Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lanny McDonald Jersey Card

I don't have much to add after writing about Lanny McDonald merely five months ago, but as I am classifying my valuable cards in binders, alphabetically, I've run across this minuscule game-worn swatch from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Champ's set (card #CT-LM, Mini Threads sub-set).

It shows him wearing the Toronto Maple Leafs' uniform, although I remember him mostly as a member of the Calgary Flames myself. I do understand, however, that you can't deny 7 seasons in a career, particularly three 40-goal seasons, and four 85-plus-point seasons. But, you know: the Leafs. Urgh.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shea Weber White Swatch Card

I wrote about a similar card a year and a half ago, and I also had this version in hand at the time, I was just waiting to have something else to say about Shea Weber before I posted it...

Now that he's the league's first 110-million dollar man, the time has probably come. But I spoke at lengths about the player in the previous post, so I thought I could talk about the offer sheet this time around.

First, though, the card: like the other one, it is from Panini's 2010-11 Limited set, is card #83 and is numbered 140/199; the swatch, this time around, is white. By the way, I like those ''old'' Nashville Predators jerseys a lot better than their current yellow atrocities...

Now, the offer sheet...

First, let's remember that Weber was awarded a $7.5M contract through arbitration the previous year; the Predators knew they'd likely have to offer the same amount or higher per year to retain their captain, even more so when their #2 defender Ryan Suter signed a (discounted!) $98M deal with the Minnesota Wild. Other comparables include $7M man Drew Doughty...

I'm all for the Philadelphia Flyers tending the offer sheet. They are, after all, in need of a new top defenseman, what with Chris Pronger's possible career-ending concussion. It was Weber's choice to sign and, perhaps, never again play for the Preds. He did.

But if the Preds couldn't afford to pay him the contract, $26M of which were in signing bonuses and, thus, have to be paid whether the league locks out or not, then they shouldn't have matched the offer. First, it would have added credence to the fact that less established, small-market teams have trouble competing with bigger markets, and owners with deeper pockets. Which is true.

But teams like the Preds dip into the revenue-sharing pool, into which the richest teams contribute. Meaning even the big-dollar Canadian teams, the Original Six and the extremely large markets help poor teams keep their superstars, when contracts make sense for them.

But deliberately taking on contracts they can't handle is just stupid. Like offering second-contract players with no leverage astronomical numbers (Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner), or giving one-dimensional players like Alexander Semin $7M, or unproven goalies $39M over six years. This summer's been nuts all around.

But the way to keep a leash on players' salaries isn't on rollbacks, it's with the poorer teams not overpaying. When the rich teams overstock on $7M players (keep in mind the cap stands at roughly $70M, they can only have so many of those...), the other teams can stock up on point-per-game players at the salary they want.

Between Doughty at 7 or Duncan Keith at 5.5, the difference isn't huge, and the lowest salary has the Norris. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Andy Bathgate Autographed card

Today marks Andy Bathgate's 80th birthday, so I thought I'd write a post about him.

The 17-year NHL veteran played for half the Original Six (the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Detroit Red Wings) as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he also played pro in the AHL (Cleveland Barons, Pittsburgh Hornets), the WHL (Vancouver Canucks) and the WHA (Vancouver Blazers, four years after retiring from the NHL!); he has won the Memorial Cup, the WHL championship (Lester Patrick Cup) and the Stanley Cup, and was the league MVP in both the NHL and WHL.

I tend to believe his best years were as a Ranger, with whom he spent 10 seasons, in the middle of which was a 7-year span in which his lowest production was 74 points (1959-60, in 70 games) and his highest was 88 points (40 of them goals, in 1958-59). He led the league with 84 points in 1961-62 but lost the Art Ross trophy to Bobby Hull, who had more goals. The Rangers retired his #9 jersey after having done so with Adam Graves; Graves has since said he considers Bathgate to be the ''best #9 in team history'' (I agree).

