Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Box Break: 2013-14 Upper Deck Series 1

I touched upon purchasing two blaster boxes a couple of days ago when I reviewed my 2013-14 O-Pee-Chee box. Now it's time for the second one, Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1:
At roughly $25 for 64 cards, you want to get at least one good insert - I'm talking about about an autograph or jersey card; I got neither. Ebay could have easily netted me 3 of each for the same price... but I never learn.

Here is how it broke down:

Total cards: 64, plus an oversized Young Guns rookie card of Boone Jenner:
Young Guns: these two, probably the pulls of the box (Nathan MacKinnon's one of the bigger rookie names and should get me a quarter of my box money back, but I particularly like Alex Killorn, who grew up in Montréal and shares my birthday):
 UD Canvas: Frans Nielsen:
MVP: Ray Bourque (retired) and Mikael Granlund (Rookie):
Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 2: captain Brian Gionta (as usual) and David Desharnais:
All in all, it's a fine-looking set, with ample room for the in-action picture, the look and feel is classic Upper Deck - very glossy, roomy, and the back is also typical UD:
I'll see what the MacKinnon, Granlund and Jenner cards will net me and how many of the rest I can get autographed on my own, but one thing's for sure, I am more positive about my box break after writing this post than I was upon unwrapping it.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Box Break: 2013-14 O-Pee-Chee

Before I went to Ohio to visit my mom for Christmas, I went to my local drugstore for medical supplies for my trip, and two kinds of hockey cards were being sold at the cash register. Here is the first one, a blaster box of Upper Deck's 2013-14 O-Pee-Chee cards:
The bottom/back of the blaster box had this two-card ''sheet'', which is available for trade as is or cut without the box contours:
It also gives a decent idea of the regular set cards' design, which is reminiscent of the O-Pee-Chee sets of my youth, mixed with awful colour combinations.

 Here is how it broke down:

Total cards: 60

Stickers cards: Miikka Kiprusoff, plus this one of Paul Coffey:
Marquee Rookies: 5: Radko Gudas, Michal Jordan, Jon Rheault, Greg Pateryn, plus this one of Eric Selleck:
Rainbow Foil: Dwight King:
Retro Parallel: 4: Grant Clitsome, Ladislav Smid, Jack Skille, and this one of of Justin Peters:
Leaders: shutouts:
This useless, ugly checklist:
Retired players: 3 (including the Coffey sticker, 4 if you include Adrian Aucoin who retired after being unable to find a team for the season): Brett Hull (with the Dallas Stars, of all teams), and this one of Bryan Trottier):
Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 2: Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec, plus new-Hab George Parros in his Florida Panthers uniform.

All in all, despite the vomit-inducing colours and cardboard backs, I still like this set because the design reminds me of my childhood, and because it's the least-glossy set on the market, making it the most autograph-friendly, as does the fact that it contains 600 cards (100 rookies, 500 others).

I could do without the tons of cheap inserts and sub-sets (particularly the parallels), and would prefer the packs to be in the $1 range rather than $2-3, especially considering it's so cheap to manufacture, but it does what it should, in my opinion.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Keith Primeau Jersey Card

As I was putting my collection in order, I realized I had a Keith Primeau jersey card I hadn't featured before, though with the same white (home) Philadelphia Flyers uniform as a card I had. Last time it featured a black swatch, this time it's a white one, from Upper Deck's 2002-03 Vintage set (card #FS-KP of the Framed Sweaters sub-set):
It's a beautiful card, numbered 21/50, cleaner than the scan would lead to believe.

Primeau was one of those guys, a home team favourite but little-known elsewhere type of player, like Tomas Plekanec is these days. He was the captain of his team, and more often than not was the top centerman (except for his time with the Detroit Red Wings, where he fell behind both Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov).

He wasn't a point-per-game player (266 goals and 619 points in 909 regular-season games), but had his clutch moments, including two 73-point seasons, three 30-goal seasons, and two terrific postseasons (13 points in 18 games in 1999-2000, and 9 goals and 16 points in 18 games in 2003-04, inspiring the Tampa Bay Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier to adopt a tougher playing style, which got him to be named the 2004 World Cup MVP).

