Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ron Sutter: 2 Autographed Cards

Always a pleasure to get mail from hockey royalty.

I sent these two cards along with a fan letter to Ron Sutter, care of the Calgary Flames where he works as a scout, on November 29th, 2010 and got them both back, signed in black sharpie, on March 28th, 2011 - 4 months later. Considering the many trips scouts make in a year, this is a tremendous return, kind of like getting the cards back in the same week.

Of all the Sutter brothers, Ron was the last to retire. He played with his twin brother Rich on three different teams: the Memorial Cup-winning Lethbridge Broncos, and the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues, for a total of 8 seasons. He also played with the San Jose Sharks while his brother Darryl was the team's head coach.

Because he played in the East more, in what was then called the Prince-Of-Wales conference, with the Flyers, mostly, but also the New York Islanders, Boston Bruins and my-then favourite team Québec Nordiques, he is by far the Sutter brother I've seen play the most.

And now for the cards:
This is card #476 of Pro Set's 1991-92 Series 2 set, basically an update because he was traded from the Flyers to the Blues in September of that season. It's an impressive feat to get an 'A' on your chest upon your arrival on a new team, but in all fairness, Ron had just spent the past two seasons as the Flyers' captain, becoming no less than the fourth Sutter to wear the 'C' on his chest.

But my favourite of the two cards, of course, is this one:
That's card #482 of Leaf's 1993-94 Donruss Series 2 set, released mid-season to update players who had been traded (in Sutter's case, from the Blues to the Nordiques in January 1994) and as an excuse to feature rookies before the next season's releases. It was rare, from, say, 1983 to 1995, to have Nordiques players portrayed in their home (white) jerseys on trading cards, as most of the NHL's photographers preferred the relatively calm weather of New England - where roughly a third of the league's teams called home - to Canada's frigid winter conditions - not to mention having to travel to a city where most people only spoke French, as opposed to Montréal or Ottawa, where bilingualism was more common.

Manny Malhotra Autographed Picture

Where do I start with this one?

I always liked Manny Malhotra. From the time he was a kid, he was compared to Jarome Iginla all the time: consummate leader, a knack for scoring, unstoppable.

In Juniors, he captained the Guelph Storm to the Memorial Cup, was named to the tournament's All Star team and awarded the most sportsmanlike player of the tournament. That year, he was also named the OHL's scholastic player of the year en route to being drafted in the first round by the New York Rangers. He also captained Team Canada twice: once at the 3 Nations Cup (now the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament) with the undefeated (6-0) under-18 team, and once at the World Juniors in 2000, winning the bronze medal.

But it never worked out with the Rangers, who at first had and then were looking for an immediate solution to the retirement of Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky at center and didn't have time to groom a kid into the role. But four years spent with their AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack (including a Calder Cup win) had made him into an amazing defensive forward.

So the Dallas Stars acquired him because they wanted an Iginla-like player. But one goal in 16 games to finish the 2001-02 season, 10 points in 59 games the following year and no points in 9 games to start the 2003-04 campaign saw him put on waivers and subsequently claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, with whom he would improve his points totals for four straight years, often in match-ups against the opposing team's best lines.

Then came a successful season with the San Jose Sharks (19 goals, plus-17 rating, ice time on the powerplay, a relatively long playoff run considering, you know, the Sharks), before he was signed to a three-year contract on July 1st, 2010 by the Vancouver Canucks, who are looking for a Cup run themselves.

With the Canucks in first place, Malhotra was second in the NHL in faceoff percentage with an astonishing 61.8% and was a major reason for the team being the second-ranked in the league for penalty-killing when he was struck in the eye by an errant puck on March 16th. He has undergone surgery and will miss the rest of the season; while the team remains mute on the subject, it is widely believed he will require at least one more surgery before it is known whether he will recover his eyesight.

Ironically, a friend of mine who lives in Vancouver sent me this autographed picture, postmarked March 14th, two days before the accident. I got it yesterday. While I welcome the gift, my thoughts are more with Malhotra, hoping he'll make a full recovery.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jordan Eberle Autograph Redemption Card

Year in and year out, regardless of their position in the standings, the Edmonton Oilers offer their fans exciting, speedy, creative teams that rarely take the night off. This season's crop is no different, apart from the fact that it could very well finish in last place overall.

One of the kids leading this brigade is Jordan Eberle, who scored the first beautiful goal of the 2010-11 season, on one of the league's 5 best goalies, no less:

Despite his status as a rookie, he already sports the alternate captain's A on some occasions; and while many will make a case for Taylor Hall, his young teammate on the Oilers who was the last draft's first-overall pick, it is Eberle who holds the record as Canada's all-time highest scorer at the World Juniors, despite only appearing in two championships, winning gold in 2009 and silver in 2010.

