Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jeff Hackett Jersey Card

Jeff Hackett wasn't the most affable man, either with fans or the press, but one thing he was very good at was stopping pucks. In his 500-game NHL career, he stopped over 12,500 of them - nearly 4,000 with the Montréal Canadiens alone.

In parts of 5 seasons with the Habs, there were two where he was healthy enough to play the majority of the games; he won the Molson Cup both times as the team's MVP, and even finished in the top-10 in terms of Vezina voting despite the team being dreadful. He finished twice in the league's top-3 for save percentage, another time in the top-5, and once more in the top-10.

Had he played with better teams than the New York Islanders, the expansion San Jose Sharks, the mid-to-late-1990s Chicago Blackhawks, the turn-of-the-millennium Habs and early-2000s goalie cemeteries Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, he may have boosted his wins record by at least 50%, from 166 to close to 250. As it stands, though, he is still 94th on the all-time wins list; to put it in perspective, at least 75 goalies play in an NHL game each year, and the league has been in operation for 97 years.

I really like this card from In The Game's 2012-13 Forever Rivals set (card #BTP-13 of the Between The Pipes sub-set), as it shows a close-up of his classic Habs mask (two kids with Canadiens toques playing in the snow) and a big white game-used jersey swatch:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Joe Murphy Autograph Card

I'm kind of surprised I hadn't featured a card from this set yet, considering my Oilers Numbers Project, but here's who slots nicely for #8, Joe Murphy:
I'd alluded to this card earlier this week, as I had doubles of it and traded one away to the person I'd split a box with for this Warren Young card. It's from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers Collection, and is #FI-JM of the Franchise Ink sub-set.

Joe Murphy was the first-overall pick of the 1986 draft, ahead of Jimmy Carson (2nd), Zarley Zalapski (4th), Vincent Damphousse (6th), Brian Leetch (9th), Craig Janney (13th), Adam Graves (22nd), Teppo Numminen (29th), Jyrki Lumme (57th), Rob Brown (67th) and Ron Tugnutt (81st). In retrospect, apart from Leetch who was a steal in ninth, any of these players could have been chosen at any position in the top 10. Ironically, half of them would up playing for the Edmonton Oilers.

Usually, a first-overall pick should be a career impact player, or at the very least for a good chunk of it; while Murphy was no Sidney Crosby, he did have a few high-caliber seasons. His career-high for goals (35) and points (82) came with the Oilers in 1991-92, and the line he formed with Martin Gélinas and Graves (who like Murphy had been a Detroit Red Wings draft pick converted from the left wing to the right) was imperative to Edmonton winning its fifth Stanley Cup in 1990 - the lone one without Wayne Gretzky. He also had a 62-point season with the Oilers in 1990-91.

His second-best season goals-wise came following his stint in Edmonton, when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks: he scored 31 with the Hawks in 1993-94. All told, he had seven 20-goal seasons, and four 50-point seasons, which is fairly decent.

He finished his career with 233 goals, 295 assists and 528 points in 779 NHL games, and an additional 34 goals and 77 points in 120 playoff games. His best point-per-game production was with the Oilers and Hawks, but he also spent time with the Wings, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals (though it seems I remember him playing for neither, save maybe the Sharks).

He has played for Team Canada twice, at the 1986 World Juniors (silver medal, finished second in scoring with 14 points in 7 games) and with the National Team in 1985, with 6 points in 8 games.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Peter Mahovlich Jersey Card

Peter Mahovlich was drafted by, started his NHL career with and ended it with the Detroit Red Wings, but will forever be known as a member of the Montréal Canadiens.

In eight and a half season with the Habs, ''Little M'' - then the league's tallest player by a full five inches - had five 35-goal seasons, two 100-point seasons, and won four Stanley Cups.

He was later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and had 114 points in 117 games in a year and a half with them, before heading back to Detroit for two seasons, the last one ending with a stint in the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings.

People in my parents' generation saw him play with the Habs, Pens, and Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series and 1976 Canada Cup; to hear the tales, he was just as important to the mid-1970s Canadiens as Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer, Steve Shutt and Bob Gainey, and probably deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame - but as electrifying as his end-to-end rushes may have been, 773 points in 884 games might fall a bit short - though 72 in 88 playoff games also has to be factored in.

