Friday, February 28, 2014

Blake Geoffrion Signed Swatch Card

Last week, I traded away two Adam Henrique cards I really liked (an autograph and a jersey card, plus all other Henriques I got my hands on) to someone who will have a much better use for them, and likely will treasure them much more than I ever could, Dave from Wax Stain Rookie.

In exchange, I received a dozen cards I can't keep my eyes off of, and a few Carey Price inserts. One of those I'm most happy about is this Blake Geoffrion card (sorry about the crooked scan):
It's a two-swatch (one white, one black) card that also has a blue-sharpied sticker autograph, and a clear picture of him wearing the Montréal Canadiens' red (home) uniform, which he was destined to wear. It's from Panini's 2011-12 Rookie Anthology set (card #127 of the Rookie Treasures sub-set, numbered 53/499).

I got a return from him about a year ago and was psyched to have two index cards returned to me (he seemingly kept his Nashville Predators rookie card and four 4x6 pictures I'd sent along), but I found it bizarre when other bloggers started writing about receiving their cards signed. Here I was, an honest and true fan of his, seemingly receiving ''less'' than others... it seemed odd.

But I always keep in mind that everything we do receive is, after all, a gift these players decide to send back to us. That they take time out of their busy schedules to indulge their fans in the first place is quite something. So I never felt jealousy, or disappointment, because it all evens out in the end - some veterans have even sent me way more than what I'd sent them, for instance.

And, like in real life, a trade can manifest itself, sometimes out of the blue. And it did, for this amazing card, which is far better than what I'd sent him. And, really, what do I want more, a card of him with the Preds (no offense to the team that give him his first break), or one of him wearing the Habs' bleu-blanc-rouge, and jersey #57 to boot - combining his grandfather Bernard 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion's #5 with his great-grandfather Howie Morenz' #7?

Habs, of course, all the way.

And so I can scratch his number off of my Habs Numbers Project for real this time, though I must now decide what to do with this card. I's too thick to be contained in the binder where I keep my autographed cards (and it'd be the only one of his there anyway), so I'm thinking of framing it and hanging it on my wall.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bernie Nicholls Autographed Card

Fellow blogger The Iron Lung featured Bernie Nicholls a year and a half ago as part of his 1,000 Point NHL Player Autographs project, and I must have gotten jealous, because when I attended an NHL alumni charity game near Ottawa during last year's lock-out, I brought along pretty much the same card he has, except mine is the regular-issue card and his is the signed insert variant.

First, here's mine:

And here's his, so you know the difference:

They're both from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Parkhurst set (card #82), but the one that came signed in the pack has a part of the front airbrushed out in white to give the player room to sign, whereas I had to erase the coating off of mine myself then track him down for him so sign it.

And did Nicholls ever look good in the Los Angeles Kings' purple and gold (away uniform)!

He was also a point-producing machine, one of eight players to score 70 goals in a season, one of thirteen players to amass 8 points in a single game, a 475-goal, 1209-point man in merely 1127 games from the end of the high-scoring eighties to most of the Dead Puck era, a man who was a point-per-game player with four different teams (almost was with a fifth).

In an odd turn of events, though, despite his 42 goals and 114 points in 118 playoff games, he kind of became the player you trade away to stack up before making a Stanley Cup run, as the Los Angeles Kings sent him to the New York Rangers while mounting the team to first rival the Edmonton Oilers then reach the 1993 Finals (losing to the Montréal Canadiens).

Irony of ironies, the Rangers then traded him to the Oilers for Mark Messier (esssentially) in 1992, gearing up for their own 1994 win. From Edmonton he moved to the New Jersey Devils, with whom he remained until the end of the 1993-94 season, meaning he was with the Chicago Black Hawks the next year when Jersey won theirs.

After Chicago came the San Jose Sharks, then retirement. And because God does not want the Sharks to win, ever, even Nicholls' leaving them didn't bring them any closer to Lord Stanley's Grail.

I chose to feature him today because earlier this week, he joined the former players' lawsuit against the league in regards to concussions. I find it important, regardless of the money settlement (it won't be anywhere close to what the NFL offered its alumni), that we get to the truth about just how much danger the league is hiding from its players, medically, so that all future generations know going in what they face, and assess the risks inherent to their line of work with a clear head - while they can.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ralph Backstrom Autographed Card

As I mentioned when I first started mapping out my Habs Numbers Project in May, I did already have a Ralph Backstrom autographed card I hadn't featured on here yet, thus making his jersey number (6) one less I have to look for in my quest to have a collectible from every number worn by a Habs player (ideally an autographed item).

Backtrom played for the Montréal Canadiens for 12 full seasons, and parts of 15 in total (he played only 5 games in his first two in the NHL, and only 16 games to start out the 1970-71 season after requesting a trade), but was an important player until late in his career.

