Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nikolai Antropov Autograph Card

I don't know if all collectors/bloggers can pinpoint the exact moment or exact card that either brought them back to collecting or made them take it that step farther than they were at before, but in my case, it was this card, from Topps' 2000-01 Stadium Club (#LS5 of their Lone Star Signatures sub-set, signed on-card in thin blue sharpie with his uniform number - 9 - tagged at the end):
Sure, it shows Nikolai Antropov with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team I would repeal from my collection altogether, but it's also the first ''quality insert'' card (autograph or swatch card, not just a ''league leader'' or ''All-Star'' or whatever card) I ever pulled from a pack, and it was at a time where I'd stopped paying attention to hockey (and pretty much all sports) but would still buy a pack or two per year at a dollar store to keep up with where it was and, mostly, for old times' sake and to reconnect with my inner child.

I'd spent a lot of my childhood bringing hockey cards to Montréal Canadiens' games in the hopes of getting one signed, and here was one where someone else had gone through all that trouble for me and all I had to do was open a pack of otherwise beautiful, thick and sturdy cards.

A couple of years later, the Habs would hold preseason jamborees/fan jams where you could meet-and-greet players of an otherwise forgettable era for the team, which brought that extra spark to my collecting because I realized I still had ''ins'' to get stuff signed throughout the organization (before I got into TTMs) to frame and hang on the walls all over my apartment.

And so it is with great irony that the one card that I can pinpoint to getting the ball rolling in that direction is not only of a Leafs player, but its ultimate Habs-killer in Antropov who would have won Art Ross and Hart trophies if half (or even a quarter) of all Leafs' games were against my hometown Canadiens, with Tomas Kaberle a shoe-in for the Norris.

After obtaining a Canadian citizenship in 2007 and playing for the Winnipeg Jets until 2012-13, Antropov spent the last season with the KHL's Barys Astana, with whom he'd also played during the lockout. He is signed through next season, and plays with other former NHLers Cam Barker, Nigel Dawes, Ari Ahonen, Mike Lundin, and Dustin Boyd.

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