However, Primeau will always be remembered as one of many players whose career was cut short by concussions. He officially announced his retirement on my birthday (September 14th), in 2006, about a year after his last NHL game.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Trader/Collector Hall Of Fame: Sal

Last week, I arrived to a box that contained this:

9 figurines making up 69% of Provigo's 1989-90 Montréal Canadiens figurines set, namely Bob Gainey (23), Bobby Smith (15), Mats Naslund (26), Brian Skrudland (39), Stéphane Richer (44), and Russ Courtnall (6), as well as the still-wrapped Petr Svoboda (25), Mike McPhee (35) and Craig Ludwig (17).

Now I just need to get my hands on Patrick Roy (33), Guy Carbonneau (21), Shayne Corson (27) and Chris Chelios (24). It would have been easier, back in the day, to get my hands on the latter two if I was a good looking girl or a policeman after 3AM (I kid, I kid).

The figurines were sent to me by the best trader and collector out there, Sal. He sent them as a token of appreciation for my ''participation and help'' into writing his most recent piece in Beckett - fulfilling my life-long dream of having my name in the Beckett, though I thought it'd be as a player! - but, really, all I did was reminisce about collecting these in my childhood, and playing with them.

Every collector I write to, trade with, whose blogs I read, every single one of them has at least one, sometimes half-dozens of instances where Sal helped them out and sent out way more than was expected or even necessary. Or just freely. Most of us have this karmic thing were it all probably evens out - give a little more here, receive a little more there - but I'm fairly certain Sal's karma point extend way beyond the hobby, because he just gives and gives and gives. Perhaps we should all hire him.

That is why I nominate him for the Hall OF Fame, should there ever be one.

Again, thanks, Sal.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Two Tim Burke Autographed Cards

Before John Wetteland, the Montréal Expos' closer I was most accustomed to was Tim Burke, who held the job from 1987 until mid-way through 1991, when he was traded to the New York Mets, essentially for Ron Darling.

He led the majors in 1985 with 78 appearances on the mound (and tying a rookie record), and was an All-Star in 1989, giving up two hits (no runs) in two innings in a 5-3 loss.

I would guess I got these before a game in 1991, but I don't recall having owned a blue sharpie that early in my life. But since he retired at the end of the 1992 season and lived in Colorado afterwards, the only other opportunity I would have had to meet him (which I recall happening) would have been if the team had brought back alumni players prior to moving to Washington at the turn of the century.

Which brings me to the cards. This one is from Score's 1988 Score set (card #187), the first baseball card set I started collected in my life (along with the 1988 Topps one):

The next card is from Leaf/Donruss' 1986 Donruss set (card #421), one I was too young to collect when it was current, but I purchased singles from - including this one - in 1990 and 1991 at a local card shop:

Both cards show him wearing the Expos' classic powder-blue away uniform, one piching (1988), one watching from the bullpen (1986). He looks a bit like a 1980s actor, a cross between Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) and Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Stanislav Neckar Autograph Card

What can you expect from a second-round, 29th-overall draft pick? What should you expect?

Honestly, I don't know.

I'll tell you one thing, if he's playing for the Ottawa Senators from 1994 to 1999, the Phoenix Coyotes at the turn of the millenium (1998-2001), the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2001 until 2003 and then the Nashville Predators, you cannot expect point-per-game production, whether it's the player's fault or that of those around him. They were all terrible, expansion-caliber teams.

In that regard, Stanislav Neckar's 510 NHL games stand more as a testament to his skill as a player than his 12 goals and 53 points, I think, and his career total of -71 (that is indeed minus-71) in the plus/minus stats can also be attributed to the teams he was on; it bears noting that three of the four seasons where he posted a worse than -10 rating were with the Sens, including seasons in which the team went 9-34-5 (23 points in 48 games - yes, the team) and 18-59-5 (41 points in 82 games, ouch! - under three different head coaches no less).

The Lightning thought enough of him to trade for his services again and suit him up for two playoff games in their 2004 Stanley Cup run.

I fell on a card of him in a re-packaged cello pack of cards that guaranteed an autograph, and it's from Classic's 1994-95 Draft Picks set (card #3 in the Autographs checklist, numbered #535/4645):

It's signed in blue sharpie and features him representing the Czech Republic at the World Juniors. He also played for his national team at the 1996 World Championships (winning the gold medal while posting 4 points in 8 games) and 1996 World Cup (0 for 3).