As a junior player, he was named the CHL's Player Of The Year in 2010, to go with his 2008 scolastic player of the year award and two first-team all star nominations. That's pretty much the definition of ''blue chip prospect'' right there.

This card's history dates back to October, when I purchased two boxes' worth of Panini's 2010-11 Score hockey cards. I was happy with what I pulled, except for this blank card that said it was for 'redemption'; while I'd heard of these cards, it was the first time I ever got one myself. The process was simple enough: go on Panini's website, claim the serial number of the card, get told it's of Eberle and... wait.

Well, I got it today. Eberle in the Oilers' white pajama-like jersey, Hot Rookies sub-set (card #556), with a sticker on top of it with Eberle's autograph in blue sharpie. Note that he's wearing #78 on the picture but signed as #14, the number he's currently wearing with the Oilers now that he's made the team for good.

Caprice Bourret Autographed 8x10 Picture

Model? Try supermodel.

When the whole world knows you by your first name, and most folks don't even know your last name - you've definitely made a name for yourself. This is what Caprice Bourret has achieved, through modeling mostly, but since she has retired from the glitzy world of runways and advertising, she has successfully ventured into business endeavours such as her lingerie line By Caprice Lingerie, which she started first by licensing her name to a company (Debenhams) for them to make a buck off it, then by re-purchasing the rights to her name and releasing her own stuff; her brand-name has since expanded to include swimwear, sleepwear and bedding.

All this, of course, coming from a woman who between the ages of 23 and 28 was on the cover of over 250 magazines, the least of which was the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, but also Maxim, FHM, Vogue, GQ, Cosmopolitan, Esquire and many others. You'll notice those magazines are targeted to both men and women, teens and adults of all ages. She was all-encompassing as a hottie, but also had the brains to market herself like few others.

Because of that, she has gone on to host numerous TV programs - mostly in Britain, but on our side of then pond, she has also appeared in The Surreal Life. She has gone on to play in theater (Rent and The Vagina Monologues), and released a music single.

And every time she was on TV, whether a Reality TV show or presenting an award at a televised ceremony, she has always appeared as one of the smartest there, never flubbing her lines, always on point, always graceful. Some politicians have 20-people teams of writers and handlers and don't appear as natural and well-spoken in front of the cameras.

I sent Caprice an email on March 2nd and got this signed 8x10 picture (black sharpie, inscribed ''Lots of Love, xxxx'') on the 9th - a single week later, thanks to Her Majesty's post service, U.K.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Scott Munroe Autographed Card

I hope this veteran netminder finds his way to the NHL some day, mostly because I want to hear TV commentators repeatedly saying the words ''the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native''. For now, however, he's in the KHL, playing for the Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk.

He's put up awesome numbers in the AHL (career GAA of 2.60; career save % of .919) after an exceptional collegiate career at University Of Alabama in Huntsville, where he was the CHA's Rookie of the Year coming in and co-Player of the Year leaving. He holds just about every Chargers' goaltending records and is the guy you want in nets when the going gets tough: he once stopped 33 of 34 shots faced in a single period (against powerhouse University of Minnesota) and was the winning goalie in the AHL's longest game ever played, making 65 saves in a 3-2 overtime win that lasted 142:58 against the Albany River Rats.

This card is #47 in In The Game's 2007-08 Between The Pipes set, the Future Stars sub-set. A friend of mine sent Munroe two last season, care of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (the New York Islanders' farm team), thinking the goalie might keep one, but instead he sent both back, signed in blue sharpie. Knowing how huge a fan I am of journeyman goaltenders, he gave me one. This is one instance in which a black sharpie might have done a better job, but I'm not about to complain here!

Michael Ryder Autographed Card

How to go from ''hero'' to ''despised'' in Montréal in two easy steps:
1. stop giving it your all
2. leave as a free agent and sign with a bitter rival

This is the third time I've featured Ryder, now of the Boston Bruins, here; I'd previously done it once in a solo jersey card, and once on a dual card (with Phil Kessel). This card is from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Victory set, the Game Breakers insert sub-set (card #GB24).

When Ryder's dad was in town, they'd always eat breakfast together at the same restaurant. If you left them alone during the meal, he'd gladly sign for you afterwards as he was leaving the premises. This blue sharpie Aztec-like signature happened on one of those mornings. He added his jersey number, 73, at the tail end of the unique signature.

I have to admit he looked great in the Montréal Canadiens' bleu-blanc-rouge, though.