With the Habs, he played in six All-Star Games and won six Stanley Cups (only three of them coinciding, meaning he was a dominant player for at least nine in total), won the Calder trophy as the league's best rookie in 1958-59, and led the team in scoring with 65 points in 66 games in 1961-62 despite a line-up that included Jean Béliveau and Henri Richard.

He moved from the NHL to the WHA after splitting the 1972-73 season between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Black Hawks, and managed to put up 33 goals and 83 points in 78 games with the Chicago Cougars in 1973-74. In an odd 1975-76 season he started with the Denver Spurs, which turned into the Ottawa Civics for a handful of games mid-way through the season before folding, his rights were sold to the New England Whalers, where he finished the season and played the next one. All in all, for that year with three teams, he had 35 goals and 83 points in 79 games.

All told, he ended his career with 278 goals and 639 points in 1032 NHL regular-season games (and 27-32-59 in 116 NHL playoff games), and 100 goals and 253 points in 304 WHA games (plus 10-18-28 in 38 WHA playoff games).

He was an important player in hockey history, and one who witnessed a lot of weird things, including playing for the Civics who never even had the time to design a logo or uniform and just played with their Spurs uniforms without the crest - oh, WHA! - winning only one game, losing five, playing only twice on ''home'' ice, with the players never notified of either the team's relocation (they allegedly had their only clue hearing the Canadian national anthem during a road game) nor its dissolution a couple of weeks later.

He was in town during the Habs' Centennial celebrations, and I met him at a banquet with a lot of other former alumni; it is there that he signed this 2008-09 Canadiens Centennial card (#70 in the set) by Upper Deck in black sharpie, though it was my guest who approached him with it and not myself:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mikael Backlund: 3 Autographed Cards

What a pleasant surprise in the mail yesterday, my second return of the year but first of my 2014 mailings. I had sent Mikael Backlund two regular cards and two I had custom-made on January 28th, 2014, and received three of them back a mere 27 days later (February 24th) - he kept one of the customs.

A first-round pick (24th overall) of the Calgary Flames in 2007, Backlund has been on a steady climb to greatness since his junior years, when he played in a men's league from age 16 onward. He has been named Player Of The Week in both the CHL and AHL and has improved each year in the NHL despite being on a low-scoring team, going from 1 goal and 10 points in 23 games in 2009-10 to 10 goals and 25 points in a full season (73 games) in 2010-11 to an injury-riddled 2011-12 in which he had 11 points through 41 games to last season's 16 points in 32 games in Calgary to go with his 30 points in 23 games in the Swedish Elite League. So far, he has 14 goals and 29 points in 57 games this year and ranks second in team scoring on one of the league's five worst-ranked teams.

I think he should have earned a spot on the Swedish Olympic roster, but playing for the Flames can be a deterrent for team selectors. Still, he has represented his country 5 times, winning bronze twice (2007 U-18 World Championships and 2010 World Championships) and silver three times (2008 and 2009 World Juniors, and 2011 World Championships).

At the 2011 Worlds, he had three goals and 5 points in 9 games. At the Juniors stage, he has 15 career goals and 22 points in 21 games. He will be a reliable, talented player for years to come, and I foresee a few All-Star Games on his resume before his career ends.

And now, onto the cards, which he all signed in silver sharpie with his jersey number (11) tagged at the end. First, showing him in the Flames' red (home) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #165):
Then, showing him wearing the Flames' white (away) uniform, from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (card #59):
And finally, from what I have just now decided to call Hell's Kitchen's 2013-14 Series 1 (card #5B, the white-jersey variant in a retro ''mini'' size that I'll likely cut to show just the picture):
For this card, I was going for the style of the end-of-the-1980s O-Pee-Chee mini cards. They were my first attempt, and I only sent them out because I'd gone through the trouble of printing two of each, but my Series 2 looks much better, in general, with an actual design.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Matt Duchene Jersey Card

One player that I was really happy to see leaving Sochi with a gold medal - other than P.K. Subban - was without a doubt Matt Duchene, the young Colorado Avalanche leader who filled in John Tavares' skates admirably on a defense-first Team Canada.

He has worn the maple leaf 5 times internationally, all of them resulting in gold medals; in addition to his 2014 Olympic medal, he is also golden from the 2012 Spengler Cup, the 2008 U-18 championship and 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament (Junior U-18) as well as the 2008 U-17 World Hockey Challenge.

He has 50 points in 55 games so far this season with the Avs, leading the team, and his 19 goals fall only behind Nathan MacKinnon's 22 and Ryan O'Reilly's 21. His point total of 43 points (in 47 games) were also tops on the Avs last season, and his 17 goals were second only to Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau's 18.