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cory Keenan Autograph Card

You might not know who Cory Keenan is, and for the longest time, neither did I. And for the longest time, all I had going were the stats on the back of this card:
But that was when I got this card in a re-pack, which is of course Signature Rookies' signature move: open backs of ''brand-name'' cards (usually low-level brands like Pro Set, Score, O-Pee-Chee, maybe some by Pacific), keep and sell the valuable ones on the secondary market and re-package the commons and semi-stars with ''guaranteed autographed cards'' of every single non-professional player they can get their hands on, in this case, Keenan, wearing the Austrian League's EC Villacher white (home) uniform with the front logo airbrushed out. It's from the 1995-96 Draft Day 96 set (card #18), and the autograph is numbered 797/4500 and signed in thin blue sharpie.

You probably noticed on the card that he was a 6th round pick of the Hartford Whalers. That, and his birthdate is possibly the only thing this card has that matches what Hockey DB has on him, as the parts of two seasons on the back of the card don't appear in their statistics.

 The card does mention his stint with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, though I'm not sure 118 points over 3 seasons (198 games) makes him a ''star player''.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shane Doan Autographed Card

Currently on a hot streak is Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, on pace to have one of his most successful NHL seasons at age 37.

Then again, he never once scored a point per game in any season, though he did come close a few times with 78- and 73-point seasons, and he did score 30+ goals twice. With his reputation and numerous Team Canada nods, however, you'd have thunk he'd have been a better producer, but you have to remember he's played in the Arizona desert pretty much his whole career, save for his rookie year when they were still the Winnipeg Jets. Not exactly statistic-friendly...

He was the 7th player drafted in 1995, a fairly decent crop of players that included Wade Redden (2nd), Chad Kilger (4th), Daymond Langkow (5th), Steve Kelly (6th), Radek Dvorak (10th), Jarome Iginla (11th), the rejuvenated Jean-Sébastien Giguère (13th), recent retiree Martin Biron (16th), Petr Sykora (18th), Jochen Hecht (49th), Miikka Kiprusoff (116th), and Stéphane Robidas (164th).

Of the lot, there is one sure-fire Hall Of Famer (Iginla), and two who are on the bubble but, in my opinion, should make it: Giggy (Conn Smythe in 2003, Stanley Cup in 2007) and Kipper (the best goalie in the world for 5 straight years despite a few Vezinas lost to Martin Brodeur).

Doan just doesn't have the numbers, nor the hardware. But he does have heart, in droves and enough for a whole team to rely on for a decade. I got him to sign this card of him wearing the Coyotes' ''peyote'' uniform (though the logo isn't clear on the jersey itself):
It's from Topps' 2002-03 O-Pee-Chee set (card #131) and was signed in black sharpie outside the Bell Centre in the beginning of the 2008-09 season; I also got Steven Reinprecht at that time, though I can't seem to find that card at the moment.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dennis Martinez Autographed Card

Dennis Martinez' nickname was 'El Presidente' for a while, until July 28th, 1991, when he pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a special game for many reasons: two days earlier, Mark Gardner was throwing a no-hitter until he surrendered one in the tenth inning, meaning the Montréal Expos could have been the first team to throw a no-hitter and a perfect game in the same series; also, 'El Perfecto' was the first non-American to register a perfect game, and his adversary, Mike Morgan, was also perfect through the first five innings, the longest the opponent of a perfect pitcher matched his counterpart; finally, it was the second time catcher Ron Hassey was on the receiving end of a perfect game, having previously been behind the plate for Len Barker's.

It was the 13th perfect game of all time, and the 11th of the modern era.

But Martinez was more than a one-trick pony: he finished in the top-5 in Cy Young voting twice, in the top-25 twice in MVP voting, and participated in 4 All-Star Games. He led his league in complete games twice (9 in 1991, and a whopping 18 in 1979 with the Baltimore Orioles); he finished his career with 30 shutouts, including a league-leading 5 in 1991, when he also led with a 2.39 ERA. He finished in the top-10 in wins 5 times.