Team success, however, would only come when he was traded to Toronto (a Cup in 1963-64) and later Detroit (a Cup finals in 1965-66).

The history books, however, will forever link him to a November 1st, 1959 game between the Rangers and the Montréal Canadiens, where three minutes in, he fired a slap shot right to Jacques Plante's face, who had to leave the game to get stitched up. Plante wouldn't return unless he wore a home-made mask, that he would wear for the remainder of his career, thus forever changing the face of hockey.

Ironically, both Plante and Bathgate were elected to the Hockey Hall Of Fame the year I was born, 1978.

This card is from the 1964-65 Parkhurst Reprint set (card #124), manufactured by Upper Deck in time for the 1995-96 season, as a ''missing link'' set. The brand's owner, Dr. Brian H. Price (also owner of the In the Game brand) loves these throwback sets.

I got this card signed in person in blue sharpie as a young adult at a HOF event where Mr. Bathgate was a guest. Because this was a paying event, I didn't have a lot of time to talk about the Plante incident, and I sure didn't want to waste my breath on the Leafs, so I congratulated him on his many achievements with the Rangers - despite the card I handed him to sign!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Two Score 2012-13 Box Breaks

For the third year in a row, I decided to purchase two boxes of this year's lower-end product, the 2012-13 Score set by Panini. You can find last year's box breaks here. This year's design is reminiscent of their 1988 baseball or 1992-93 hockey sets, except the border is white, not coloured.

One reason why I jumped on pre-ordering these was in case of a lock-out: I thought it'd be rad to have my hands on a product for a season that may not even happen!

This year's set contains 548 cards, including ''highlights'' and ''award winners'' cards, as well as 48 Hot Rookies. There doesn't seem to be ''short-print'' rookie cards this year, which I view as a good thing. View the complete checklist here.

They still come at roughly a buck a pack, 36 per box, 7 cards per, good for 252 cards per box, and they fixed the lighting/photoshop problems on most cards, as well as corrected last year's major flaw, which was that they used the same picture for multiple cards. This year, they're all different (sorry for the awkward crop at the right):
Here is how the first box broke down:

36 packs, 7 cards per: 252 cards

Regular cards: 157

'Gold' parallel: 37 (including one Hot Rookie)

Hot Rookies: 19, one big name being Chris Kreider, the gold parrallel, Akim Aliu, also in regular version, and one Hab - Gabriel Dumont.

Award Winners: 5, including 2 different Evgeni Malkin cards.

The Franchise: 1, Jonathan Quick.

The Franchise Retro: 4 (out of 6 possible!): Johnny Bower, Jean Béliveau, Gordie Howe, and Ed Giacomin.

Net Cam: 3

First Goal: 3

Team Score: 2

Check It: 1, Wendel Clark.

Season Highlight: 13

Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 7, including 1 rookie (Dumont), and 1 guy in a Leafs uniform (Colby Armstrong).


Here is a breakdown of the second box:

 36 packs, 7 cards per: 254 cards (two packs had an extra common card, one pack had only goalies in it)

Regular cards: 173

'Gold' parallel: 37 (including one Hot Rookie)

Hot Rookies: 19, no big name, the gold parrallel, Jaden Schwartz, and one Hab - goalie Robert Mayer.

Award Winners: 3

Sudden Death: 2: Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares.

The Franchise: 2

The Franchise Retro: 4 (2 doubles, 2 to complete the set): Johnny Bower, Bobby Hull, Johnny Bucyk, and Ed Giacomin.

Net Cam: 3

First Goal: 3, incuding Sean Couturier.

Team Score: 2

Team Future: 1, Richard Bachman.

Season Highlight: 15

Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 7, including 1 rookie (Mayer), and 1 Net Cam (Carey Price).