He also had 19 points in 23 games overseas during the lock-out, so it's safe to assume his sub-par 2011-12 season (14 goals and 28 points in 58 games) was just a statistical anomaly brought on by bad luck, a string of injuries and a poor supporting cast.

Growing up a Québec Nordiques fan, my allegiances moved to Colorado with them in 1995, so I'm extremely happy with the franchise's turnaround under the watchful eye of Joe Sakic (mine and Duchene's favourite skater) and the masterful coaching of Patrick Roy.

So when a pack of Upper Deck's 2010-11 Ultimate Collection provided me with this card, I was giddy:
Like my previous jersey card of his, it bears a burgundy swatch, but this time the picture on the front of the card is from the Avs' current third jersey, mostly a beautiful shade of dark blue with burgundy shoulders and lines. It's card #UJ-MD in the set (the Ultimate Jerseys sub-set), and is numbered #80/100.

Great player, great design, great card.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jhonas Enroth Autographed Card

I've been sitting on this one for over a year, thinking there might be some truth to the rumours about the Buffalo Sabres trading away Ryan Miller and giving the net to Jhonas Enroth, but the man (Enroth) just won a silver medal with a team missing its top three centers (Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Backstrom) and other key players (Johan Franzen), so as a tip of my hat to Team Sweden, today is the day I dust off this 2009-10 Victory card (#229 in the set, from the Victory Rookie sub-set) by Upper Deck, signed in blue sharpie:
I've had this since before the lock-out, though I can't remember when (i.e. what year!) I got him to sign it at the Bell Centre when the Sabres were visiting the Montréal Canadiens. It features him wearing the Sabres' infamous Buffaslug blue (away) uniform.

Prior to today's silver Olympic medal, Enroth already had a medal of each colour: gold at the 2013 World Championships (where he also made the All-Star team), silver at the 2008 World Juniors, and bronze at the 2005 U-18 championship.

The top-ranked junior European goaltender at the 2006 draft (ahead of Semyon Varlamov and Reto Berra), he was picked 46th overall in the second round by the Sabres, the fourth European goalie to go, behind Riku Helenius (15th, Tampa Bay Lightning), Varlamov (23rd, Washington Capitals) and Michal Neuvirth (34th, also Washington).

The Sabres let him develop with the Portand Pirates for 147 games where he became increasingly more dominating, giving him his first NHL start in the 2010-11 season. He was the first goalie in league history to have his first three wins be shootout wins (though you may recall shootouts were only introduced in the NHL starting with the 2005-06 season).

Having played few games each previous season, he was still considered a rookie in 2011-12, and made the All-Rookie Team with a 8-11-4 record in 26 games, accompanied by a 2.70 GAA and a .916 save percentage. He was even better last year, going 4-4-1 in 12 games, with a 2.60 GAA and .919 save percentage with a worse team.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Peter Mueller Autographed Card

As is often the case for North American teams in international tournaments, Team USA lost the bronze medal game today against Finland; it seems the ''Stanley Cup-type of championship mentality'' (where if you're not the #1 winner then third place doesn't matter) prevailed once more...

Maybe they could have used forwards who are used to the bigger international-sized rinks... players such as Peter Mueller, who has won gold in the Czech Republic (2005 U-18 tournament) and bronze in Sweden (2007 World Juniors), and has 19 points in 20 Juniors-types games for Team USA, and 4 points in 7 games at the World Championships...

Plus, he's actually playing in Europe this year for the Kloten Flyers in Switzerland (and nearly has a point-per-game there)...

But that would require some outside-the-box thinking, and risk-taking.

And Mueller definitely is a risk. The 8th-overall pick of the 2006 draft, he had a wonderful rookie season with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007-08, scoring 22 goals and totaling 54 points in 81 games, then slipping to 13 goals and 36 points the following season. After his third season wasn't looking too good, he was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche, and managed to put up 20 points in 15 games with them to finish the 2009-10 season on a good note.

He signed a two-year deal with the Avs that summer, but suffered two concussions that would impede his production, and he was released by the team prior to the lock-out. He signed a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers when play resumed, but like everyone else on the team not named Jonathan Huberdeau, failed to put his name on the score sheet often enough. No one wanted to sign him after that, so he opted for Switzerland this summer to perhaps revitalize his career.

