Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mike Fisher: 4 Autographed Cards

Oh, the irony. A day after posting how January was a slow month in regards to receiving mail back, I got some from two of my favourite players in the NHL. And while I'm still struggling to find the proper words for my piece on Alexandre Burrows, I'm honoured to write this post on one of the league's best two-way players, Mike Fisher.

I sent Mr. Fisher a fan letter and these four cards (care of the Ottawa Senators) on November 17th, 2010 and got all four back, signed distinctly in black sharpie (adding his jersey number, 12, to each), on January 18th, 2011, two months after my initial letter, and roughly after a month before getting traded to Nashville. I still have trouble imagining him as a member of the Nashville Predators, but I guess it makes sense to play for a team close to where his wife - country singer Carrie Underwood - lives and works.

As usual, I picked cards with different uniforms on them. I was always partial to the Sens' black uniforms, like in this card, from Topps' 2002-03 Topps Total set (card #148):
This jersey is different from the Sens' first black jersey, in that the sleeves sport huge gold horizontal lines instead of white and red - an upgrade, in my opinion - but sports the now-main logo with the centurion facing the front rather than sideways (I preferred the original, sideways logo, seen at the top of the card, which seemed more sober and professional - less cartooney). The jersey also had maple leaves, representing the Canadian flag, on each shoulder, which the original did not.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, many studies came out demonstrating that teams in red uniforms tended to win more championships - by a 3:1 margin over blue, and nearly 10:1 for every other colour. And so, the Senators introduced a red jersey, which kind of became their main home jersey along the way:
This card is from Topps' 2000-01 O-Pee-Chee set (the NHL Prospects sub-set), and is card #289 in the collection. It also bears the ''OTT-9'' mark, meaning it's the ninth in the collection of a Senator. It serves as his main rookie card for the Topps and O-Pee-Chee brands.

And then, of course, there are the current Reebok (''RBK Edge'') practice-like atrocities they wear nowadays, as seen in these two cards:
I chose the card on the left because it shows the edge of the jerseys, with no defining line to end it, which used to be customary. It also clearly shows that both shoulders harbor the 'O' patch. It's from the 2008-09 Upper Deck Series 1 set (card #64). The card on the right, from Upper Deck's 2010-11 Victory set (card #133) shows the team's logo more prominently, and a bit of the black-coloured underarms, which lead to the wrists in some odd way. It also shows he's made his way to being named assistant-captain on the team, which reflects how he went from a defensively-minded youngster under coach Jacques Martin at the time to the reliable 20-to-25-goal scorer he currently is, still in the positives for his +/- stats despite being on poor Ottawa teams of late.

I wish him the best of luck on the Preds. If I ran a team, he'd definitely be on my shopping list this July 1st.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Roberto Luongo Autographed Picture

Alright, full disclosure time.

I sent Roberto Luongo the following three cards (of him wearing the Florida Panthers uniform, explaining I was trying to gather cards of him in different jerseys) and a fan letter, care of the Vancouver Canucks, on November 29th, 2010:
I got them all back on February 2nd, 2011, unsigned, with a printed letter saying he'd enclosed an autographed picture to thank me for writing. Which would be this one:
I looked around the web to see if others had had the same picture, trying to find out if it was a real sig or an autopen; 150 Google Image pages later, I've come to the conclusion that it's real, based on the fact that there are tons of different of such pics, mine being the only one I've seen of his glove-hand catching the puck and the signature overlapping on his left-leg pad.

If anyone can attest to the contrary, I'd be glad to know and correct the post.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Max Pacioretty Swatch Card

Presently making his place with my hometown Montréal Canadiens after tearing it up in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs is American powerforward Max Pacioretty. Earlier tonight, during the Heritage Classic held in Calgary, he was playing alongside Tomas Plekanec on the team's top line.

A former first-round pick (22nd overall in the 2007 draft), he is generally considered a blue-chip prospect. He basically only started the season in the AHL because coach Jacques Martin is a bit tough on young players (ask Jason Spezza) and it seemed Max wasn't ready to expand on the flashes of brilliance he had shown under Guy Carbonneau two seasons ago.

Fortunately, Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur built his confidence back up and by Christmas, he was ready to come back to the NHL, much to the delight of Habs fans everywhere. He'll likely miss out on an AHL scoring title, but I'm sure he's happier to be in the big league.