No autograph redemption card this year, so I'll just have to continue gathering signatures TTM. All in all, though, I do find this to be a huge improvement over last year's product. Good job, Panini.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tomas Vokoun Autograph 8 X 10 Card

Tomas Vokoun went under the radar in the news when, as a free agent, he chose to leave the Washington Capitals where he was #1A to be the backup goalie with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I, for one, would have loved to see him sign with the Montréal Canadiens, in part to see him finish with the team that drafted him, in part to relieve Carey Price who plays way too much, and finally, to put pressure on Price to accept a lower salary than his ridiculous $6.5M per for 6 seasons. I have a feeling GM Marc Bergevin will come to regret listening to the media on this one...

But back to Vokoun, the two-time All-Star, two-time World Championship gold medalist and Olympian (bronze medal in 2006). Chosen by the Nashville Predators in the 1998 Expansion Draft (from the Habs), he went on to star in nets for the Preds for their first 8 NHL seasons.

After consecutive freak injuries, the Predators traded his rights to the Florida Panthers for a first-round pick and two second- rounders, and he manned the nets well enough in Florida to play in the 2008 All-Star game, but suffered another freak injury in 2009 when teammate Keith Ballard hit him in the head with his stick (he was aiming at the crossbar in frustration...) and missed a long time.

The following summer he signed a low-paying contract to play with the powerhouse Capitals, gambling that winning a Cup would result in a better contract this summer, but once again, the Caps failed to reach post-season success.

This autographed 8 X 10 (signature on a sticker) features the Preds' old jersey - before they decided to go with vomit-enducing colours - is from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits set (card #SP-VO). Each pack came with an oversized signed card, so for the price ($30 or so), to be assured a hit of such magnitude was pretty good.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jean-Jacques Daigneault: 3 Autographed Cards

Jean-Jacques ''J.J.'' Daigneault held an NHL record for a while, but Mike Sillinger broke it prior to the 2006-07 season. Which one, you may ask? That of having played for the most NHL teams in their careers. Daigneault is now tied for second (with Michel Petit), with 11.

Drafted 10th overall in 1984 by the Vancouver Canucks (behind Mario Lemieux, Kirk Muller, Shayne Corson, Al Iafrate and Petr Svoboda, and ahead of Gary Roberts, Kevin Hatcher, Scott Mellanby, Stéphane Richer, Jeff Brown, Ray Sheppard, Gary Suter, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, baseball legend Tom Glavine, and a goalie by the name of Patrick Roy), he only played two seasons in the rain before getting traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he made it to the Stanley Cup final in his very first season there, even scoring a game-winning goal in the Finals. Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers proved to be too strong, though.

Which is fine, because as a member of the Montréal Canadiens, he beat Gretzky's and Robitaille's Los Angeles Kings to win the Cup in 1993, with Muller and Roy as teammates.

At the end of the road, Daigneault was one game short of playing in 900 regular-season NHL games and another game short of 100 playoff games. He scored 53 goals and amassed 250 points in his career.

As a Hab, I remember him as a calming presence on the blue line, able to chip in with some powerplay time. I was surprised to see him getting traded for a career backup goalie in Pat Jablonski, but I don't run or own the team, so I let it slide.

Unlike other players, though, I didn't follow Daigneault's career much when he left town, in part because when the Habs descended into meaninglessness by trading Roy, I was in NYC getting my music career going and my interest had waned. At least I kept my cards...

I hadn't noticed when I sent him these, but all of these cards have a link to the NHL's 75th anniversary. First, from the 1991-92 Series 1 set from Upper Deck (card #170), sporting the Canadiens' classic red (away) jersey with the assistant captain's 'A':
Here he is wearing the team's white (home) uniform with a 75th anniversary patch, from Pro Set's 1992-93 Parkhurt (French Canadian Version) set (card #312):
And a ''throwback'' jersey from Score's 1992-93 Score (Canadian), card #311 (look at those intense eyes!):
Sure, this jersey looks a lot like the regular red one, but one quick look at the sleeves will reveal the team's logo in place of numbers...