I met him last season when the Panthers came to town, and expressed to him my faith in his talent. He was nice enough to sign this card for me in blue sharpie:

It's from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Victory set (card #47), showing him wearing the Coyotes' burgundy (home) uniform. I also have this card in postcard format and, had I known I was going to get it signed, I would have chosen that one over this regular-sized one, but carrying one format in a thin plastic case is easier and more convenient, which is why I went this route.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jeremy Morin Autographed Card

I try to attend a couple of Hamilton Bulldogs games per year, usually one or two weekend-long treks where I can cram in two home games each time, or one in Hamilton and one in Toronto, or maybe a trek down to Albany - nothing too crazy, no more than 8 hours' drive. I went to see them play the Rockford Ice Hogs last year (or was it the year before that?), hoping to catch Carter Hutton, Brandon Pirri, Kyle Beach or Martin Saint-Pierre (I had three items of each) - and ended up with neither.

But I did catch Jeremy Morin (don't let the name fool you, he's an American, not a Quebecer) who signed this 2010-11 Score Hot Rookies card (#633 in the Rookies And Traded set) by Panini for me in blue sharpie:
Since I'd mentioned how beautiful I found the Chicago Blackhawks' uniform to be on that particular card, he made it a point not to sign on it, but the ad on the boards make it hard to decipher his signature. Still, I count it as a huge win for me.

Morin was originally a second round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers (45th overall in 2009), but the Hawks acquired him in the trade that sent Brent Sopel, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu to Atlanta and Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb and two other draft picks (Kevin Hayes and Justin Holl) Chicago's way.

Morin's been sharing his time between the NHL and AHL since 2010-11 and has 10 points and 39 penalty minutes so far in 30 NHL games, showing glimpses of steady play in just about 7 minutes of ice time per game on a team whose lineup is pretty hard to crack.

He's on a point-per-game pace in the AHL this season, and registered 30 goals and 58 points in 67 games in Rockford last season. With a bit of polish in his defensive game, he could become a solid second-or-third liner in the NHL.

He has some experience on the world stage, winning gold (2010) and bronze (2011) at the World Juniors as well as the U-18 (gold in 2009, bronze in 2008) with Team USA.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Milan Hejduk Autographed Card

I was waiting for an official word on Milan Hejduk's retirement, he was supposed to hold a press conference some time in December, but it never happened.

So I'll take advantage of the Czech Republic's win over Slovakia to honor the Olympic medalist (gold in 1998, bronze in 2006) and former Rocket Richard Trophy winner today, now that his career statistics are likely etched in stone at 1020 games played, 375 goals and 805 points (plus a 34-42-76 career total in 112 playoff games), a Stanley Cup, an All-Rookie Team and three All-Star Games.

He currently stands second in the Colorado Avalanche/Québec Nordiques franchise in games played, fourth in goals and points, fifth in assists and second in game-winning goals.

He only played for the Avs in the NHL, and only played for HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice in the Czech league, with whom he has also won a championship; he's very loyal.

I featured him in 2012 with this card, but knew I had another lying somewhere, because he had signed both on the same pre-season trip. Here is the second card, showing him in the Avs' white (home) uniform, from Upper Deck's beautiful 2005-06 Power Play set (card #24), signed in thin black sharpie:

(I'm saving another signed item, an 8X10, for when he actually does officially announce his retirement.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Michael Cammalleri Autograph Card

The question on a lot of people's minds in Canada these days is ''what does Sidney Crosby need (to get going at the Olympics... again)?'', because few people remember, but even in 2010 in Vancouver, before scoring the behind-the-goal-line overtime winner, he'd been overshadowed by Jonathan Toews and a slew of other Canadian forwards, and it's happening again.

The smart-ass answer (and a correct one if not the definitive one), of course, is: Evgeni Malkin's line taking all the pressure off by facing the opposition's best checkers - but since he's Russian, that wouldn't help Team Canada.

Crosby is without a doubt a world-class talent, and going purely on skill, he's among the top 5 forwards in the game, behind Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and on par with Toews.

As a goal-sorer, he ranks in the top-10 behind Steven Stamkos, Ovechkin, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and a handful of others, while he's among the best passers in the league with Mike Ribeiro, Jason Spezza and Henrik Sedin.

As far as leadership goes, though, sure, he takes over when the going gets tough, but he also whines to referees when things don't go his way and has a sore-loser mentality where he hits opponents with his stick long after plays and generally isn't the cool-headed example of sportsmanship Toews, Jarome Iginla, Sedin, Spezza, Andrew Ladd, John Tavares, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Giordano, Malkin, Anze Kopitar and so many others are.

Short and thin, ideally he'd be paired with at least one giant, and it'd be nice if both wingers could have finishing touch on par with his passing skills - and Stamkos would have been ideal. When he fell to injury, Canada's brass could have thought outside the box for a minute and replaced him with Mike Cammalleri, one of the purest goal-scorers in the game, a perennial threat with his super-fast and deadly accurate one-timer. The very definition of ''clutch'', he scored 13 goals in 19 games when the Montréal Canadiens made their deep playoff run in 2010, and his 19 points represented 41% of the team's 46 goal total. Paired with, say, Jeff Carter (6'4'', also a 30-40 goal man), you could have a line that would rival even the Russians'.

