Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kevin Lowe: 3 Autographed Cards

Obviously, I'm still learning when it comes to collecting autographs, and some lessons include how many of what to send to whom.

I sent Kevin Lowe - now the Edmonton Oilers' President - a fan letter along with the 5 cards pictured above on November 17th and got them all back today - 3 signed in thick black sharpie, and these two unsigned:
Then again, it's not like he'd worn a different uniform on all those cards, just that he has an 'A' on one and nothing on the other, compared to the 3 cards he signed on which he's wearing the captain's 'C'. And, as the guy who looks over the day-to-day operations of a hockey team in a hockey-mad town, I'm sure he had better things to do than respond to all autograph inquiries.

In that respect, I'll focus instead on the cards he did sign... and on the man himself.

From the get-go, Lowe was a prodigy. In Juniors, he was named the first English-speaking captain in QMJHL history (with the famed Québec Remparts) before becoming the Oilers' first NHL draft pick - ever. He went on to score their first NHL goal, too.

The QMJHL introduced a trophy named in his honour in 2005, which is to be awarded to the league's best defensive defenseman, but I've always found it unfair to catalog a defenseman with 432 NHL regular-season points and 58 playoff points (in 214 games) as ''defensive''. Sure, those aren't Paul Coffey-like numbers, but they sure are Hall Of Fame numbers, and ''jersey retirement'' numbers.

Which is why I was shocked to learn the Oilers hadn't retired it yet. And I only found that out when I watched an Oilers game and saw last year's #1 pick Taylor Hall wear the famed #4 jersey. How a guy with 7 All Star Game appearances, 6 Stanley Cups (5 with the Oil, one with the 1994 New York Rangers which consisted of most Oilers' dynasty players), holding team records for games played in the regular season (1037) and playoffs (172), a past captain on a team overflowing with leadership, who coached them to a 2nd place finish then as general manager got them to a Cup Finals doesn't get his jersey retired is beyond me, but maybe they're just waiting for him to no longer be involved with the team to thwart accusations of nepotism - I don't know.

Growing up, I was a huge Oilers fan. And the way I saw it, Wayne Gretzky was the offensive catalyst, of course, but my second favourite skater was Lowe - not Mark Messier, not Jari Kurri, not Glenn Anderson (who later became a Leaf), Coffey, Steve Smith or Craig MacTavish (the last player to play without a helmet). It was Lowe - the guy who could score the opportune goal from the point but would also always shut down the opposing team. And I loved both goalies - Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog, not so much Bill Ranford, who was traded for Moog.

Let's have a look at the cards he signed:
On the left, from Pro Set's 1991-92 Parkhurst set (card #51), we have him wearing the team's blue (away) uniform, augmented by the captain's 'C'; in the middle, from Score, a 1992-93 Score (card #39) depicting him in the team's home uniform, again serving as captain; and on the right, from Upper Deck's 1991-92 Series 1 set (card #186), again in the away uniform, this time sporting the assistant captain's 'A'. And what a distinctive signature!

All in all, I'm extremely happy to have gotten these cards back. I think Kevin Lowe is one of the most important players in the Oilers' dynasty and, thus, in NHL history. I view him as no less than the Oilers' own Larry Robinson. To have worn a letter on his jersey in the Gretzky/Messier years before inheriting the 'C' for himself shows just how highly his teammates regarded him, and the measure of the man can also be attested from his numerous appearances on French Canadian TV, where he always accepts to be interviewed in French, not only showing respect to Quebecers, but reminding us he'll always be one of us - he just happens to have become successful a little further West.

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