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.