Friday, January 31, 2014

Luke Richardson Autographed Card

Luke Richardson was chosen in the first round (7th overall) of the 1987 NHL draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, ahead of Joe Sakic (15th), Andrew Cassels (17th), John LeClair (33rd), Jeff Hackett (34th), Éric Desjardins (38th), Mathieu Schneider (44th), Guy Hebert (159th), and Theoren Fleury (166th).

Sarcastic people might say that explains why the Leafs were so bad for so long, foregoing such quality offensive leaders and steady #1 goaltenders in favour of a defensive defenseman, but not only was Richardson one of their better picks of the late 1980s, he was also a true leader, having even captained the Columbus Blue Jackets later in his career.

He played for an astonishing 21 NHL Seasons (surprising not just because it proves his value on the blue line and in the dressing room, but also because of his tough and bruising style of play), during which he played 1417 regular-season games (201 points, 2055 penalty minutes) and 69 playoff games (8 assists, 130 PIMs), during which he came close to a Stanley Cup championship, losing in the Finals, in 1999-2000 with the Philadelphia Flyers.

I got him to sign this card (and another one I can't seem to find at the moment) during the 2007-08 season when he was with the Ottawa Senators, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Parkhurst set (card #463), signed in blue sharpie, representing him with the Leafs' white uniform:
Famously physically tough, he overcame a terrible Dino Ciccarelli clubbing to the head in his rookie season - one which earned Ciccarelli some prison time - but it's his mental toughness and resilience that has shown of late, particularly when his daughter committed suicide in late 2010, which I'm only mentioning to show this video, at a time when mental illness is at the forefront of many social discussions in Québec, Canada, and the U.S.:

Now the head coach of the Binghamton Senators, he is the one mostly responsible for Ottawa's quality NHL youngsters, which he not only helps become better hockey players, but better people, and good human beings. (I really like the string of kids making their way to the Sens' line-up these past couple of years).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jeff O'Neill Autograph Card

Jeff O'Neill played for 11 seasons in the NHL, starting off with the Hartford Whalers (who had chosen him 5th overall in the 1994 draft) in 1995-96, moving along with the team as they became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997-98, and ending with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006-07 under his long-time head coach Paul Maurice, who has coached him in all three uniforms.

All told, he played 821 regular-season games (237 goals, 496 points) and 34 playoff games (9 goals, 17 points), never hitting the point-per-game mark, but with three straight terrific goal-scoring seasons in 2000-01 (41), 2001-02 (31) and 2002-03 (30).

He had had an exceptional junior career with the Guelph Storm, going from 79 points in 65 games in 1992-93 to 126 (in 66 games) the next year and 124 points in only 57 games in 1994-95, which led to his being chosen for All-Star games, such as the one pictured here, pitting the OHL All-Stars versus those of the Québec league (LHJMQ):

Both teams are wearing uniforms inspired by those of the New Jersey Devils. The card is from Classic's 1993-94 4 Sport set, signed in blue sharpie, and numbered #1716/3000.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brian Rolston Autograph Card

Last April, one of the most complete forwards of his time - though never a star per se, despite his one All-Star Game appearance and multiple Team USA nominations - announced his retirement: Brian Rolston.

Rolston has a Stanley Cup (in 1994-95 with the New Jersey Devils) and a World Cup (1996) to go with World Junior bronze (1992), World Championship bronze (1996) and Olympic silver (2002). He was near the point-per-game plateau only once (in 2005-06 with the Minnesota Wild, where he tallied 79 points in 81 games) but reached the 30-goal plateau 4 times in six seasons between 2001-02 and 2007-08.

A fine team player, he captained the Wild four times back when they would rotate the title.

I really like this card, from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set (card #230 in silver foil), signed on-card in black sharpie:
It depicts him wearing the Devils' white then-home uniform, ready to accept a pass in the offensive zone.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rob Blake Jersey Card

At the turn of the century, there was a proliferation of brands making hockey cards and each one had their gimmick to entice you, and jersey card inserts were the norm, so much so that any type of jersey became a fall-back when game-worn ones weren't available, such as this Paul Kariya practice jersey card I featured in 2010...