Oh well.

But back to Cammalleri. Chosen 49th overall in the second round of the 2001 draft by the Los Angeles Kings, he gave them three solid seasons before being traded to the Calgary Flames at the 2008 draft prior to becoming a coveted free agent; he had 39 goals 82 points with the Flames, then signed with Habs just in time for their Centennial season, where he was almost named team captain. He was the player who was most interested in the team's rich history, meeting with past legends at every opportunity, trying to learn from them, totally immersing himself in the team's winning culture.

Apparently that didn't go well with some of his teammates and it reached the boiling point - and the team's management reached the point of ridiculousness - when Cammalleri was traded back to the Flames for Rene Bourque... in the middle of a game!

He's had 26 goals 53 points so far in 85 games in his second coming with Calgary - an impressive amount, considering who he is playing with. Only he Lee Stempniak had more than 30 points last season, with a team-leading 32...

I'll always be a huge fan of his and, like Jaroslav Halak, will always feel bad about the way they were treated by the Habs' previous administration.

And that's why I was particularly happy to find this card of his in a pack of Upper Deck's 2007-08 SP Authentic that I received in 2012:
It's card #ST-MC, from the Sign Of The Times sub-set, and shows him wearing the Kings' white uniform, back when purple was still in their palette. It's signed on-card in blue sharpie and, though condensed, is signed with the surname he prefers to be called by, ''Michael'', rather than ''Mike''.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Drew Doughty Swatch Card

Just as I was going to put my other Drew Doughty swatch card on my upcoming trade list because I have lost hope I'll ever receive (signed) the 4 cards I sent him in March 2011, I came into this one to go with the four UD Game Jerseys I wrote about all week, for less than $3:
It's from Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle, and is #35 in the set, the Game Night sub-set; it holds a nice black swatch, though it shows him wearing a Los Angeles Kings' white (away) uniform, which has very little of it.

It's pretty cool that I chose to write about this card after having seen him score both of Team Canada's goals in a 2-1 win over Finland; he's really taken on the role of leader of the defensive unit at this year's Olympics, after having been Canada's second-youngest ever champion in 2010 (though you can argue Eric Lindros' 1991 Canada Cup win wasn't a true medal-type championship since it just gives the winning team a trophy, which would make Doughty the true king).

He has since won a Stanley Cup, of course, making him even more of a winner. I think another Cup and a Norris could be in the cards for him this year... as for another Olympic gold medal, it'll depend if whoever is in nets can withstand the pressure of Russia or the U.S. One thing's for sure, they'll have the defensemen to make a run for it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Adam Henrique Jersey Card

The fourth and final Upper Deck 2013-14 Series 1 card from last week's Ebay purchases is this one of Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils (card #GJ-AH from the UD Game Jersey sub-set):
It shows him wearing the Devils' red (home) uniform. It is my second ''special'' Henrique card after this autograph card.

He's slowed down a bit since his rookie season, where he had tallied 16 goals and 51 points in 74 games, but on the other hand, the Devils did lose some prime scorers to help him in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. H has 27 points in 59 games this year, after a 16-point, 42-game shortened season last year.

At 24 years of age, with a cap hit of $4M per season, he's worth a shot, though, and could still develop into a more potent offensive force.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Peter Forsberg Jersey Card

As if Team Sweden hadn't been dealt enough blows with the losses of Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen, it lost its captain Henrik Zetterberg yesterday, so most of its hopes for Olympic gold with rest not on their scoring ability, but on Henrik Lundqvist's ability to keep less from entering his own net than his team can put in their opponents'.

And so, a throwback to the Peter Forsberg-led teams of 1994 and 2006 seems improbably considering the powerhouses that are Russia, Canada, the USA, and now fall behind - at least on paper - the Czechs and Slovaks. Though you never know, and one hot goalie in any given game can give any team a victory it may not deserve.

With Sweden, Forsberg also won gold at the World Championships (1992 and 1998), World Cup bronze (1996) and an impressive collection of World Championship (1993, 2003 and 2004) and World Juniors (1992 and 1993) silver.

With his two Stanley Cups acquired while with the Colorado Avalanche, Forsberg has enough hardware to make the Triple Gold Club twice, a feat shared with only Viacheslav Fetisov and Igor Larionov.

All told, I find he's Hall Of Fame material, and the only reason why it can be debatable is because he didn't play over 1000 NHL games - though he did gather 885 points (in 708 games), and 171 more playoff points (in 151 games), more than a lot of HoFers, and does have an Art Ross, a Hart and a Calder trophy, as well as four important Swedish League trophies: two MVP trophies and two ''best player'' trophies.

