Sunday, June 8, 2014

Two Martin Hohenberger Autograph Cards

Sure, Martin Hohenberger is an obscure player to most hockey fans, but to Montréal Canadiens fans, he's a draft pick bust that hurts. You see, the Habs chose him in the third round of the 1995 draft, with the 74th overall pick - a pick that used to belong to the Philadelphia Flyers, that they sent along with Mark Recchi for John LeClair (a future multiple 50-goal scorer and First Team All-Star), Éric Desjardins (a regular for Team Canada in international competitions who would also captain the Flyers for a while), and Gilbert Dionne (a three-time 20-goal scorer with the Habs). In other words, he needed to be great to make the trade anywhere close to even.

Still available at the 74th spot were Sami Kapanen (87th),  Marc Savard (91st), my former teammates Benoît Gratton (105th) and Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre (179th), the best goalie of his era Miikka Kiprusoff (116th), Hohenberger's Prince George Cougars teammate Chris Mason (122nd), Jan Hrdina (128th), Brent Sopel (144th), Stéphane Robidas (164th), and P.J. Axelsson (177th).

The 1980s and 1990s were a time where the Habs usually failed with their first-rounders, usually because they'd choose a big player from the WHL (''fat Western beef'' was their nickname in these parts) to try to bulk up their line-up, but the guys who'd actually make the team would instead be late-round or undrafted Quebecers or Europeans.

Martin Hohenberger was a bit of both. An Austrian center who was already 6'1'' at age 17, he had played his Juniors career in the WHL, so he ''played big'' despite weighing less than 190 pounds. He would bulk up to 207 later in his career when he moved back to Austria after the 1998-99 season.

He never played with the Habs but did play 9 games with their AHL affiliate Fredericton Canadiens; he spent the rest of his North American professional career in the ECHL, with the New Orleans Brass, scoring 11 goals with 11 assists for 22 points in 66 games spread over two seasons.

He did become a point-per-game player upon returning to Austria, and even played for the national team in the 2000, 2002 and 2003 World Championships, as well as the 2002 Olympics. Unfortunately, that didn't help Montréal.

He stopped playing after suiting up for 7 games (no points, 18 penalty minutes) with the Graz ATSE in 2010-11 at age 34.

These two cards found in repackaged boxes show him wearing the Cougars' New York Rangers-inspired white (home) uniform in a photo shoot:
They were both manufactured by Signature Rookies and signed on-card in blue sharpie - probably the same one, seeing as the card on the right, from the 1995-96 Draft 96 set (card #9, numbered 1218/4500), bears an almost-transparent autograph; the card on the left is from their 1995-96 Draft Day set (card #15, numbered 266/4500).

You'll notice the team's logo was airbrushed out, because the card manufacturer didn't purchase the rights to show them - and didn't want to get sued; instead, they used a Rangers-type font to spell out the city's name. Here's what the logo looked like back then:
And here's what it looks like nowadays:

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