This time, it's a Rob Blake jersey card, from a very specific type of practice:
Yes, it's from Team Canada's pre-Olympic summer orientation camp, before their 2002 Salt Lake City gold medal win. Then why did they show Blake wearing the Colorado Avalanche's blue and burgundy away uniform on the front of the card?
The card is from In The Game's 2003-04 Be A Player Memorabilia set (card #PMP-6 of the Practice Makes Perfect sub-set).

I have no doubt Blake will be inducted in the Hall Of Fame next year, as the former Triple Gold Club (Olympic gold, World Championship gold, Stanley Cup), Norris winner, who has played in 6 All-Star Games and been on 4 end-of-season All-Star teams - one First Team, three Second Team - as well as captained two different teams, has a resume many currently in the Hall could only aspire to.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Darren Daulton Autographed Card

Darren Daulton was the Philadelphia Phillies' starting catcher from 1989 to 1995, though he started his career with them in 1983. He represented the team in three All-Star Games: in 1992, 1993 and 1995.

Starting in 1994, however, injuries became a constant in his career, and the Phillies sent him to the Florida Marlins in 1997, with whom he won the World Series, then announced his retirement.

He has had his problems with the law, often being found guilty of DUI, refusing to take breathalizer tests and driving without a license. He also faced domestic violence charges with his second wife, who has since divorced him.

He had two tumors removed from his brain last summer, and it looks like he'll be alright.

I got him to sign this card from me in blue sharpie, probably in 1995 or 1996 (I only carried black ones or pens before then):

It's from Fleer's 1991 Fleer set (card #393), a simple yet effective design, and shows him wearing the Phillies' grey (away) uniform, in a standing position, throwing the ball back to his pitcher after an out or a walk I was always impressed with how neat and airy his signature is..

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jake Deadmarsh Autograph Card

A seventh-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks (164th overall in 1996), Jake Deadmarsh didn't have the most impressive junior career, even for a defenseman, with 2 goals, 12 assists (14 points) and 159 penalty minutes in 95 games over 4 seasons with three different teams in the WHL.

This card, from Signature Rookies' 1995-96 Draft Day insert set of autographed cards (card #9 in the set) found in a re-packaged box and ''limited'' to 4500 (it's card #572 in that line), shows him wearing the Seattle Thunderbirds' blue (away) uniform, though their logo has been airbrushed out for copyrights issues:
If you're curious, here's what their logo looks like (yes, it's pretty much a copy of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks...)
The Thunderbirds have been steady providers of professional hockey talent through the years, though, counting among their alumni such players as Glenn Anderson and Ken Daneyko (back when the team was called the Seattle Breakers), Glen Goodall, Petr Nedved, Patrick Marleau, Brooks Laich, Jan Hrdina, Shawn Chambers, Brent Fedyk, Wade Flaherty, Jon Klemm, Chris Osgood, Mark Parrish, Oleg Saprykin, Cory Sarich, Corey Schwab, and Brendan Witt.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Andrei Markov Autograph Card

And now the final card in my trade with Kyle, the most consistent NHL defenseman of the past decade not named Nicklas Lidstrom (and my favourite), Andrei Markov:
It's from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Be A Player set (card #S-AM of the Signatures sub-set) and shows him wearing the Montréal Canadiens' white (away) uniform, with the team's Centennial patch on the right shoulder.

I've featured him twice before, so I won't dwell on his past so much, but I will say that after two seasons of just about not playing due to injury, he came back with a vengeance last year, dominating on the blue line and helping teammate P.K. Subban get his hands on the Norris trophy and earning the nickname ''The General'' from head coach Michel Therrien.

In fact, Markov specializes in making his partners look great (and earn huge paychecks), as he has done with Sheldon Souray (who broke a team record for powerplay goals by a defenseman from The General's perfect set-up passes) to Mike Komisarek to Mark Streit (who was often a healthy scratch or even used as a forward before Markov's passes made him a powerplay specialist). Subban's just the latest.