With his Swedish team Modo, he has a career record consisting of 87 goals, 135 assists for 222 points in 210 games.

Forever linked to the Avs with whom he attempted two separate comebacks, he did have a 100-game stint with the Philadelphia Flyers (115 points) and 17 games with the Nashville Predators (15 points) that takes away from the romance of being a career-long, one-team guy that his captain in Colorado, Joe Sakic, had.

The card I purchased on Ebay last week shows him with the Flyers:
Like the others from that batch, it's from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set from the UD Game Jersey sub-set, card #GJ-JL), and also has UD's post-mortem certificate of authenticity:
Just like for the rest of his career, the only thing that sticks in my mind regarding his tenure with the Flyers is "what if he had been healthy?"...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lanny McDonald Jersey Card

Regular readers of this blog know the tremendous amount of respect I have for Lanny McDonald, first and foremost because he was a great hockey player who made it into the Hall Of Fame, and because he was a tremendous leader for the Colorado Rockies and Calgary Flames. And because he left the Toronto Maple Leafs on bad terms.

Unfortunately, since I can never get swatch cards of him with the Rockies or Flames (though I came close once), this will be my third jersey card of him with the Leafs:
Like the Jacques Lemaire card from a couple of days ago, it's from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #GJ-LM from the UD Game Jersey sub-set). It contains a plain white swatch, which probably explains why my winning bid was under two bucks.

Still, we're talking about a player who made it to the Hall, won a Stanley Cup as part of the only visiting team ever to win on the Montréal Canadiens' home ice with the Flames in 1989, has 500 goals, over 500 assists and over 1000 points in over 1100 NHL games (plus another 44-40-84 in 117 playoff games with two trips to the Finals playing in an era with no less than three dynasties: the 1970s Habs, the 1980s New York Islanders, and the 1980s Edmonton Oilers).

And, of course, the card comes with this season's ghost guarantee (Richard McWilliam died early last year) that the jersey is game-worn:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Another Jacques Lemaire Jersey Card

I went for a quick glance on Ebay last week and saw some of Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 jersey cards for sale with the starting bid at (just under) a buck apiece, so I bid on a few, and won four of them (plus another swatch card).

The first one is another Jacques Lemaire jersey card (still card #GJ-JL from the UD Game Jersey sub-set), this time with a red swatch since I already had a white one:
I actually won it at my opening bid of 99 cents, which almost made me regret my trade from last month... but not quite. I mean, a Hall Of Famer is a Hall Of Famer, right?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jeff Reardon Autographed Card

Jeff Reardon was a star closer when I became familiar with the Montréal Expos in the mid-1980s, a two-time All-Star (1985 and 1986) and Cy Young nominee.

However, as with most things Expos, leading the league in a statistical category (in his case, saved games, with 41 in 1985 and 35 in 1996) usually meant getting a raise, and that usually meant the team couldn't afford it, so he was traded to the Minnesota Twins, with whom he won the 1987 World Series.

In 1988, he became the first pitcher ever to save 40 games in both the National League and the American League, and played in his third of four All-Star games, the fourth being 1991 with the Boston Red Sox, as shown in this card where he is wearing their grey (away) uniform:

It's from Upper Deck's 1991 Series 1 (i.e. Low Numbers, encompassing cards #1-700 - this one is #418 - the High Numbers set had cards 701-800) and signed in black sharpie when he returned to the NL and faced the Expos, in either 1992 as a member of the Atlanta Braves or, more likely, 1993 with the Cincinnati Reds.

He retired after the 1994 season and has faced a lot of personal problems, most of them stemming from his son's death from a drug overdose in 2004 and the medication he was prescribed to help deal with the tragedy, culminating into this (which he was eventually found not guilty of, though he did spend time in a psychiatric ward and was treated with electroshock therapy):

I wish him and his family nothing but the best and thank him for the good times we had watching him, and perhaps this serves as a reminder that we are all just one tragedy away from spiraling out of control, even when our nickname is The Terminator.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Brad Church Autograph Card

The back of Brad Church's card reads:
A pro-style forward, (he) is a good forechecker who has a nice scoring touch.
Now, I don't know what ''pro-style'' means, but if they mean NHL, they're kind of right, seeing as he played two games for the Washington Capitals in 1997-98, a decent feat considering that team ended up losing in the Stanley Cup Finals.

If they mean ''any pro league'', then they're right on the money, seeing as he played for 12 minor-league teams in 3 leagues from 1996-97 until 2005-06, including two separate stints with the AHL's Portland Pirates.