I also have no qualms about putting him among a list of top-15 Habs centers of all time.

So with that in mind, here's a card from Topps' 2001-02 O-Pee-Chee Archives set (#J-PM of the Authentic Game-Worn Jersey sub-set, also numbered #124 as the original card depicted on the front was):
My usual pet peeve remains: it displays a white jersey swatch while showing him in the Habs' red (then-away) uniform. But I don't think there are any of his old Topps/OPC cards that would have shown him in white anyway, so you make do with what you have, I guess.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tatiana Calderon Noguera Autographed Postcard

Here is the third of three returns I had last Tuesday, the token monthly non-hockey-related one, this time featuring race car driver Tatiana Calderon Noguera:
It's a promo postcard, signed in black sharpie; the front shows her current car and a close-up of her face while the back lists fun facts and her three main sponsors.

She is currently in her second season in the European F3 series, her first with Jo Zeller Racing. She participated in the Euroformula Winter Series as well as the Florida Winter Series with Emilio de Villota Motorsport, where she won one race out of 13 (in Sebring).

She has won karting championships, finished in the top-3 in the 6 Hours Of Bogota event twice, and is following the usual course to end up in Formula 1. Coming from the city that has brought Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Alexandre Tagliani and Andrew Ranger to open-wheel racing, F1 is pretty much the only racing series I follow nowadays (and even then, with all the stories of corruption and relative lack of likable pilots compared to 10 or 20 years ago, I follow that a lot less than I used to as well).

But Tatiana Calderon Noguera is a fresh face full of promise, and we'll see how far she can take her talents and addiction to high speeds.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Michel Goulet: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 1)

I'd been meaning to write to Michel Goulet for so long, first when he was an assistant general manager with the Colorado Avalanche, and more recently as a scout for the Calgary Flames. I finally did, this season, sending him a fan letter and these five cards (care of the Flames) on March 24th, 2014, and receiving them all back, signed in blue sharpie, on August 26th, 2014 - a 154-day return:

Ironically, I waited until this season to send, and I pulled a couple of inserts of him throughout the season, so you'll likely be seeing more of him before year's end.

I was happy to get two more cards of him with the Québec Nordiques, the team he helped define in the 1980s with Dale Hunter and Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny and Marian Stastny; he had eight straight 30-goal seasons, with four straight 50-goal seasons in the middle of those; his 121 points in 1983-84 was a record for a left winger at the time and was the second of four times he's surpass the 100-point mark. He was in the league's top-10 for points three times and made the end-of-the-year All-Star teams five times. He garnered top-10 Selke and Hart votes twice each.

The card on the left is from Topps' 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee set (card #292), while the one on the right is from Topps' 1988-89 Topps set, and is #7 in its NHL All-Star sticker sub-set.

                                (continued in the following post)

Michel Goulet: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 2)

                        (continued from the previous post)

He had 456 goals and 945 points (in 813 games) with the Québec Nordiques alone, numbers likely to have gotten him in the Hall Of Fame by themselves, but factor in the other 207 in 276 games with the Chicago Blackhawks for a grand total of 1152 points in 1089 regular-season NHL games and he was a shoe-in as one of the greatest of all time.

I was happy to get him to sign some cards of himself with Chicago, as my only previous collectible of him as a Hawk was this jersey card. It's a bit weird that one of the cards doesn't picture him with his signature mustache (he shaved it off in what became his final season):

All three cards show him wearing the team's red (away) uniform. On the left is card #430 from Pro Set's 1990-91 Series 2 collection; in the middle is card #50 from Pro Set's 1991-92 Series 1 set (the French Canadian Version); and the card at the right is from Leaf's 1993-94 Series 2 set (card #373).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

George Parros: 7 Autographed Cards

Sometimes, in real life - but also on this blog - I let my cynicism get the best of me. One player I can't do that with is George Parros. He is one of the most likable personalities in the NHL, from his dry sense of humour to his involvement in countless charities (including donating his hair every Christmas to make wigs for cancer-struck kids), to the best mustache in sports, the man is all class.