The General will even get to play in the Olympics in his home country in a couple of weeks, as he'll be Russia's leader on the blue line. He'll probably need some rest eventually, as he's currently playing the most minutes in his career - unless that's a ploy by Therrien to help Canada by tiring its opponents (he's also using Czech captain Tomas Plekanec a whole lot against the other teams' best forwards, and is not doing much to wake up American Olympian Max Pacioretty, in the midst of a long cold streak)...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jacques Lemaire Jersey Card

Part 6 of 7 of my trade with Kyle; after Georges Laraque, Marcel Dionne, Simon Gagné, Jeremy Roenick and Mike Ribeiro... here's Hall Of Famer Jacques Lemaire! It won't count in my Habs Numbers Project, though, because I already have autographed cards of a #25, Vincent Damphousse.

But there is no question Lemaire was a bigger figure in hockey history. First off, he made it into the Hall in 1984, and was among the three best centermen in the whole NHL in the 1970s, with Phil Esposito and Jean Ratelle. He centered the most potent line of the decade with 60-goal men on each wing in Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt, with whom he won no less than 8 Stanley Cups as a player and two more as assistant GM (1986 and 1993); he is one of only five players in NHL history to score two Cup-winning goals. He also spent his entire playing career with the Montréal Canadiens, which is cool.

Then there's his coaching career. He is widely regarded as one of the best coaches of all time, probably behind Scotty Bowman, but likely on par with Toe Blake. While he only won one Cup as head coach (1994-95, with the New Jersey Devils), his neutral-zone trap redefined hockey and is still in use in today's NHL. He won the Jack Adams trophy twice, was an assistant coach on an Olympic gold-winning Team Canada in 2010, and only had three seasons under .500 (usually flirting with a .600 record or better), two of them being the two inaugural of the then-expansion team Minnesota Wild.

He definitely helped deflate the myth that great players cannot make great coaches (also see: Blake, Toe).

All these reasons are why I was more than happy to get my hands on this 2013-14 Series 1 card by Upper Deck (from the UD Game Jersey sub-set, card #GJ-JL), showing him wearing the Habs' mythical red (then-away) jersey:
The swatch, however, is white, but look at that mesh closely, really from an old, warm, knit jersey. Like the Dionne card, it bears a beyond-the-grave guarantee by UD CEO Richard P. McWilliam that the memorabilia is authentic:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mike Ribeiro Autographed Postcard

Part 5 of 7 of my trade with Kyle, after Georges Laraque, Marcel Dionne, Simon Gagné and Jeremy Roenick... here's another one of Mike Ribeiro!

Long-time readers know I usually classify him in my top-5 passing NHL centers because, like Sidney Crosby and Jason Spezza, he can make a tape-to-tape pass to a moving player diagonally in the offensive zone between six pairs of skates - and does so on a nightly basis.

He still does, despite now being with the Phoenix Coyotes, with whom he is not only in a four-way tie in points lead at 34 in 50 games as of today, but also third-most in goals with 12, behind only fellow centermen Antoine Vermette (15), Martin Hanzal (14) and center-winger Shane Doan (14)... which means he is setting up pretty much nobody who can score in an empty net.

In my fantasy team, he would be the powerplay center, paired with an equally adept passer on defense (Andrei Markov comes to mind), a top-level sniper (such as Alexander Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos would be ideal but James Neal and Mike Cammalleri would also work) and a booming shot from the point (like P.K. Subban or Zdeno Chara). With those four, it wouldn't matter who else was with them, but a big physical presence who can score garbage goals would be ideal (think Milan Lucic, Alexandre Burrows or even Ryan Smyth).

In the real world, though, Kyle sent me this team-issued postcard of his days with the Dallas Stars:
It does show him making one of his magical passes (and his smug face about to self-congratulate with a smug and arrogant smile) right through Jassen Cullimore of the Chicago Blackhawks and is from the team's 2006-07 Postcard set. It's creased on one side, probably because it's traveled through the mail more than we have in our lives from one collector to the next, and now it's in my hands.