Until a skinny kid with the same last name a few years later (Pedro Martinez), I had never seen that dominant a pitcher up-close (I'd seen Dennis Eckersley and Greg Maddux on TV, though) - and because I haven't watched a baseball game in over 15 years, I haven't seen as dominant a display as his perfect game, ever - and that includes all the Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens highlights.

So when he signed this card for me in 1993, you can bet I was the happiest kid in the Olympic Stadium:
It's from Topps' 1993 Topps set (card #610) and was signed in fading blue sharpie. It shows him in the Expos' grey (away) uniform they instilled in 1992 - he'd previously starred and been perfect in their powder-blue uniform.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Patrick Côté Autographed Card

Patrick Côté was a tough customer, and a good gamble for the Dallas Stars when they drafted him 37th overall in 1995. He had improved from 2 goals and 6 points (with 230 penalty minutes) in 48 games for the Beauport Harfangs in 1993-94 to a whopping 20 goals 20 assists (40 points) and 314 penalty minutes in 56 games in 1994-95, where he was also among the LHJMQ's best playoff performers with 16 points and 115 penalty minutes (!!!) in 17 post-season games.

The way the Stars saw it, he was already tough enough for the NHL, and he had a 1000% improvement in his goal scoring in just one year, so if he could improve just a little bit more each year in the AHL for the following 3 or 4 years, he'd be a legitimate full-time NHL power forward by his mid-twenties.

A  second-round pick may have been a tad high - he was chosen ahead of talented forward Christian Dubé (39th), regular point producer Jochen Hecht (49th), spectacular point-per-game AHLer and Euro-leaguer Pavel Rosa (50th), ''All-Star'' (as the Atlanta Thrashers' representative, if that counts) Petr Buzek (63rd), Sami Kapanen (87th), Marc Savard (91st), Miikka Kiprusoff (116th), Stéphane Robidas (164th), and Filip Kuba (192nd) - but he definitely deserved to be chosen. I would have picked him in the fourth or fifth round.

He played 105 NHL games split over 6 seasons with 3 teams (the Stars, the Nashville Predators and the Edmonton Oilers) and put up 377 penalty minutes to go with his lone goal and two assists; all three of his points came in 1998-99 with the Preds.

I probably saw him play as a member of the LNAH's Laval Chiefs (2001-06), but it was during his time with the Sorel-Tracy Mission (2007-08) that I managed to get this card signed by him, when I took my dad to see a game as a Christmas present:
It's from Classic's 1995-96 Hockey Draft 95 set (card #33), and shows him wearing the Harfang's white (home) uniform, which he signed in thick blue sharpie.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Robin Lehner Autographed Card

He's been around the Ottawa Senators for what seems like so long, it's easy to forget Robin Lehner is barely 22 years old.

I went to see the Sens play in Ottawa against the New Jersey Devils a couple of weeks ago, and was hoping to get a few cards signed while I was there, but the only one I was able to manage was Lehner, because he was the first one out and my ride was getting impatient...

But I did manage to get this sweet 2010-11 Score Rookies And Traded card from Panini signed by Lehner in blue sharpie:
It's card #631 in the set, and bears the Hot Rookies mark on it as well.

Lehner's toughing it out as the Sens' backup and he's been pretty unlucky so far this year, going 0-2 in 3 games, but playing so well he has a 2.41 GAA and a .940 save percentage. The team has enough faith him him that they traded away Ben Bishop last year, but Craig Anderson's still a force to be reckoned with, so it looks like Ottawa's net will at least be a timeshare situation for the next couple of years.

Lehner just has to look at Boston's Tuukka Rask to see what the future may hold in store for him, though, so his patience will likely pay off, even if it's in three years.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tom Brunansky Autographed Card

The World Series are on, pitting the St. Louis Cardinals against the Boston Red Sox - two teams for which Tom Brunansky played in the years where I followed baseball the most (1988-1994).

He was a decent outfielder, 8 times hitting 20 or more home runs in a season, 6 times batting in over 80 runs, seven times walked more than 70 times, and one All-Star Game appearance (1985). He never batted anywhere near .300, though, his best season in that regard being 1982 when he batted .272. He won the World Series in 1987 as a member of the Minnesota Twins and is now, ironically, their hitting coach.

