Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kirk Muller Autograph Card

The Carolina Hurricanes stand at 2-3-0 to start the season, good for 12th in the East. We'll see how things pan out, but I have to say Kirk Muller didn't choose the easiest team to start a coaching career with. Sure, they have decent talent in the system, but on the current team, they have one top line (Eric and Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner), one of the 10 best goalies in the league (former Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward) and offensive defenseman Joe Corvo, but little depth; should injuries occur, they'll be more or less sending out an AHL team to compete against NHLers.

Captain Kirk knows his way around the game, though. He was almost a #1 overall draft pick (he fell second to Mario Lemieux), captained two teams (the New Jersey Devils for many years, and the Montréal Canadiens temporarily, part of the 4 guys who got to wear the C between Guy Carbonneau and Saku Koivu between 1994 and 1999), won two Stanley Cups (Habs and Dallas Stars) and nearly scored 1000 points - he was stopped at 959, in 1349 games, to go with his 66 points in 110 playoff games. He has also participated in 6 All-Star Games, and represented Team Canada six times, be it at the World Juniors (1984), Olympics (1984) and World Championships (1985, 19856, 1987 and 1989) as well as made the NHL team at Rendez-Vous '87.

This is a signed insert from Pinnacle Brands' 1997-98 Pinnacle Be A Player (card #121). I sent Muller 4 cards when he was the Habs' assistant coach three years ago, and never got them back, so I was happy to pull one of these last year, although he's obviously wearing the Florida Panthers' white (home) jersey, not one I mostly identify him with...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Matt Stajan: 5 Autographed Items

There are many things I don't get about Matt Stajan, and they all have to do with other people's perceptions of him.

I don't understand Leaf fans who thought he was a top-line center (although those expectations can come from being a second-round pick), and I don't get Calgary fans who think he's a disappointment.

I've always seen him as a reliable second-liner, a better passer than scorer (he's never scored more than 16 goals, but gotten at least 14 five different times) who, when playing with average players, can get 30-some points, and can reach 50 when surrounded with better talent, say filling in for an injured player, or getting good powerplay minutes.

It may have been unfair to him to have been the key player going back to the Calgary Flames when the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for Dion Phaneuf, but that's not his fault, and in his defense, Phaneuf's stock value had fallen somewhat.

I'd sent Stajan 5 cards on March 19th, 2012 - he kept two and signed the rest in black sharpie, adding the correct jersey number on each card - 14 with the Leafs, 18 with the Flames - but he also signed both of the insert cards I included to protect the cards, so I still ended up with 5 signed items, so all's good.

Here are the cards he sent back, first with the Leafs:

From Upper Deck's 2005-06 SP Authentic set (card #95), sporting the white (home) jersey they spent most of the 2000s in (with the TML on the shoulders):
And from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Victory set (card #180), the third jersey from a few seasons ago, with the stylized leaf crest:
Finally, one with the Flames, from Panini's 2010-11 Score (card #103):
The Flames' white (away) uniform - as seen here - is one of the few where the piping doesn't make me gag. Part of that's probably due to its only being subtle on the sleeves, leaving the chest well alone. I also dig the team's 30th anniversary logo on the chest.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guillaume Latendresse Jersey Card

Guillaume Latendresse is a polarizing figure in the NHL, and in Montréal especially. Drafted by the Montréal Canadiens in the second round in 2005, expectations were high on the kid, and only raised higher when during his first training camp, at age 18, he was the best player on the ice for the Habs, prompting the adoring Centre Bell crowd to chant ''Gui, Gui, Gui'' every time he touched the puck. He was sent back to juniors that year, mostly so he could learn to dominate at that level and to have a chance at the World Juniors (he won gold), but made the team the following season.

I've talked about his first year with the Minnesota Wild in a previous post, so I'll have a quick mention for his injury-plagued final two seasons with that team: in 2010-11, suffering from a sports hernia and a torn labium in the hip, he played in only 11 games, gathering 6 points to go with 8 penalty minutes and a +2 rating; in 2011-12, he played in 16 games, scoring 5 goals and totaling 9 points with another hip injury and concussion problems. The Wild let him go, but his points-per-game ration was still good for third on the team for players with more than 10 games played.

This summer, he was picked up by the Ottawa Senators, and I predicted the team would finish second in their division and be well positioned for the playoffs, and added that I thought 'Tender' would be one of ten 25-goal scorers this season - my reasoning is that it's easier to carry momentum in a 48-game schedule than 82... On a team with such sublime passers as Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris, pure snipers like Latendresse can do a lot of damage to opposing teams.