I had sent him 3 regular-issue cards and two sets of customs (copies he could have kept for himself, which might have been tempting were they nicer-looking!) on May 8th, 2014, and received them all back, signed in black sharpie, with the correct jersey number on each, on August 25th, 2014 - a 110-day return, stamped from California (though originally mailed care of the Montréal Canadiens, so with a Canadian stamp - thanks US Postal).

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings (8th round, 222nd overall) in 1999, the former captain of the Princeton University Tigers didn't just score a goal the first time he made the score sheet, he actually had a ''Gordie Howe Hat Trick'' (a goal, an assist and a fight) against the Dallas Stars. He only played 55 games in L.A. before the Colorado Avalanche took him off the waiver wire, and only played two games for the Avs before they traded him back to California, this time to the Anaheim Ducks.

From his days with the Kings I now have this memento, from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Series 1 set (card #92), sporting jersey #57 of the white variety:
His time in Anaheim was way more memorable, though, as he not only spent the better part of six seasons with the Ducks, but he also won the Stanley Cup with them in 2007. He topped the 100-PIM mark five times in six seasons with the Ducks.

From those seasons, I have these two regular-issue cards by Panini, first wearing the team's black (home) uniform, from the 2010-11 Score collection (card #40 in the set):
And in the white (away) uniform, from the 2011-12 Score set (card #38):
As one of the most respected enforcers of the end of the last decade, Parros endeared himself to fans and teammates alike, which is why I made and included him in the Tough Customer sub-set of my custom Hell's Kitchen 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #TC2):
(He looks just like my godfather in this picture; my godfather's a policeman, not a porn star)
Upon becoming a free agent just about when the lock-out was possible but not yet a certainty, he signed with the Florida Panthers; a year later, he was traded to the Habs, who were looking to add size to their line-up.

He may not have played a lot in Montréal, what with suffering two concussions and being relegated to the press box for the late stages of the season and the playoffs in favour of young prospects, but he stayed focused on the task at hand, trained hard, and supported his teammates as they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. And that will be his legacy here, not the injuries, not the media fanfare over his arrival, not the 85 penalty minutes in just 22 games - his being the ultimate teammate, and putting the team ahead of himself, his expiring contract, his chance a proving he deserves another one. It may have actually cost him a season or two and forced his retirement (well, that and the concussions), but he plowed through, and will continue to do so.

He's already at the next level: his charity, Violent Gentlemen, is slated for an exhibition game against the Ducks at the Honda Center in September.

So the off-the-ice reasons are why I chose this picture as my Habs card in my 2013-14 Series 1 set for Hell's Kitchen (card #38):
Big man, huge heart.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Warren Young Autograph Card

Warren Young was first drafted drafted in 1976, both in the NHL (California Golden Seals, 56th overall) and WHA (New England Whalers, 74th overall) but instead elected to play college hockey.

After his education, he learned about life in the CHL and EHL, two minor hockey leagues with ties to the NHL, and he was a point-per-game player at that level for the most part, but he was also growing into his 6'3'', 195-pound frame and guys wanted a piece of him, so it wasn't unusual for him to have 100-PIM seasons in the minors.

After three failed attempts at a ''normal'' rookie season (with 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points and 19 penalty minutes in 20 games spread over three seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins), he finally got a real shot with the Pens in 1984-85, and he made the most of it, scoring 40 goals with 32 assists for 72 points and 174 penalty minutes in 80 games, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team at 28 years old. Most of his penalty minutes came either from his hard work along the boards, or fights from defending himself or his soon-to-be-famous teammate, Rookie Of The Year Mario Lemieux.

Young was a free agent after that magical season, and the Detroit Red Wings signed him to a lucrative contract, and while his 22 goals were good for third place on the team (behind John Ogrodnick's 36 and Petr Klima's 32), it was far from what the Wings had expected when signing him; his 161 penalty minutes were second only to Bob Probert's 186, though.

He was dealt back to Pittsburgh in the off-season for cash and used pucks, but played 57 games over two seasons with the Penguins, scoring just 8 goals with 21 points.

Upon retiring, he turned to coaching, and has a mostly positive record in 7 seasons in the ECHL. He also coached and played in the defunct roller-hockey league - for the Pittsburgh Phantoms - and had 4 points in 4 games filling in.