But this post is less about him than about the card. (More specifically, the brand):

It pictures Brunansky as a member of the Cards, showing him in the grey (away) uniform and is from Upper Deck's 1989 Upper Deck set (card #272) - not only their first baseball set, but their first major-league sport card set. The white border, the stellar photography, the logo, the hologram on the back - all elements still found in most UD sets to this very day. This was the first large-print premium set of its time, one that changed the card collecting hobby forever, from the quality of the cardboard itself to the pictures to the wrappers (and the sales price).

Of course, UD no longer produces baseball sets - kind of; their MLB license was revoked, but they kept their MLBPA license, so they can have pictures of the players and their likeness, just not show the teams' logos, like they did for a few seasons of their Be A Player hockey sets.

As a matter of fact, UD has been a magnet for controversy foor the past few years, from having been caught counterfeiting Yu-Gi-Oh cards to questions about the legitimacy of their swatch cards to their CEO Richard P. McWilliam OD-ing early in 2013 after years of alcohol and cocaine abuse (officially, he died of alcohol poisoning), to a rate of three-lawsuits-a-year for the past decade, and a European branch that went bankrupt, Upper Deck seems like it's in deep turmoil.

Anyhow, I acquired the card via trade because I absolutely wanted a signed card from the inaugural UD set; it cost me a couple of football jersey cards two or three years ago.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Darcy Wekenka Autographed Card

Darcy Wekenka was the 37th-overall pick of the New York Rangers in 1991, a draft year that produced a ton of superstars (Eric Lindros, Scott Niedermayer, Peter Forsberg, Alexei Kovalev, Brian Rolston, Ray Whitney, Zigmund Palffy, Sandis Ozolinsh, Yanic Perreault, Alexei Zhitnik), but also a huge number of high picks that didn't quite pan out, such as Brent Bilodeau, René Corbet, Éric Lavigne and François Groleau.

Werenka falls pretty much in the second category, since he never actually played a single NHL game. Unlike most guys in his draft year, though, he's probably still playing: he was with the Vienna Capitals of the Austrian league from 2003 to 2010, and also spent the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons with them. As a matter of fact, he's so at home in Austria that he applied for Austrian citizenship - and he got it in 2008; he even represented Austria at the World Championships.

Between his stints in Austria, he played two seasons in the Finnish league, and two more in Germany.

Prior to that, he'd been with four IHL teams in two seasons after three seasons with the Rangers' AHL affiliates, the Binghamton Rangers, which is the uniform he's sporting here:
He signed it for me in blue sharpie in 1996-97, in his 5-gam stint with the Québec Rafales before they sent him off to the Houston Aeros. It's from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set (card #96). From what I remember, he had some offensive skill, decent size (6'1'', 210lbs) and physicality.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Peter Budaj Jersey Card

Peter Budaj played an awesome game on the Montréal Canadiens' last road trip, stopping 27 of 28 shots (.964 save percentage), but not a word of it in Montréal media because Carey Price has been doing just as well, looking like Stéphane Fiset and winning games.

But Budaj's been pretty good for the Habs in two-plus seasons here, though he has faltered at times like anyone else. His GAA has been remarkable: 2.55 in 2011-12, 2.29 in 2012-13 and, well, 1.00 this season. His overall record is 14-8-6, but counting only this year and the last (so, essentially, the 2013 calendar year), he's 9-1-1. He also has three assists with the Canadiens so far.

This card, however, shows him wearing the Colorado Avalanche's (then-third, burgundy) uniform:
It's from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits series (card #FE-PB, the First Exposures sub-set). As much as I was never a fan of burgundy, these jerseys were okay in my book, with the COLORADO lettering going down on the chest, New York Rangers-style (but in the Avs' font). It contains a swatch of said uniform, taken from a photo shoot.

I'll be sending some TTMs this weekend, and I think Budaj will be one of the recipients of my compliments and requests. He's been a good, honest team player in all his time here and deserves to be featured again. Also, I made my first batch of custom cards, and he's in it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ken Hill Autographed Card

Ken Hill was a fairly good pitcher for half his career. He won 16 games three different times, going 16-9 in 1992 and 16-5 in 1994 for the Montréal Expos, and 16-10 in 1996 with the Texas Rangers.