I saw this card going for $3.99 on Ebay a couple of weeks ago and couldn't help myself. It's from In The Game's 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set (card #GUJ-28), and contains a white swatch of jersey that was used in a Drummondville Voltigeurs game.

Friday, January 25, 2013

4 Gord Murphy Autographed Cards

It's a long-belated post, because while I sent Gord Murphy these four cards on April 11th, 2012, he not only sent them back, signed in black sharpie, on May 16th, but also signed an insert card, which I have misplaced. I wanted to write about all the items at once, but now I'm afraid it might take forever...

Murphy is one of those relatively unlucky players that defied expectations (he was a 9th-round pick, 189th overall) to become the top offensive defenseman of three different teams, yet will never gain support for the Hall Of Fame, while similar players (Larry Murphy, for one) have been elected.

The Philadelphia Flyers, who drafted him, were the first beneficiaries of his talent, and he was good for some 40 points per season while he was there, but they traded him to the Boston Bruins midway through the 1991-92 season, essentially for Garry Galley, another offensive defenseman.

These cards were from that period, first in the home uniform, from Score's 1992-93 Score (French Canadian Version), card #29 in the set - notice some corners are dented; those are the risks of sending through the mail:
Also, the away (black) jersey the Bruins wore for most of my youth, from Pro Set's 1992-93 Parkhurst (French Canadian Version), card #227 in the series:
As the 1992-93 season brought injuries into the mix, Murphy was left unprotected for the expansion draft, and swiftly chosen by the Florida Panthers, with whom he spent 6 seasons, including a Cup run in 1996 that ended in a 4-game sweep by the Colorado Avalanche. Of this period I sent these two cards, both of him wearing the team's white (home) uniform, first from Pinnacle Brands' 1994-95 Pinnacle set (card #141):
And also this card, #161 in the series, from Donruss' 1995-96 Donruss set:
In 1999, the Panthers traded him to the Atlanta Thrashers where he played 85 games over two seasons before going back to finish his career with the Bruins for 15 games in 2001-02.

These days, he's back in the Panthers' organization as an assistant coach, which is where I sent these cards; he's helping turn Dmitri Kulikov into a top young NHL point man.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Alex Tanguay Jersey Card

I wrote about another Alex Tanguay jersey card two and a half years ago, when he had just returned to the Calgary Flames. Since then, he's had a 22-goal, 69-point campaign in 2010-11 (in 79 games), and 49 points in 64 games last year. He has also scored a goal so far tonight.

He is three assists short of 500 in his career, and has 59 points in 98 career playoff games - and I predicted that the Flames would make them this year, so I'm guessing he'll be adding to that total. With the Flames, he's 1-7-8 in 13 playoff games.

This card (#FF-AT in the series) is from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Ice set, one I eagerly await every year. It and Artifacts are the two best-looking hockey sets ever made, and improve each year. The white jersey swatch is guaranteed to have been used in an NHL game.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Christian Proulx Autographed Card

I mentioned this card in a recent Brent Bilodeau post detailing a trip to Albany to watch an AHL playoff game with my family when I was 16.

Christian Proulx was drafted in the seventh round by the Montréal Canadiens in 1992 (164th overall), after averaging half a point per game to go with his 3-plus penalty minutes per game; I really thought he'd be a mainstay on defense with the Habs for a while, but he only ended up playing 7 games for them (and in the NHL in total), all in 1993-94, going 1-2-3 with 20 PIMs, keeping pretty much the same pace in the NHL as in juniors, stats-wise.

Until 2006-07, he would jump from league to league, country to country, in the hopes of securing full-time employment playing hockey, from the AHL to the IHL to Italy to Germany - first and second divisions - to the QSMHL to the LNAH. From 1994-95 to 2007, he played for no less than 12 different teams.

I saw a few of the games he played for the Laval Chiefs in the LNAH near the end of his career and think I got some cards signed then as well, but I couldn't get a hold of them so far; I'm keeping an eye out, for sure.

This card, from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set (card #8) was signed in blue sharpie. He added his jersey number (3) to the signature.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Guy Hebert Autograph Card

I'm preparing for two hockey pool drafts (a keeper in its second year tomorrow, a one-season deal on Saturday), and my 2013 predictions for my regular blog, and I have to say I don't think the Anaheim Ducks will be making the playoffs this year, which doesn't bode well for my keeper pool, seeing as I have both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in it...

But it got me thinking about this Guy Hebert card from In The Game's 1999-00 Be A Player Millenium Signature Series (card #5) - yes, another one from that set - signed in thin black sharpie!
I love Hebert's position in this card, awaiting the shot, focused, looking like a gladiator, his equipment white like his Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim (home) jersey.