I haven't yet purchased or joined a box break of In The Game's 2013-14 Motown Madness cards, but I traded for this one of Young (#A-WY in the set) in exchange for doubles of another card I'll feature soon of Joe Murphy:
As is usually the case with ITG, without the rights to NHL logos, they can neither be reproduced nor shown from the jersey, but they always find a neat way to make the whole design fit. So we have a head-and-shoulders shot of Young in the Wings' classic red (then-away) uniform, over a part of the logo with some visual effects to make it just different enough to win a court case. And ITG are always great at camouflaging their sticker autographs, as shown here by making it fit over a black and white picture of the old Joe Louis Arena, which will soon be demolished and abandoned.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

José Théodore Jersey Card

Has it already been a year since I last featured José Théodore? Residents of Québec will be seeing a lot more of him next season, as the now-hockey analyst woks for TVA Sports, which has secured the rights to all NHL national games, meaning between half and 60% of Montréal Canadiens games, for the next decade.

I only started watching that station during the last playoffs, and felt it was very amateurish, cliché-ridden, and far from the level RDS had accustomed us to. But unless I want to go back to just watching 20-40 games a year, I'll have to get used to it.

Sorry for being so negative for a cool card like this one:
It's from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Ice set (card #CT-JO of the Cool Threads sub-set); while the picture on the front of the card shows him wearing the Habs' white (then-home) uniform, the two-colour swatch is red and blue, and the only time they connect on a jersey is on the red one (at that time it was the ''away'' uniform, now serves for games at the Bell Centre).

Year in and year out, Ice and Artifacts are my favourite sets in terms of design (though this particular sub-set is pretty standard); I prefer O-Pee-Chee, Victory and Score (R.I.P.) in terms of price-to-number-of-cards ratio to send out for autographs, but they're usually plain-lookng, whereas Ice and Artfacts are basically works of art.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chris Simon Autograph card

It's been four years since the last time I featured Chris Simon, so I figured I'd check in on a player I once admired and see where he was at.

After the 2007-08 season that saw him suit up with the New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild but will mostly be remembered as the one that saw him start the season finishing a 25-game suspension and receiving a 30-game one during it, Simon took his talents to the KHL, which is pretty much where I was at in the last post.

It turns out he played pretty well in his first three seasons with the Chekhov Vityaz, going 8-20-28 with 263 penalty minutes (!!!) in 40 games in his first season in Russia, then 13-12-25 and 110 in 30 games in 2009-10, and 16-12-28 and 111 in 43 games in 2010-11; he even played in the All-Star Game those last two seasons.

It went downhill from there, though, as he merely scored 4 goals and gathered 3 assists for 7 points with 71 penalty minutes in 55 games over the next two and a half seasons. He then retired, at the respectable age of 41.

I liked him the most on my favourite team, the Québec Nordiques / Colorado Avalanche, with which he won the Stanley Cup in 1996; he would also have been an ideal fit with the Philadelphia Flyers - who had originally drafted him 25th overall in 1990 - with his size, grit, hockey sense, strength, shooting accuracy and mean streak - but ended up having his best season with the Washington Capitals when he scored 29 goals with 49 points in 1999-2000.

It's fitting, then, that this 2013-14 Enforcers II card (#A-CS in the Autograph insert sub-set), signed in black sharpie, by In The Game show him with the Caps:
It may have been nice to commemorate his 250-PIM 1995-96 season with the Avs considering this is what this set wants to focus on, though; however, the black eye works very well, as does the referee right in the back, and I always liked his flowing long hair - I had the same style at the time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Another J.S. Giguère Jersey Card

So Jean-Sébastien Giguère made his retirement official yesterday at a press conference held at a team function of the LHJMQ's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the Junior team he's a part-owner of. I'd featured him last week, going at length about his career, and how our minor-league paths were similar, with each of us alternating teams and cities until it was time to join forces, which I declined to do.

Though he'll mostly be remembered as a member of the Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim / Anaheim Ducks franchise (with two Stanley Cup Finals, a Cup and a Conn Smythe to show for it), he had a more-then-decent end with the Colorado Avalanche, going 31-21-8 with 4 shutouts, a 2.51 GAA and .914 save percentage in 72 games - and one of those three seasons was for a team that finished in last place. Not too shabby.