Though he's been replaced by the almost-equally magical Tomas Plekanec (who adds a near-perfect defensive acumen to his resume that Ribeiro lacks), we still miss him in Montréal, as can be attested by the cheers every time he comes and destroys the Montréal Canadiens at the Bell Centre and is presented as one of the game's three stars...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jeremy Roenick Autographed Card

Part 4 (of 7) of my trade with Kyle... today, one of the best American-born players of all time, Jeremy Roenick.

Roenick finished his career with 513 goals, 703 assist and 1216 points in 1363 regular-season NHL games (plus 23-69-122 in 154 playoff games) and 1463 penalty minutes. That's pretty much a point and a penalty minute per game, and he ranks 6th in assists among American-born players, and second in goals behind Mike Modano.

He has three 100-point seasons, two 50-goal ans two more 40-goal seasons under his belt to go with two silver medals (1991 Canada Cup and 2002 Olympics) and 9 All-Star Games, neither of which were enough for Patrick Roy to hear him with though, as Roy's then-two Stanley Cups were plugging his ears:

Is Roenick Hall Of Fame material? I don't know. He's certainly USA Hockey Hall Of Fame-worthy, but his lack of hardware and no Cup, combined with the fact that he was not a dominating player for any stretch: his 1992-93 season where he garnered 50 goals and 107 points in 84 games were 53 behind Mario Lemieux who had played in only 60 games; Adam Oates had garnered 97 assists alone that season, while two different players (Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny) each had 76 goals. But if Mats Sundin can get in...

The card Kyle sent me is from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set (card #334) and features him wearing the Los Angeles Kings' black and purple uniform:
It's signed in black sharpie (with what seems like an amalgam of the jersey numbers he has worn, 27 and 97) and has lived to tell the tale, with all four corner dinged (I don't mind that on my autos, I feel it gives them life). It's unclear if the autograph was initially acquired in person or by mail and by whom, but I've compared it to others and it is definitely legit. And a fine piece to add to my collection.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Simon Gagné Jersey Card

After taking the time to honour a model who's no longer with us, I now return to my trade with Kyle, with part three, this Simon Gagné swatch card:
It's from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Ice set (card #FF-SG of the Frozen Fabrics sub-set) and contains two bent corners (top-left and bottom-left) and two creases near the swatch as well as a few scratches in the middle, which Kyle says is how he got them through a re-pack.

Gagné is shown wearing the Philadelphia Flyers' then-home black uniform, with the associate captain's 'A'. He has achieved a lot as a Flyer, with two 40-goal seasons (including a career-high 47 in 2005-06) and two more 30-goal seasons, twice winning the team MVP award (the Bobby Clarke trophy) and playing in two All-Star Games.

His best playoff point-per-game average was in 2010-11 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, though, when he tallied 12 points in 15 games; he also won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2011-12 before returning to the Flyers halfway through the following season.

He was also led to believe the Flyers would sign him this summer, but that didn't happen, and all the teams he refused to sign with in the meantime have since filled their rosters with rookies and grinders while he is left to practice with his junior team, the Québec Remparts.

He has represented Team Canada five times, winning gold at the 1999 World Juniors and the 2002 Olympics, as well as the 2004 World Cup and silver at the 2005 World Championships.

He is one game short of his 800th regular-season NHL game, and stands at 288 goals, 309 assists and 597 points, plus his 59 points (37 goals) in 109 playoff games.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cassandra Lynn (Hensley) Autograph Card

R.I.P. Cassandra Lynn Hensley, who died two nights ago following an evening where cocaine and champagne were consumed after a time of not feeling well. She was 34 and leaves behind a daughter.

I didn't know the February 2006 Playboy Playmate Of The Month, but I do know models who did, and this has come as a shock to two of them in particular.

