SE 204), a bizarre set if there ever was one. When Pro Set went bankrupt, the owner of the Parkhurst brand - who didn't have enough money to actually print and distribute sets himself - then licensed it to Upper Deck. And this set was made and packaged - except the 1994-95 season was delayed from October 1st to January 11th, as the owners locked out the players in the first Gary Bettman NHL Lock Out. So while many NHLers went to Europe to play while awaiting resolution, Upper Deck decided to make this a European-only release to cash in on the players being on the Old Continent... except for the fact that hundreds of cases had already been shipped to North American shops. So, instead, it became the first widely-available set, in an era where most companies were cutting back their card-making costs. And I love the picture: Shannon's serious, concentrated look reminds me of my favourite player of all time (Joe Sakic), and the colours, especially the blue, really stand out from the jersey.

These days, Shannon is an investment manager (in Canada, so he cannot be blamed for the downfall of the economy).

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