I'm also a big fan of his career playoff statistics: in addition to his hardware, he went 33-17, had a 2.08 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 52 games. That puts him up there with some of the greatest of all time, and though I consider him a notch below that, those are still pretty solid stats that reflect how good he was when it truly mattered.

Speaking of ''greatest of all time'', the reason I'm posting about Giggy so soon is this, when Teemu Selanne took his final lap after his last regular-season NHL game, he took Giguère along with him - and no one in the arena felt it was undeserved:
That's class and friendship, but also a testament to just how good Giguère was, which fans from the East Coast in the pre-Center Ice days might not have realized.

And because Giguère retires as a member of the Avs, I chose to feature him once more in the team's white (away) uniform, with two matching jersey swatches, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Artifacts set (card #113 in the collection, numbered 102/125):
Artifacts is almost always one of the two nicest sets in any given year; its design is subdued yet efficient, full of information yet uncluttered, airy yet complete; and the pictures are always great.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Joe Thronton Jersey Card

Yes, I shall continue the streak of jersey cards because one of the two bits of news I'd expected all summer that hadn't come yet finally has: the San Jose Sharks have stripped Joe Thornton of his captaincy. (For the record, the other one involves Cam Ward moving to a team in black and gold).

But back to the team in teal, and what some observers are calling ''a (very public) nervous breakdown'':
The strangest part in all of this? Stripping Thornton's ''C'' came nearly five years to the day of losing his alternate captaincy back in 2009, when the Sharks also took away Patrick Marleau's ''C''. That shakeup came after a massive playoff disappointment (sound familiar?) in which the Sharks won 53 regular season games before getting bounced in the opening round by Anaheim. That led (head coach) Todd McLellan to overhaul his entire leadership group (sound familiar?) and go into training camp with no captains or alternates (sound familiar?).
This, after GM Doug Wilson promised to clean house and rebuild, then opted not to (or at least just let some second-tier veterans go). Someone's stepping on someone else's toes; someone's going to lose their job over a decision they went along with but didn't make themselves.

Thornton is 35. Can he be The Guy, The Franchise, the difference maker? No, and he never was, and perhaps it shouldn't have been expected of him.

Is he an elite player? Yes, he's still one of the best passers in the league, and still gets close to a point per game late in his career.

He hasn't won in the NHL, but when used as a spare part by a team that could afford it (Team Canada), he has won gold at the Olympics (2010) and the World Cup (2004). Like Dave Andreychuk, he might end up winning the Cup in his last season as a third-liner on an actual contender rallying around him for that final victory lap.

Or maybe he's like Eric Lindros: really good, just not what people expected, and just that notch under what it takes to be the guy who carries a team (and/or be in the Hall). For the record #2: I think Joe Thornton is a much better more accomplished player than Lindros, because he jumped at the chance to be merely a role player (Canada 2010 versus Canada 2006, i.e. ''Mega-Fail'') for the greater good and his team.

Speaking of Canada, here he is wearing his country's white (''home'') uniform, and judging by the ads on the helmet and jersey, either from the Spengler Cup or the World Championships, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition, card #TC-JT of the Team Canada Fabrics sub-set, with a game-worn matching white swatch:
I prefer my international uniforms without the Zepler ads, but at least they help in placing the athlete in the right context...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Henrik Sedin Jersey Card

Believe it or not, I was really hesitating as to whether or not I would feature Henrik Sedin the day after doing so for his twin Daniel. I'd been pretty good these past few weeks (months?) at alternating between autographs and jersey cards and wanted the switch to keep going, but I figured they were drafted consecutively (Daniel second, Henrik third) by the Vancouver Canucks in 1999, so I might as well go back-to-back myself.

If Daniel's the goal scorer, Henrik's the passer, with six consecutive 60-assist seasons with the one before that at 57 and the one after - the locked-out season - 34 in just 48 games. Like his brother, Henrik was on two end-of-season All-Star selections, and has an Art Ross and two NHL trophies in total - where Daniel also got the Lester B. Pearson, though, Henrik got the Hart; both are MVP trophies of sorts, so they remain pretty evenly matched.

