Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rob Blake Autograph Card

Now's as good a time as any to congratulate the Los Angeles Kings on their second Stanley Cup in three years, and what better way to do so than through a card showcasing Rob Blake, their long-time captain and current assistant-GM.

Blake has had a Hall Of Fame career, with a Norris trophy (1998), a Stanley Cup in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche, captaining both the Kings (twice) and the San Jose Sharks, and winning Olympic gold (2002) and World Championship gold (1994 and 1997) with Team Canada.

He ended his storied NHL career with 240 goals, 537 assists, 777 points and 1679 penalty minutes in 1270 games (plus 26-47-73 and 166 PIMs in 146 playoff games) and was immediately thrust into important behind-the-scenes roles, starting as Brendan Shanahan's assistant in the department of player safety (technically ''Hockey Operations Management'') before moving to team managerial positions, first as assistant-GM with the Kings where he won the Cup in his first year replacing Ron Hextall, and last May as the actual GM for Team Canada at the World Championsips (Canada finished 5th).

Here is a card from just about when his career was getting into gear, from Upper Deck's 1995-96 Be A Player set (card #S113, meaning it is the signed insert version of card #150, autographed on-card in thin black sharpie):
You'll notice there is only a mention of the city where he plays but no team name, logo or uniform; that's because UD didn't have an NHL license for this particular product, so they made do with their NHLPA one; in other instances, such as on this Yanic Perreault card, the player is shown in an action shot, but in a position where the logo is hidden; there are also instances, such as on this Pierre Turgeon card, where it is simply airbrushed out.

Another sign that times have changed: back in the 1990s, ''premium'' products such as this one were usually printed on thinner card stock than the regular-issue cards, usually to give it a glossier feel, but also to make them more fragile and worth more over time as pristine copies become rarer as the years go by; nowadays, there are over-the-top sets where a pack of 5 cards costs over $100, but because a lot of them have pieces of jerseys inside them, the bulk of those sets is printed on heavier and thicker card stock, so as to not be too obvious about which pack contains what type of card.

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