I sent him these 3 cards and a fan letter on March 19th, 2012, and got them back on August 15th, 2012, signed in black sharpie with his jersey number (48) tagged at the end. Funny thing: I sent these care of the Connecticut Whale, where he was an assistant coach, and that's where they were sent back from (postmarked August 11th), but he was named the Canadiens' assistant coach on June 29th, a story similar to that of my Patrice Brisebois cards (also a 1993 Cup winner).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mike Ribeiro Autographed Card

In a story that pretty much flew under the radar this summer, the Dallas Stars traded Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals at the draft, for Cody Eakin and a second-rounder. No disrespect meant for Eakin, but this was a clear case of new assistant-GM Bob Gainey getting rid of a guy he despises for personal reasons - he's the one who had sent him to Dallas from the Montréal Canadiens in the first place.

We are talking about a guy who has led his team in scoring five times and barely turned 32.

He will now be serving his magical passes to Alex Ovechkin, so I expect both players to gather more than 90 points this season. Ribeiro will also give his team an advantage in the shootout, where he has become a force to be reckoned with.

While I've come across ''Mickey Ribs'' in or around gentlemen's clubs around town, the day I got this card signed was at the Habs' 2002-03 Jamboree, where I spent most of the day chatting with Marcel Hossa:
It's card #111 in Upper Deck's 2002-03 Victory set, and I probably bought the Habs' set on-site. It's signed in blue sharpie but is smudged because I didn't know of the ''eraser trick'' for signatures to stick better on cards, nor did I have any handy. I didn't get to talk to him much because as a budding star, he was sent up in a rigid tent so he wouldn't get mobbed by the crowd. Saku Koivu and José Theodore got the same treatment, so when their turn came, I stayed with Hossa and chilled rather than waste an hour trying to get there and back in the middle of sweaty fans.

I'm happy I'll get to see him more often on home ice now that he'll be playing in the East. In his big return last season - the only regular-season game he's played here as a visitor - he was everywhere on the ice and was voted the first star, just like Jaroslav Halak before him.

Watch the fun, first with the goal:

Then the celebration:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Patrice Brisebois: 7 Autographed Items (Part 1)

Wednesday was a good day, despite being too sick to go to work. Instead, I was here to greet the postman for this Derek Stepan card and these 7 autographed Patrice Brisebois items, all signed in black sharpie with his jersey number tagged at the end:
Much has been said about Brisebois' career, particularly with the Montréal Canadiens, and especially the end of his first stint with the Habs as he was constantly booed every time he hit the ice and didn't score, mostly because two journalists thought he was (grossly) overpaid. At the end of the day, though, more than 1000 NHL games played, a Stanley Cup, two World Juniors gold medals, a CHL defenseman of the year award, three Memorial Cup finals (including an All-Star Team nod), over 600 career NHL points (for a defenseman...), and eight 30-point seasons (and those in which he didn't were injury-plagued) speak for themselves: he was a fine hockey player.

Perhaps not always in his rightful position (it did take the Habs trading Éric Desjardins and Mathieu Schneider to make him the team's #1 defenseman where he would have been fine at #3 with some powerplay time), but always giving everything he had, constant (good for a point every other game), honest, courageous (you'd have to be to be able to step on the ice knowing half the arena expects you to be the team's scapegoat)... in any other town he would have been one of the team's legends.

But in The City Where Hockey Legends Are Made, with the most Cups, the most Hall Of Fame players, 8 of the 10 best goalies of all time, the most media scrutiny, and two cultures (French Quebecers and Anglo-Canadians) who for a century almost only shared a love for hockey, a 'risky' top defenseman was going to get called for the mistakes he made in his own end. I think even Paul Coffey and Brian Leetch would have faced the same critics.

And yet he still managed to have some decent plus/minus seasons, with +10 (1995-96, the year Patrick Roy left at mid-season), +16 (1997-98) and +17 (2003-04).