Since the Ducks changed their name, we can almost view the Mighty Ducks as either a period of the team's history, or just a different team altogether, and Hebert, to me, pretty much represented the team. Sure, many will point to Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne as the key figures, but Kariya never produced as much without Selanne, who was lucky enough to also have Saku Koivu share to a special bond with.

But Hebert made Team USA 4 times (at the 1990 Goodwill Games, 1994 World Championships, 1996 World Cup and 1998 Nagano Olympics), the NHL All-Star team and, most importantly, had a character named after him in the short-lived animation TV series.

Also, apart from his first 37 NHL games (played with the St. Louis Blues) and last 13 (New York Rangers), he played all of his NHL games in Anaheim.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mike Ricci Autograph Card

I was a big Mike Ricci fan as a teenager, maybe not when he was drafted 4th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1990 leading me to own over 100 copies of his 1990 Score rookie card, but certainly when the Flyers traded him to the Québec Nordiques with half a team for crybaby Eric Lindros.

The Nordiques being my favourite team, I saw a lot of Ricci on an up-and-coming team featuring Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Ron Tugnutt, and my heart followed them when the team became the Colorado Avalanche and won the Stanley Cup.

He was a gritty forward with a knack for scoring important goals, but when the Avs traded him to the San Jose Sharks - essentially for a draft pick that became Alex Tanguay - he added the title of ''reliable two-way forward'' to his resume. He helped make the Shalks perennial contenders for the new millenium, with the help of Nolan and Vincent Damphousse, of course. Speaking of which, this is a signed insert from In the Game's 1999-00 Be A Player Millennium Signature Series (card #216), signed in skinny black sharpie; seeing as I knew I'd write about this set when I stumbled upon some of the cards I already owned from it during the Holidays, I couldn't pass this one up when I saw it at $2 shipping included on Ebay. It's my only Ricci memorabilia, though, so maybe I'll write to him this winter, seeing as he's back into the Sharks' organization as an advisor nowadays.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

April Scott Autograph Card

Time for a bit of a break from the hockey with another model / actress card, this time from April Scott, holding a pink baseball. I'm sure she'd get in the Hall Of Fame ahead of Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds...

This card is from Benchwarmer's 2012 National set, signed in black sharpie, manufactured at only 99 cases (12 boxes per case, 10 cards per box) for the 2012 National Sports Collectors' Convention held in Baltimore.

The picture on the front is very tasteful, and it's the picture on the back, surprisingly, that is the most sexy/sexual. I guess I've become an April Scott collector over the years, so I won't complain.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Two Stéphane Fiset Autograph Cards

In keeping with yesterday's theme of Los Angeles Kings goalies, I'll feature Stéphane Fiset today, one of my favourite goalies of the 1990s.

I was lucky enough to pull autographs of his in packs of successive seasons of cards; the packs were purchased on Ebay at two bucks apiece, and opened within weeks of one another, last summer. Both are signed in black sharpie and made of black/silver foil.

First, wearing the Kings' white (home) jersey, from In The Game's 1998-98 Be A Player Signature Series (card #214):

And, second, from ITG's 1999-00 Be A Player Millenium Signature Series (card #119), here he is wearing the Kings' black (away) uniform:

Both cards show his usual butterfly stance, his center of gravity very low (I always had the impression he was trying to sit on the back of his skates when I was watching him), but playing ''wide'' and taking up a lot of left-to-right prime real estate.

I didn't follow him that closely with the Kings, for a variety of reasons ranging from a lack of interest in the sport in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the fact that I'm on the East Coast and he was on the West - time zone differences, plus not all games were available to all regions back then - and because I was mostly interested in the Québec Nordiques / Colorado Avalanche franchise he was no longer a part of.

But from 1990 to 1996, I saw over a hundred of his games and was rooting for him with all of my heart.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jamie Storr Autograph Card

I was sorting through my cards while reading in the paper about Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick's recovery from a pre-season operation when I came across one from their previous saviour in nets, Jamie Storr.

I talked about Storr extensively in a past post, so I won't repeat the same thing here about the only goalie in history to win 5 gold medals for Canada before playing a single NHL game - U-17 (1991), under-18 (1992), World Juniors (1994 and 1995) and World Championships (1994) - but I will say this: no goalie was ever among the best of his profession while wearing Heaton equipment; true stars went with the brand's higher-grade product, Brian's, not that it explains why Storr was bigger in Europe than in North America, but it's a bizarre coincidence.