1994 was arguably his best season, as he finished second in Cy Young voting, and 12th for the National League MVP title, with a two-inning All-Star Game appearance. He also played in the post-season twice, reaching the World Series in 1995 with the Cleveland Indians, and losing in the first round with the Rangers in '96.

His two stints with the St. Louis Cardinals didn't pan out (they happened before and after his run with the Expos), and neither did his time with the Anaheim Angels, Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays to close out his career. Yet, despite bad seasons with 4 teams, he finished his career with a 117-109 record with a 409 ERA.

He signed this card for me in blue sharpie before a game in 1994:
It's from Topps' 1993 Topps set (card #495), and show him sporting the grey uniform with the blue (away) top - they also had an all-grey uniform in the 1990s that felt more ''classic''.

Back then, I'd purchase every Expos team set at the team's store in the Olympic Stadium; at first, they just made the Topps ones available, but over time they had every brand's. It was easier to get them signed that way, although because of financial reasons, half of the previous year's team (featured in the sets...) were usually gone by the time the new one was under way.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Jarome Iginla Jersey Card

I just can't get enough Jarome Iginla jersey cards... or maybe I just own too many. Nevertheless, I felt it was appropriate to mention he got his first point as a member of the Boston Bruins this weekend by showing a pre-captainship card of him with the Calgary Flames:

It's from In The Game's 2002-03 Be A Player  In The Game-Used set (card #GUJ-5); BAP used that specific picture in many sets - I know I have it on their In The Game Action cards as well. This card, while the picture shows him wearing the Flames' black dragon-horse (away) jersey, contains a red swatch that is guaranteed to have been used in a game, but it's unclear which jersey it's from, as all of them (white, black and red) use red.

That being said, he looks great in black, which bodes well for this current season as a Bruin. The one-time Stanley Cup finalist, two-time Memorial Cup winner, two-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup, World Juniors and World Championship champion, two-time Rocket Richard trophy winner and one-time Art Ross recipient hopes to have his name finally engraved on the most prized team sports trophy of the world before he retires. I wish he would have signed with my hometown Montréal Canadiens, as their odds are almost just as good as the Bruins', except it wouldn't have felt wrong to root for him come playoff time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stéphane Da Costa Autographed Card

The new captain of the Ottawa Senators, Jason Spezza, did not play last night, as the team preferred he rest his groin so his minor injury doesn't become a major one later in the season. Instead of shuffling his lines, Paul MacLean just inserted Stéphane Da Costa in his place, between Bobby Ryan and Milan Michalek.

He didn't get any points, but he played well enough, especially considering it was his second NHL game since last February. It looks like the Paris-born, undrafted center is with getting a real shot at spending the year in Ottawa.

I got him to sign this card for me in blue sharpie during the 2011-12 season:

It's from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Victory set (card #238, the Rookie sub-set). He looks a little lost in that picture, but I'm confident he'll do well.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Curtis Pride Autographed Card

Many Montrealers had a soft spot for Curtis Pride, as he became the first deaf person to play in the Major Leagues in nearly 50 years when he appeared in 10 games (9 at-bats) for the Montréal Expos in 1993. He got 4 hits (good for a .444 average) in this 9 plate appearances, which were a double, a triple, a homer, and a single; had he hit them in the same game, he'd have completed what is known as a carousel - each of the four possible types of hits.

He didn't play in the majors in 1994 (the Expos were just too good), but made the team in 1995, logging 69 at-bats in 48 games. He was a substitute for his entire career, never reaching the 100-game mark, and only once registering more than 200 at-bats - 267, in 1996, with the Detroit Tigers. That same year, he won the Tony Conigliaro Award, MLB's trophy for ''players who best overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination, and courage''.

He came back with the Expos in 2001, which is probably when I would have had him sign this card in blue sharpie:

It's from Upper Deck's 1994 Upper Deck set (card #250) and is usually regarded as his official rookie card.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

François Groleau Autographed Card

I featured François Groleau about a month ago with a signature card I'd found in a pack; today I bring you an in-person autograph of his that he signed in blue sharpie two seasons ago as a member of the Thetford Mines Isothermic of the LNAH:

It's from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set (card #47) and shows him wearing the St. John Flames red (away) uniform; they were the Calgary Flames' AHL affiliate at the time, who had picked him with the 41st overall pick in 1991.