The biggest gripe against him was probably that, at 6'2'' and 210 lbs, he avoided physical play. So? Size doesn't dictate willingness to get hurt. I fondly remember games at the Philadelphia Spectrum where Saku Koivu, who is probably shorter than his listed 5'10'', would be the only Habs player willing to hit a Flyer, and he'd go toe-to-toe in the corners with none other than Eric Lindros. Many tall guys prefer a slicker game than a rough-and-tumble one. I'll tell you this much, until the arrival of Andrei Markov, no Canadiens player could pass like Brisebois, and he was one of the team's fastest players.

Onto the cards...

His true rookie card is this one, from Upper Deck:
He's sporting the Team Canada jersey at the World Juniors. It's card #454 of the 1990-91 Upper Deck collection. He was wearing jersey #24 at the time.

The next two cards are also considered by some as rookie cards, although they come a year later:
The card on the left is from Score's 1991-92 Score Canadian set (card #272), while the one on the right is from UD's 1991-92 Upper Deck set (card #442, Star Rookie sub-set). He's sporting the #43 jersey he spent most of his career wearing, on the Habs' red (away) jersey.

I also have a #43 in the white jersey to show:
It's from Topps' 2002-03 O-Pee-Chee set (card #41).

(continued in the next post)

Patrice Brisebois: 7 Autographed Items (Part 2)

(continued from the previous post)

After 14 seasons with the Habs, the last 4 increasingly difficult due to fans' discontent, Breezer signed with the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent. He had a career-high 38 points (and second-highest goal total with 10, five less than his 2000-01 best) in his first season, while injuries limited him to 33 games the following season (11 points). He was playing behind Rob Blake and John-Michael Liles at this point in his career.

This card is from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set (card #296).

After two seasons away, Brisebois made it back to the Canadiens on back-to-back one-year contracts where he retained his Avalanche jersey number (71), perhaps a way to cut ties with the past and start anew. He played his 1000th NHL game in a Habs uniform, serving as mentor for the team's young defensemen.

The two items I have of this era are both team-issued cards he included in the mailing without my asking. First, a team-issued postcard, which he personalized (transated, it means ''Kindly, Sébastian''):

And this 2008 Molson Export Montréal Canadiens Alumni card (#71), with the team's Centennial shoulder patches:

All in all, a tremendous return (7/5 !!) from a unique homegrown player who is now the team's Player Development Coach, a position in which he'll concentrate on the organization's defensive prospects. It is of note that when I sent him these cards along with a fan letter on March 22nd, he had not yet been named to the position.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Derek Stepan Jersey And Stick Card

The one thing that came to mind when the New York Rangers finally got their hands on Rick Nash was ''wow, and they even got to keep all their stud defensemen and Derek Stepan''!

And now, thanks to a contest from Sports Card Info, I also get to have him!

This is card #10 in Panini's 2011-12 Luxury Suite set, and features a game-worn white jersey swatch with a piece of game-used stick. It probably becomes my most valuable card (money-wise) at the moment! (Yes, I did use to own a mint Mario Lemieux rookie card and a creased Wayne Gretzky rookie card, but lost both and over 10,000 cards in total in a 1998 flood...)

I love this card and will display it so it can be seen (away from light sources, though!), despite the one pet peeve of being a 2011-12 season card that displays 2011-12 stats on the back... if you're going to release a set after the season's over, when everything is compiled, might as well just make it a 2012-13 set...

Stepan has just finished his second NHL season and if his 17 goals were a drop from the previous season's 21, he still managed to get 51 points, which gives him 96 in total so far. Over a 20-year career, he might get to 1000 points.

The 51st overall pick in 2008 has already twice represented Team USA, once captaining the junior team to a gold medal (2010) on the strength of 14 points in 7 games, as well as at the 2011 World Championships (8 points in 7 games). He'll probably be an Olympian if the NHLPA can convince NHL owners to let the players go to Sotchi in 2014.