Henrik also gets some Lady Byng votes, but is never in the top-10 in voting like Daniel is; he does get Selke votes because he's a center, though he's usually in the top-30 votes, which is far from being an actual contender for it.

Henrik's biggest season in terms of points also trumps Daniel's, 112 to 104, and though they've played together for most of their lives, those seasons were consecutive, due to an injury to Daniel in 2009-10.

His medal count with Team Sweden is also identical to his brother's: Olympic gold (2006) and silver (2014), World Championship gold (2013) and bronze (1999, 2001), U-18 gold (1998) and U-17 silver (1997). He's a little less productive than Daniel in international games, with 69 points in 81 games. He made the IIHF All-Star team at the 2013 Worlds.

For all the talk about the Sedins not being playoff performers, in the Canucks' last five post-season appearances, Henrik has 54 points in 56 games, including 22 in 25 when they lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010-11.

Which bring us to this card from Panini's 2010-11 Pinnacle set, card #96 of the City Lights Materials sub-set (numbered #496/499), featuring a blue jersey swatch matching the (awful) home uniform pictured both on the front and back of the card:
Notice the totally random, not-hockey-related story on the back of the card...

I had written Henrik in September 2010; I have since moved three times, and I don't count on any of those four cards to make their way back to me, ever.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Daniel Sedin Jersey Card

Daniel Sedin and twin brother Henrik have been the face of the Vancouver Canucks since coming back from the 2004-05 lock-out. Since then, he has been a consistent point producer (70+ each year, more than a point per game on average), usually hitting the 30-goal mark.

Of course, last year was particularly bad, but in general, the 2011 Art Ross and Ted Lindsay winner - and Hart finalist - and two-time All-Star Team nod recipient can be counted on to provide a fair chunk of the Canucks' goals, and also usually ends in the top-10 in Lady Byng voting.

Internationally, he has 72 points in 75 games for Team Sweden, with Olympic gold (2006) and silver (2014), World Championship gold (2013) and bronze (1999, 2001), U-18 gold (1998) and U-17 silver (1997).

Some of his advanced statistics look pretty good, too, if you're into that sort of thing (I'm not).

From the year after his award-winning, 41-goal and 104-point season comes this card from the 2011-12 Ultimate Collection set (#UJ-DS of the Ultimate Jerseys sub-set, numbered 53/100) by Upper Deck, featuring a dual-swatch card (they are green, while the picture shows him in the Canucks' white - away - uniform, which has very little of it):
Daniel now sports the alternate captain's 'A' more often than not, while Henrik has been the team's captain since the title was relinquished by Roberto Luongo.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jarrod Skalde Autographed Card

I wrote about Jarrod Skalde's career path just about a year ago, mentioning I had some in-person autographs of him I could feature later. The time has come, but unfortunately, so far in my unpacking, I have just found one:
It's from Upper Deck's 1991-92 Series 1 set (card #446, part of the Star Rookie sub-set), signed in thick black sharpie, which is what I carried with me to games as a teen (after a brief stint with pens). I got it in person, but since I have two or three of him and they weren't all had at the same time, it could have been from any NHL, IHL or AHL stint prior to 1996, when I took a break from all things puck-related (mostly at the NHL level, but also to a lesser extent at all levels).

He was a point-per-game player in the minors, and for a while also was in the NHL, until bouncing around from team to team every year and never being given a real chance with top-line minutes. He may have been a tad skinny at 170 pounds to start his career, and 180 at the height of it, but he had hands and some vision; paired with the right guy(s), he could have made a decent contributor.

He made some news this summer when he was named the new head coach of the Norfolk Admirals, the AHL farm team of the Anaheim Ducks, replacing Trent Yawney, who made the jump up to assistant in Anaheim.

I really like the focus he shows on the card, possibly during a pre-game warm-up; he's wearing the New Jersey Devils' white (then-home) 1980s-1990s uniform.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simon Gagné Jersey Card

No one was happier than me to learn that Simon Gagné had received a try-out offer with the Boston Bruins next month. You can't lose a scoring touch that had two 40-goal and two other 30-goal seasons, two All-Star Games, and five Team Canada participations (including two gold medals and a World Cup).