Her Twitter account still updates with her automatic daily horoscope, and the one published just hours after her death turns out to be eerie in retrospect:
Unspoken obligations prevent you from doing what you wish today. No matter what you do now, you might not feel completely fulfilled. Working harder isn't the answer, but neither is escape.
As a tribute, here is a card I got in a box of Benchwarmer's 2006 Holiday cards, an autographed insert (#15 of 16):

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Marcel Dionne Swatch Card

As part two of my trade with Kyle, to make up for the fact that I didn't get a jersey card in my 2013-14 Upper Deck Series 1 box break (and because I sent my Nathan MacKinnon Young Guns card his way), he provided me with this ''hit'' from the same set by Upper Deck, a Marcel Dionne UD Game Jersey card (card #GJ-DI):
(the waves on the picture are from the penny sleeve, not the card's design, though that could have been a cool look)
It features a purple swatch, the same colour as the picture on the card (not always a given), and UD's Richard P. McWilliam tells us it was certified to them as having been used in an official game, which is just a tad odd/morbid, considering he died in January 2013 and this is a card from 2013-14, so it couldn't have been manufactured before July or August... but stranger things have happened at Upper Deck.

At least they showed him wearing the Los Angeles Kings' uniform, where he spent most of his Hall Of Fame career after an uneventful start with the Detroit Red Wings and doing the typical All Star thing and playing his last couple of decent-but-sub-par seasons with the New York Rangers (as have Doug Harvey, Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky and so many others).

But Dionne is truly a great, despite never having won the coveted Stanley Cup: 731 goals and 1771 points in 1348 regular-season games (and 45 points in 49 playoff games), eight 100-point seasons and four more at 90+, two Lady Byng trophies to match his two Lester B. Pearson awards (MVP as chosen by the players), 8 All-Star Games, and a legendary Art Ross trophy won over Gretzky where they were both tied for points (137) but Dionne's goals total was the deciding factor (53 over 51), something The Great One never let happen again - he would score 55 the next year, and the unbelievable record of 92 the following year, in a run of nine straight seasons of over 150 points, including four over 200. Ok, fine, one of those nine was 149 points, but it was in merely 64 games.

Dionne, however, was inducted in the Hall in 1992 alongside Lanny McDonald, Bob Gainey and Wayne Dumart. This is the first time I feature him here, but it is my second collectible of his. My first one is in storage, so that'll have to wait for another time, possibly next summer.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Georges Laraque Autograph Card

I agreed on a trade with fellow blogger and collector Kyle lately that made me part ways with a number of cards I held dear and that, monetary value-wise, may have been lop-sided, but it enabled me to continue two de facto projects: player collections (which I don't really have per se, at least not in the way others do where they collect every possible card, I just try to get mine signed), as well as my Habs Numbers Project (where I want a collectible item - ideally an  autographed card - of players wearing every Montréal Canadiens jersey number possible), which is actually something I'm getting serious about.

Today, I get to knock #17 off that list with this card of Georges Laraque, from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Be A Player collection (card #S-GL of the Signatures sub-set), where he is seen wearing the team's white (away) uniform with the Centennial shoulder patch:
Other notable wearers of jersey #17s include John LeClair, Craig Ludwig, Rene Bourque (who hasn't returned my TTM request), Rod Langway and Benoît Brunet.

Laraque only played parts of two seasons with the Habs to close off an otherwise distinguished career that saw him win the Memorial Cup, and post an astounding winning fights record (from Hockey Fights, I gathered that from 2002-2010, he posted a 51-10-13 fight record, and I didn't have the patience to sort through the other 67 fights to keep counting).

He recently went through a CAT scan to test how his brain may have been affected by all those fights and was the only enforcer to not have a deteriorated brain. Then again, unlike his many opponents, he didn't get hit in the face all that often.

Throughout his career, despite being perhaps the most-feared enforcer of his generation, Laraque was always honest about his job: he didn't particularly enjoy fighting but was aware it was the only way he'd get a job in the NHL - and a job that he believes is essential to the game nonetheless; he also admitted to experiencing fear before each fight and most games, knowing full well that any punch could be potentially dangerous, but his reasoning was ''if I fear them, then I know they fear me''.

He still managed to score 53 goals in 695 NHL games. Fun fact: despite being one of the toughest guys of his era, he never reached 200 PIMs in a single season and ''only'' has 1126 for his career. Well, plus his 72 in the playoffs - in 57 games.