I like that he signed this 1999-00 Be A Player Millenium Signature Series card (#123 in the set) by In The Game on the pad; the black sharpie contrasts well with the pad's white leather, whereas it would have been invisible anywhere else on the card because of its dark foil background (reminiscent of Upper Deck's Black Diamond sets) and the Kings' black uniform.

Other fun fact about this card: it says on the back it's Storr's ''First Signature Card'':
I guess it's BAP/ITG's way of making up for not having been there early enough to have him get a rookie card. I really like the action shots, too, especially the one on the back.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Brent Bilodeau Autographed Card

Right before my stint in the hospital, I mentioned in this post about Brent Bilodeau that I had an in-person autographed card of him lying somewhere... Well I found it!

The signature is pretty similar to the one on the other card, except this time around he included his jersey number (5). The fact that he signed it in blue sharpie complements the Fredericton Canadiens' (the Habs' then-AHL affiliate) red uniform very well, and adds pizazz to this card from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects card, number 58 in the set.

I got this signed during the 1994-95 AHL Finals, on a trip to the capital of New York (State), when the Albany River Rats beat the Canadiens. Many of the Habs' prospects were eager to sign, surprised they got recognized on the road. I remember getting Craig Ferguson, Yves Sarault, Scott Fraser, Christian Proulx and a few others to sign, I'll have to look for those...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Alexander Radulov Autographed Team Postcard

Ah, the enigmatic Alexander Radulov! Like fellow Russian Alexei Kovalev, he has all the talent in the world, but has trouble not igniting controversy.

He came to the Québec Remparts of the LHJMQ to get acquainted with the North American style of play (and a higher draft position) while in Juniors, and he posted a 75-point season as a rookie (in 65 games) in 2004-05, but what knocked everything out of the park and led to unbelievable expectations towards him was his sophomore season, where he scored 61 goals and got 91 assist for 152 points in 62 games (an additional 55 points in 23 playoff games and 9 points in 5 Memorial Cup games as the Remparts won it all that year), leading all Canadian Juniors that year.

He even managed to put together a 50-game scoring streak (second of all time to Mario Lemieux's 62) and to have an 11-point night at some point.

In both of his junior seasons, he won silver at the World Juniors with Team Russia.

After two seasons in the Nashville Predators' system (one spent completely in the NHL, one with an 11-game stint in the AHL), he bolted to the KHL to play with the Ufa Salavat Yulaev, where there is no cap on rookie salaries (he was said to earn roughly $5M per year, tax-free, in Russia). But it wasn't all about the money - he stands as the KHL's all-time leading scorer with 254 points in 210 games (it's a low-scoring league).

As an adult, he's represented his country on many occasions, finishing 6th at the 2010 Olympics, but winning two gold World Championship medals (2008 in front of a loving crowd in Québec, and 2009) and a bronze (2007).

He sparked controversy last season by joining the Preds for the final 9 regular-season games (7 points) after his KHL season ended, thus ''fulfilling'' his rookie contract and no longer being under the ''rookie cap'' of roughly $1M; should he feel like playing in the NHL again, he could ask for a salary similar to the one he gets in the KHL, without having actually played 3 seasons in North America.

Not only that, but he did make headlines after partying too hard with Andrei Kostitsyn and missing a curfew in the playoffs, and was suspended by the team for 2 games. He did manage to gather a team-leading 6 points in 8 playoff games in what was widely considered a disappointing turn.

This team-issued postcard was signed in black sharpie to a reputable collector from Québec City, who traded it to me for a few jersey cards. I'm not sure if he got it during Radulov's run with the Remparts or at the WC, but it was at the Colisée after a game, that's for sure - he has quite a few of these.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jean-François Jomphe Autographed Card

Jean-François Jomphe made the news during the Holidays when he and fellow NHL alumni Rich Costello were arrested after an altercation with ''kids'' at a Jack-in-The-Box after a night out drinking.

Never drafted by an NHL team, Jomphe nonetheless played for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (104 games), Phoenix Coyotes (one game), and Montréal Canadiens (6 games).

But it wasn't during his time with the Habs that I got this card signed - by the time he came around, in 1998-99, the team had long traded the two players I like the most on the team (I was a Québec Nordiques / Colorado Avalanche fan for most of my childhood), the best goalie of all time Patrick Roy and team captain and best defensive player of all time Guy Carbonneau*, the team was a bottom-dweller and I momentarily lost interest in the sport altogether except come playoff time where I followed the Avs and Edmonton Oilers.