In my current NHL11 dynasty, however, he never had to go back to the minors. As a matter of fact, in my pretend 2010-11 season, he scored 29 goals and added 14 assists (good for 43 points) with a staggering 567 minutes of penalty in only 72 games. Needless to say, the PIMs total was a league-best. He also scored 4 powerplay goals and was a +7 for my Cup-winning Habs.

Between 2010-11 and 2013-14, he hovered between the team's second and third lines while winning 3 Cups in 4 seasons scoring 29, 34, 23 and 31 goals in the process. With Daniel Alfredsson retiring after the 2014 Cup, Pacioretty now patrols the first line at the right of Michael Cammalleri and Plekanec in my fictitious team, and Chris Neil has been hired to help dispense discipline. After 41 games, Patch stands at 16-20-36 (+25) and 149 PIMs.

But this card belongs in real life. It's from Panini's 2010-11 Donruss set, the Boys Of Winter sub-set, and is card #45 in the collection. As was the case with the Shea Weber swatch, Panini doesn't disclose whether it's from a jersey, or a sock, but specifies it's guaranteed to have been game-worn. It's red, round and pretty.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shawn Horcoff: 4 Autographed Cards

It's the Month Of New Captains, I guess! After Brian Gionta and Shea Weber (a jersey card, but still!), these four Shawn Horcoff cards came in the mail today, a month to the day after I sent them to him along with a fan letter congratulating him on the captaincy and saying how confident I was that he and Ales Hemsky would be able to turn the franchise back into a constant contender by leading the next crop of kids like Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

All four cards were signed with a dying black sharpie - and what an interesting signature it is!

As usual, I sent cards showing him in different uniforms. The first one, the 'home' white jersey from the late 90s to the mid-00s:
It's a beautiful card from the always-top-notch 2007-08 Artifacts set (card #91), by Upper Deck. The Artifacts and Ice sets always have amazing graphics and textures, the are works of art. This particular card has a bronze-coloured foil imprint for the brand name, company name and the player's name, adding a touch of class to the already royal design.

There is also my favourite ''third jersey'' ever, created by Todd McFarlane when he owned the team:
The card is from Fleer's 2007-08 Fleer Ultra set (card #119), by Upper Deck, on the back of which we learn that he scored the game-winning goal in his 400th game. The jersey is reminiscent of the Gretzky-era Los Angeles Kings', but with a shade of dark blue instead of black that gives it its uniqueness. And that oil drop logo looks awesome!

And, of course, there are the Reebok atrocities... First, the white 'away' pyjamas (notice the Oilers' 30th Anniversary patch on the right shoulder that saves it from being too unprofessional), from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Victory set (card #81):
And the blue 'home' jerseys that look like practice uniforms, from the 2010-11 Black Diamond set (card #45) by UD:
A fourth-round pick (99th overall, hmm!) in the 1998 NHL draft, Horcoff has spent his entire career with the Edmonton Oilers, after four years at Michigan State and a third of a season in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He can generally be counted on to score nearly 20 goals per season and account for roughly 50 points; his career highs are of 22 goals, 51 assists, good for 73 points, all achieved during the magical 2005-06 season, which included a Cup run where they lost in the Finals to the Carolina Hurricanes in 7 games. To this day, I still believe they could have reversed the tide by putting on the McFarlane jersey in one of the last two games and won the series on psychological edge alone, although the loss (to injury) of Dwayne Roloson was too big a gap to fill, and his shoes were indeed too big for Ty Conklin to fill.

Horcoff shares a record with Wayne Gretzky - of all people! - for the most points tallied in a single period by an Oiler, with 4, all assists. He has also appeared in three World Championships for Team Canada, winning gold twice (2003 and 2004) and silver in 2005.

He is a very good cornerstone upon which to graft young kids looking for a leader. These Oiler kids are in good hands.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jude Millien Autographed Comic Book

Jude Millien is an artist whose work in the comic book industry is mostly concentrated in the 1995-99 era, before the distributors' war. He is most known for his work with London Night studios, notably the Razor titles for which he was writer, penciller, inker and cover artist. His specialty was drawing femme fatales.

When the comics industry downsized at the turn of the millennium, he went back to university to finish his bachelor's degree in animation.

These days, he takes orders for commission work, drawing any comics character of your choice, even some he didn't work on (Superman, Batman), at prices ranging from $25 (pencil) to $35 (pencil and ink) to $70 (full colour), background not included.

Here is a copy of Lethal Strike #3, which at the time sold for $3 in the U.S. and $4.25 in Canada, signed in gold sharpie at the bottom by Millien himself at a comics convention.Through the magic of Ebay, I got it for less than the cover price. Much less.