Since retiring from hockey after the Habs sent him home mid-season then bought out his contract, he has become a politician (candidate for the Green Party on the federal level), done a lot of charity work (including taking many trips to and raising money for Haiti) and continued to be an advocate against animal cruelty, for human rights, and a devout vegan. He's also a commentator and contributor for TVA Sports, which will show up to 22 Habs games per year starting next season.

He may get in trouble at times because he speaks a lot faster than he thinks, but he's always honest and genuine, and seems like a really cool guy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Anja Monke: 2 Autographed Postcards

Anja Monke is a German professional golfer who has been a pro since 2004, first on the Ladies European Tour, then the LPGA (from 2008 onwards). Her fist victory was at the 2008 Platz Dubai Ladies Master, where she was the first post-Annika Sörenstam winner. The same year, she also won the Platz Verdiorbis Open de France.

I'm not a huge golf fan, but the only time I do watch it is for the women's game. Honestly, I don't care how many hits it takes to get the ball in the hole, I want to see a competition, emotion, humans trying to out-perform one another, not vaguely distinguishable robots whose caddy can calculate the amount of backspin needed to counter a three-knot wind. And since the rest of the male golf world has caught up to Tiger Woods, the men's game is just a blur of boredom to me, one in which I find myself daydreaming about having a picnic on the grass rather than realizing a sport is occurring on top of it.

But the ladies keep me captivated. They are still pure athletes, uncorrupted by their sponsors, uncompromised by ephemeral fame, the same way tennis players are, like my favourite hockey players are. And Anja Monke is one of my favourites. She can be patient, determined, passionate, relentless and as cunning as a chess master.

I wrote her an email in November, not really expecting anything to happen from it, but I received these two postcards from her during the Christmas break, signed in black sharpie:

They are identical from the back, detailing her date and place of birth and best finishes (though her 2010 victory at Lalla Meryem Cup isn't there, probably because the cards date from 2009 or so). I haven't seen any of her scores since September 2012, either, so she may have retired or taken a break from the sport. I wish her the best, of course.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Guy Lafleur Autographed Biography

There's an expression used nowadays for elite players who are better than other elite players: ''generational talent''. And Guy Lafleur is the last generational skater the Montréal Canadiens have had (though I'm hoping P.K. Subban continues to develop as a leader and proves to be superior to the rest of his class).

But above his Hall Of Fame statistics and spectacular highlight reel-worthy plays, what always set Lafleur apart was his personality. Never content with spewing clichés, you can still count on him to deliver his actual, straightforward opinion on any subject - including the Habs - in any context, be it on the street, in his restaurants, in TV interviews, even at the Bell Centre. Always has, always will, even when he was employed by the team.

And he is always there to speak with fans, have his picture taken with them, signing autographs. I've had a TTM success with him in the past, myself, though this time, I won this autographed biography (authored by his long-time friend and confidante Yves Tremblay) by winning the first half-season of a hockey pool I'm in at Publications Sports:
The signature can be found inside, on the first blank page, as is customary:
It reads ''Amitiés, Guy Lafleur 10'', which literally (usually) means ''friendship'', but in this context is more of a greeting or salutation, or the equivalent of ''best wishes''.

All in all, I'm very delighted to have this book, which I'll read as soon as I'm done with Chris Nilan's autobiography (Fighting Back). For those who need a reminder, Lafleur's resume is quite spectacular:

-560 regular-season goals (518 with the Habs), 58 playoff goals.
-1353 regular-season points (1346 with Montréal, a team record), 134 playoff points (in 128 games).
-six straight 50-goal and 100-point seasons
-holds the Habs team record of 136 points in a single season (1976-77)
-shares team record of 60 goals in a single season (1977-78) with Steve Shutt
-3 Art Ross trophies
-2 Hart trophies
-3 Lester B. Pearson Awards (now Ted Lindsay Trophy) as MVP voted by players
-1977 Conn Smythe trophy (despite playing on a team with 8 Hall Of Famers)
-5 Stanley Cups
-one of three players to play in the NHL after being named to the Hall Of Fame

Truly, an all-time great player and person.