The Caps had chosen him 17th overall i the first round of the 1995 draft, ahead of Petr Sykora (18th), Georges Laraque (31st), Jochen Hecht (49th), Miikka Kiprusoff (116th), and Stéphane Robidas (164th). Their picks that year played a combined 54 NHL games, and that's including 24 each for goalie Sébastien Charpentier (fourth round, 93rd overall) and center Benoît Gratton (fifth round, 105th overall)...

Church was nearly a point-per-game player in the ECHL and even towards the end of his pro career in the UHL, but the only time he went over the half-point per game pace in the AHL was during an 11-game stint with the Manchester Monarchs in 2003-04, a team that had Pavel Rosa, Mike Cammalleri and Steve Kelly in its ranks.

All told, it makes for a decent if unstable professional career, but as far as first-round picks go, I think he qualifies as a ''bust''. Upon retiring, he became an assistant coach with the ECHL's Phoenix Roadrunners, but the head coach quit with 8 games remaining and Church got the nod. He stayed in place for two extra seasons going 24-39-9 and 30-37-0 and missing the playoffs both times.

Which brings me to his card:
It's from Signature Rookies' 1995-96 Draft Day set (card #8, numbered 2331/4500, signed in blue sharpie), and I got it through a repack box. He's seen wearing the Minnesota North Stars-inspired Prince Albert Raiders white (home) uniform with the front logo airbrushed out for copyright reasons and instead replaced with generic text. Here's what the logo should look like:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ramis Sadikov Autograph Card

An undrafted goalie listed at 6'4'' and 230 pounds and whose AHL player page is suspiciously blank, Ramis Sadikov did get a few Detroit Red Wings pre-season games under his belt at some point, and even HockeyDB lost his trace after the 2011-12 season.

That did not stop In The Game from featuring him in this GoalieGraphs card from their 2010-11 Between The Pipes set (card #A-RS of the Future Stars sub-set), in his OHL Erie Otters uniform:

A tall hulking Russian, Sadikov liked to mix it up, trying to combine his idol Patrick Roy's butterfly style (notice how the black sharpie signature has the number 33 at the end), Martin Brodeur's stand-up style and Dominik Hasek's... whatever that was. With 13 Vezina trophies among them, I guess they're fine examples to follow, if you can make it.

I was more of a Roy-meets-Ron Hextall guy myself, with some Sean Burke in there as well. I didn't reach the NHL either.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Chris Higgins Autographed Card

I went to see the Montréal Canadiens beat the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre yesterday and had a good time, though I couldn't find anyone to accompany me after my friend bailed on me at the last minute. I had brought about a dozen cards along with me but at the end didn't feel like hanging around so much and bothering the Canucks after a tough loss, except I ran into Chris Higgins (who scored a goal in the loss) and he remembered me from his days in town and signed this card for me before running to the team bus:
It's from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Series 1 (card #103), signed in blue sharpie. Ironically, I have another one exactly like it and also signed in blue, if my memory serves me right, I'll have to find it and compare (and post).

Though he is now in Vancouver, he was a Habs first-round pick, originally seen as a future checking-line center and captain of the team. He moved up the depth chart enough to become Saku Koivu's left winger on the first line for a couple of years, before his statistics took a dive and he was sent to the New York Rangers along with Ryan McDonagh, Pavel Valentenko and Doug Janik in the infamous Scott Gomez trade, before short stints with the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers.

He has found himself a niche on the Canucks' checking line, where he is also counted on for secondary scoring - he has 16 goals so far this year, on pace for 22 goals and 44 points by season's end - without having the pressure to score 25 to 30 and get 60 points all the time.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ladislav Karabin Autographed Card

I guess the theme this week is players with 9 games of NHL experience...

Born in Czechoslovakia, Ladislav Karabin was a 9th-round pick (173rd overall) in the 1990 draft of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the same one they drafted Jaromir Jagr (5th overall), Chris Tamer (68th) and Ian Moran (107th) in, so it was a pretty good year for them in that respect.

Karabin has one of the coolest names in hockey - not just because it's got the rare combination of Ks with Rs and Bs, but also because in French, ''carabine'' (pronounced the same way) means ''shotgun'', which would make for an original nickname.

He mostly played in minor leagues in North America - more often than not in the defunct IHL - before moving to Germany, where he played from 1999 to 2006. He then moved to Florida with his wife and kids to, apparently, become a financial advisor.

I got him to sign this card for me after a pre-season game, probably in 1996, maybe in 1995:

It's from Classic's 1993-94 Pro (Hockey) Prospects set (card #108), signed in (fading) black sharpie, apparently last name first. It shows him wearing the Pens' then-IHL affiliate Cleveland Lumberjacks white (home) uniform.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Justin Mercier Autograph Card

A sixth-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche (168th overall) in 2005, Justin Mercier only once in his life was a point-per-game player: in his third of four seasons in the CCHA/NCAA for the Miami University Redhawks (though he was the first player in school history to amass over 100 points and take part in over 100 wins). Other wise, in the NHL and AHL, his pace is closer to once-per-four games.