So, no, I didn't get this signed in '98-99, but in 1995, while Jomphe was playing with the Canadian National Team; before NHLers were Olympians, Team Canada had a year-round team playing games against other countries, participating in small tournaments and playing against College teams here and there, keeping in shape until the next Games, and I played against them both with my school (the Collège Notre Dame Sabres) and my Midget AAA team (Collège-Français Montréal-Bourassa Canadiens). I didn't bring any cards for the first game (played at my school's rink) mostly because I didn't know who was on that team, but made sure to bring a few at the next one, although many didn't play in both games. Jomphe did, and if memory serves right, I think he was among the team leaders in games played (second), points (third) and penalty minutes (first). He won the bronze medal at the World Championships that year.

He signed it in blue sharpie, adding the jersey number not that he wore on the card (from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set, card #123, showing him with the old IHL's San Diego Gulls), but the one he wore with Canada and, later, with the Ducks. He wore #42 in juniors.

*Who else shut out Wayne Gretzky and a 50-goal scorer in a Stanley Cup Final?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ron Tugnutt Autographed Card

Oh, what a whupping Team Canada suffered at the hands of Team USA early this morning at the World Juniors! Malcolm Subban let in 4 goals on 16 shots before getting pulled, and the Americans won 5-1, securing their spot in the gold medal game against Sweden, while Canada will have to battle Team Russia for the bronze.

Ron Tugnutt is Canada's goalie coach this year, a position he also held in 2010; he holds the same position with the OHL's Peterborough Petes. I have a feeling he'll recommend Jordan Binnington to start Canada's next game, because losing with Subban - who has had 3 sub-par games in the tournament - could reflect badly on all coaches.

Tugnutt - a former member of all the teams I've rooted for in my life, namely the Québec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers and Montréal Canadiens - was one of my favourite goalies. His run with the Ottawa Senators was also impressive, and it was during his time there that he signed this card in blue sharpie for me before a game against the Habs that I attended at the then-Molson Centre (now Bell Centre). It's from Pinnacle Brands' 1993-94 Score (High Numbers/Series Two), which included rookies and players who'd changed uniforms since they appeared in the regular version of the set.

A list of many of his achievements can be found in another post I wrote about him nearly three years ago.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Patrick Traverse Autographed Team Postcard

Patrick Traverse was an honest, hard-working journeyman until he set foot in the Montréal Canadiens' dressing room, where he became a #7 defenseman on a basement-dwelling team. The Habs needed offensive defensemen, and they had a couple of better options ahead of him for that; they needed toughness (still do) and despite his 6'4'', 200-pound frame, he wasn't the meanest out there; so, with the team in need of pretty much everything, the one guy who was cast aside was the dependable defensive-minded defender, and that hurt the rest of his career, because no one wants to hire the guy who wasn't good enough for the worst team in the history of a 100-year old franchise (a "feat" which was surpassed last season).

Prior to playing with the Habs, he'd had successful stints with the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins (and a half-decent stop with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks), but after that, he only played one game with the Dallas Stars in the next 9 seasons, while he dressed for 4 different AHL teams (two stints with the Hamilton Bulldogs), and two teams in Germany, where he's spent the last 3 seasons. He's currently unemployed, perhaps because of the high number of NHLers overseas during the lockout, many of whom are taking a select number of ''foreigner'' spots.

I met him at the Habs' Jamboree before the 2002-03 season, and while we didn't spend much time together, he was nice enough to sign this team postcard in blue sharpie.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ryan Getzlaf Jersey Card

As Team Canada celebrated two victories today - a men's team winning the Spengler Cup in Switzerland and the under-20 team making it to the semi-finals in Ufa by beating Team Russia - I figured I'd feature a card from the national team, and I happened to have purchased this Ryan Getzlaf double-jersey card on Ebay last October. For less than $5, shipping included, I got this superb piece of 2012-13 Artifacts (card #146) by Upper Deck, numbered 91/125.

In person, the swatches are pinkish - my guess is the red faded into the white when they washed it. They're also from last May's World Championships - when Getzlaf captained Canada to a 5th-place finish in Finland, and was involved in a late-night/early morning altercation with some Finnish guys after chatting up Miss Finland (a.k.a. Sara Sieppi):
I usually prefer signed cards over swatches, but this one was too nice to pass up.

I had Getzlaf in all my hockey pools last year. In one, he had no impact as I crushed my uncle and his friends, but in the other, he cost me the victory over many of my musician friends; the musicians' pool was a ''keeper'', so everyone wanted to trade for him assuming hoping he couldn't have two awful seasons in a row - I'm betting the exact same thing.