The defenseman had two decent seasons in St. John, going 8-14-22 with 49 PIMs in 73 games in his rookie season, and had an impressive 6-34-40 harvest in 65 games before the Flames traded his rights to the Québec Nordiques. He had a goal and two assists in 8 games with their AHL affiliates - the Cornwall Aces - and another 2-7-9 in 16 playoff games, yet they didn't retain his services, probably because he finished his season well into the minuses despite his fine offensive statistics.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jochen Hecht Autograph Card

Freshly retired from the NHL, Jochen Hecht plans to finish out his professional career the same way he started it:playing for the Mannheim Eagles in Germany.

A former second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, Hecht became a regular 50-point producer for the Buffalo Sabres for the first decade of the new century. He represented Germany at the World Juniors and the Olympics. He was the second German-born player to captain an NHL team when the Sabres, in yet another display of lack of direction, had a rotating captaincy for the 2007-08 season.

I assume this card shows him wearing Germany's uniform at the 1996 World Juniors:
It is card #8 in Signature Rookies' 1995-96 Draft 96 set of signed cards to be inserted in packs of random brands/random pack cubes, and was signed in skinny blue sharpie, and is numbered 4207/4500. He was an honest, hard-working, moderately talented top-6 winger in his day.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hannu Toivonen 8X10 Autograph Card

A former first-round pick of the Boston Bruins (29th overall in 2002), Hannu Toivonen was chosen ahead of Duncan Keith (53rd), Johnny Boychuk (61st), Matthew Lombardi (90th), Valtteri Filppula (95th), Maxime Talbot (234th), Dennis Wideman (241st) and Jonathan Ericsson (291st).

He played 61 games over the course of 3 seasons in the NHL, with a 18-24-10 record, a 3.37 GAA and a .890 save percentage. After years in the AHL farm teams of the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, Toivonen returned to Europe in 2011, only to come back in North America (in the ECHL) because his team ran into some financial problems.

He can be seen here in the Bruins' white uniform:
It's an 8x10 picture/card from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits (the Signature Portraits sub-set, #SP-HT). I had initially found a copy in a pack, but as I was sorting through my things, I seemed to have lost it; to replace it, I purchased this one off Ebay for... $1.25.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Alexandre Volchkov Autograph card

It's been a while, eh? Sorry, I've been really busy at work, and my childhood friend is jailed in Russia, so I kind of have to play news reporter to our other friends...

But back to the reason I'm writing this, Alexandre Volchkov, the player the Washington Capitals chose with the 4th-overall pick in the 1996 draft ahead of such players as Jonathan Aitken (8th), Ruslan Salei (9th), Josh Holden (12th), Dainius Zubrus (15th), Marco Sturm (20th), Daniel Brière - yes that one - (24th), Jan Bulis (43rd), Mathieu Garon (44th), Zdeno Chara (56th) annd Pavel Kubina (179th). Ok, so it wasn't that deep a draft, and the few stars that did emerge were almost-accidents, but Volchkov is nonetheless considered a ''bust'' by most standards.

He had lit up the OHL a bit by accumulating 82 points in 56 games with the Barrie Colts (by comparison, though, Bulis had 102...), but he wasn't part of the league's top-10 in any category...

The card I'm featuring does show him wearing the Colts black (away) uniform, though the team's logo has been airbrushed off for copyright issues:
Here's how I described this set from The Score Board in this post about Joe Thornton:
The card is an insert, signed in blue sharpie, from the 1997-98 The Score Board collection. The way TSB worked, essentially, was they would purchase packs of cards like you and I, from all the other manufacturers, sell the valuable cards to hobby shops and repackage the rest in new packs combining those of all brands (but inevitably more of those they got for cheaper, like Pro Set or Parkhurst), and adding signed inserts of prospects from Canadian junior leagues and American colleges to 'up' the value of their packs.
And so it is that we have this Volchkov card signed in blue charpie. Awesome penmanship for a guy with just 3 NHL games on his resume, though he was still playing professionally in the vicinity of Russia in 2010 (I have no idea where he could be these days, since even Hockey DB stopped listing his statistics in 2003).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Michael Barrett Autographed Card

Michael Barrett was a great hitter. He set high school records with a .624 batting average, then went on to be named the 7th-best hitter in the Gulf Coast league before coasting through the Montréal Expos' farm system, eventually earning a roster spot in 1999 , at 22 years old.