He is 1-1-2 in 9 career NHL games with the Avs, but is currently in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads, though he did get called up to the AHL's Iowa Wild recently.

I got this card of him sporting the Avs' burgundy (home) uniform in a pack of Panini's 2010-11 Score (card #508, the Hot Rookies sub-set), although I forget if it was actually in the pack or a redemption:

It's signed in blue sharpie on a sticker that was apposed to the card.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rob Ramage Autographed Card

I figure I should get it out of the way as soon as possible: yes, Rob Ramage was found guilty of impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death (doing the same thing, which should be one offense, really) that killed former NHLer Keith Magnusson. In an odd turn of events, the Magnusson family had forgiven him and wanted to have him speak to teens about the dangers of drinking and driving rather than serve prison time (he would get 4 years - the harshest penalty ever in Canada for someone with no previous record of drinking and driving, possibly because he was a celebrity), but were granted over 9 million dollars in a civil case against both Ramage and the car rental company (National Car Rental Of Canada)...

Ramage was granted parole in 2011. In December, he was made assistant coach of the OHL's London Knights as Dale Hunter went on a short coaching stint with the Washington Capitals.

Before all of that, he was considered a terrific team player who got 48 points in 80 WHA games, and 564 points (139 of them goals) in 1044 regular-season NHL games to go with 50 more points in 84 playoff games and two Stanley Cups, one in which he played a large role (1988-89 with the Calgary Flames) and one in which he did very little (1992-93 with the Montréal Canadiens).

He captained two teams: the Colorado Rockies (he was, in fact, their last captain before they became the New Jersey Devils) and the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1989 until 1991. and it's representing the Leafs with the 'C'' on his chest on this 1990-91 Bowman card from Topps (card #162 in the set) that I had him sign in blue sharpie:

It was signed in the late 1990s or early 2000s at a team function with several retired members of the 1993 Habs, and shows him wearing the Leaf's blue (then-away) uniform. Ironically, the Habs are the Leafs' biggest rivals; the feeling is not mutual, though, as Montréal has a much more intense rivalry with the Boston Bruins, which probably explains why the Leafs usually massacre the Habs when they play on national telecasts on Saturdays.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Nick Bonino Autograph Card

After Saku Koivu yesterday, here's another Anaheim Ducks player, this year's revelation, Nick Bonino. As of today, he has 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 56 games, which is more than he had in his first 4 seasons in the NHL (11 goals, 22 assists and 33 points in 112 games).

A former draft pick of the San Jose Sharks (6th round, 173rd overall) in 2007, the Ducks acquired him with Timo Pielmeier for Travis Moen and Kent Huskins.

I got this card as a redemption in a pack of Panini's 2010-11 Score (card #523, part of the Hot Rookies sub-set), which features an on-sticker, blue sharpie autograph:
It shows him wearing the Ducks' black (home) uniform. Of note, he's wearing his rookie number in the picture (63), and now wears jersey #13.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saku Koivu Jersey Card

It's hard to believe Saku Koivu is already in his fifth season with the Anaheim Ducks, since he was such a huge part of the Montréal Canadiens from his rookie season in 1995-96 until the team's Centennial in 2008-09, often the lone bright spot on offense (and the only Habs player not afraid of the mid-to-end-90s Philadelphia Flyers).

How much of a leader is he? He was the Habs' first European captain for one, but also Team Finland's captain from 1998 until 2010 despite the team counting among its ranks such veterans as Teemu Selanne (the whole time) and Jari Kurri (at first), then Jere Lehtinen. Also, he would have made the team again for the Olympics this year, but withdrew his candidacy days before the roster was announced, having just recovered from a concussion and taking one for the team so it can choose a better-prepared replacement.

While noble, it's still a blow to the team, considering he has led Finland to no less than four Olympic medals (bronze in 1994, 1998 and 2010 and silver in 2002), one World Cup silver (2004) and four top-three finishes at the World Championships (gold in 1995, silver in 1994 and 1999, and bronze in 2008), usually on will power alone.

I think I would name my first-born Saku in is honour.

Which is why I cherish all of my memorabilia of him, including this card from Topps' 2000-01 Heritage set (card #OSJ-SK of the The Original Six Relics, Authentic Player-Worn Jersey insert sub-set) showing him wearing the Habs' legendary red (then-away) jersey, with the matching swatch :
I wrote to him in 2011 to get some cards signed and almost included this one in the lot; I'm kind of glad I didn't, since I never heard back.