He could be counted upon for 10-15 home runs, 25-30 doubles, 50-60 RBIs and a batting average over .250 in the majors; he won the Silver Slugger award in 2005 as a member of the Chicago Cubs although it wasn't his best season - he hit .276 that year which was only his fourth-best showing, as he once even batted for .307; he had 61 RBIs compared to 65 the year before; it was one of three straight seasons in which he hit 16 homers; and his 117 hits were only his 4th-best career total.

He wasn't one of the greatest of all time, and he never played in more than 134 games, but he was dependable until injuries started taking their toll. That, and he had a temper, having gotten into fights with opponents as well as teammates.

The following card is from Topps' 1996 Bowman set (card #249), clearly stating on the front of the card it's his first Bowman card (he wouldn't make his MLB debut until the end of the 1998 campaign):
That leads me to believe the signature on it (in blue sharpie) is likely from 2000 or 2001, when I had almost stopped paying attention to baseball but would have taken my little brother to the Olympic Stadium to give him a taste of what my childhood had been like (we have a 12-year difference).

As a matter of fact, he gave me all of his cards last Spring, and this one was in the lot. And since I don't actually remember getting it signed, chances are they're from a batch that he got signed on one of our outings. It matches all the other signatures I've seen, just more tightly squished and less rehearsed; I guess he was still feeling it out.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers Autographed Card

In a battle with Devan Dubnyk for a roster spot with the Edmonton Oilers since 2007, the team made the tough decision to part ways with Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers - their second-round, 31st overall pick of 2002 - leaving him to pursue free agency in 2011.

He opted for the Anaheim Ducks, but with Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth well in place, they sent him to the Minnesota Wild last April. However, with Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, both of their roster spots are taken as well.

It also marks the third NHL franchise he's a part of where there is another lefty ahead of him on the depth chart, Mathieu Garon having held that position in Edmonton.

This card is is from In The Game's 2007-08 Between The Pipes set (card #17, the Future Stars sub-set); it shows him playing for the Springfield Falcons in the AHL:
Ironically, I also have Dubnyk's signed.

JDD's a fine talent, and he has shown flashes of greatness at the NHL level, usually followed by long bouts of difficulties. If he can work on his consistency a bit, he might have a future as a back-up, if not, perhaps Europe will come calling. Then again, consistency goes both ways: if he could have some stability rather than keep moving from league-to-league and franchise-to-franchise, maybe that would help. In the one season he stayed in the NHL, he managed a respectable 3.26 GAA and .901 save percentage in 48 games - with an Oilers team that went 27-47-8, no less, a last-place team that scored over 100 goals less than the league's best and whose leading scorer - I repeat: LEADING SCORER - was Dustin Penner, followed by two guys who played less than 70 games. With eight players at -18 or worse.

I had sent him this card in 2009 or 2010, care of the Oilers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2012-13 Upper Deck Series 1 Blaster Box Break

I saw this at the drugstore earlier tonight and was so excited about finding hockey cards there I didn't even bother to check what year they were from... I was hoping for some of Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1, but instead purchased a blaster box of 2012-13 Series 1, for $24 (or $2 a pack). Oops.

The box has 10+2 bonus packs, which in normal human terms means 12. Each pack has 5 cards, for a grand total of 60. I'd rather look at it as ''$2 a pack'' than what it actually is... ''40 cents a card'', which it most certainly is not.

The cards look nice, with terrific photography, as evidenced here with a nice selection of close-up pics, alternate jerseys, action poses, while the player is always very clearly front and center:

Except for this oddly blurry Bian Gionta card:

Here's how it broke down:

Regular cards: 53

Young Guns (Rookies): 2

Checklist: 1

UD Canvas: 1

MVP (which used to be a set of its own): 2

Silver Skates (foil): 1

Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 2 (including the Gionta, plus Lars Eller)

Unless I hear from anyone interested, I'll be putting the ''hits'' on Ebay next weekend, since none of them are cards I really feel I need in my collection, except perhaps the Patrice Bergeron canvas, but someone who's actively collecting the set would definitely have better use for it than me.