Sure, his speed's no longer what it was, and after spending last season practicing with the LHJMQ's Québec Remparts, reflexes may take a few weeks to get back up to par - and there are health issues that come with past concussions; but you can't negate 799 regular-season NHL games' worth of experience, a Stanley Cup, 37 playoff goals, and 597 total points.

In Boston, he'll suit up for a perennial contender, likely play on the third line, and get some vital powerplay minutes with fellow Québec City phenom Patrice Bergeron. Add a bargain-basement price tag and it's not just a win-win, but a no-brainer.

I unwrapped this card of his earlier this season, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition (card #AF-SG of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), featuring a black swatch and showing him wearing the Philadelphia Flyers' orange retro/home uniform:
At first glance, because the jersey he's wearing is mostly orange, it might look like a Frankencard (where the swatch is from a different uniform than the one shown or - worse - from a different team altogether), and it very well could be; but if you look at the sleeves, they're black; they could be a match.

However, all the teams Gagné's played for played in black: the Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning pre-current all-blue, and the Los Angeles Kings. Even his new team, the Bruins. This could be from any of them (except Boston), yet it's well done because there's no way to know for sure. Well played, UD.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Taylor Fedun Autograph Card

I was a tad disappointed when the Edmonton Oilers didn't tend Taylor Fedun a qualifying offer this summer, sending him off to free agency, as I'm a fan of players playing for their hometown teams - they help the team's staff instill what the franchise is about to newcomers from a fan's perspective, and generally hate not making the playoffs and having to face questions as to why all summer long.

Ultimately, Fedun didn't last long on the market, as the San Jose Sharks signed him on the second day of free agency.

He had impressed the Oilers enough to invite him to their rookie camp as an undrafted prospect in 2011, and he played his way onto an entry-level contract in pre-season games. However, he was tripped by the Minnesota Wild's Eric Nystrom as both were racing for an icing and broke his femur, leading directly to the rule change still effective today, but made him miss the entirety of the 2011-12 season.

He then spent most of the next two seasons with the Oilers' AHL affiliate Oklahoma City Barons, with seasons of 27 and 37 points from the point. He did play 4 games with Edmonton, scoring two goals; he scored his first one in his first game, on home ice.

I didn't see him play in the AHL, so I don't know if his injury impeded his movements, slowed him down, or if he's healed; however, you'd think the Sharks, who just got rid of Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart, were confident he could step up to at least a #4-6 roster spot to sign him that early on.

I don't know what number Fedun will wear in San Jose, but this card of him wearing #91 fits really well in my Oilers Numbers Project; it's from Panini's beautiful-once-you-get-used-to-it 2013-14 Prizm set, and is card #347 in the collection, part of its Dual Rookie Class:
Yes, it's completely made up of crazy foil, and I love the effect of the signature/sticker area, giving it a stained glass effect. In person, the blue-sharpied autograph is much darker, and the stained glass effect less obvious.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mike Fisher Autographed 5x7 Picture

Mike Fisher is one of my favourite NHL players, and as is the case with most of the ones I have an affection for, that stands for both on and off the ice.

On it, he was regarded as the ideal #2 center backing Jason Spezza with the Ottawa Senators for the better part of a decade, and as he has now moved into his mid-thirties, has continued to put up his 50 points per season despite playing on the less offense-minded Nashville Predators.

Off the ice, Carrie Underwood's husband still spends most of his days supporting countless charities, including still being involved with Roger's House, a residential house/hospice for families of children with life-limiting diseases that has all the amenities of a full-fledged hospital but the comfort of one's home; it was set up by the Sens following the passing of their former coach Roger Nielsen, the first NHL head coach to use modern technology (and video!) as a tool to teach and coach players.

It was during one of the Roger's House fundraisers in the middle of the '00 decade that I met Mr. Fisher while donating; he was signing 5x7 pictures in black sharpie, of his red (home) Sens uniform:
He plays every game - even in the pre-season - like it's a Game 7; it seems he takes his responsibilities as a role model just as seriously. It's really impressive and inspiring.

He suffered a ''freak accident'' while training this summer, and it should keep him off the ice until November. I'm confident he'll make the Preds a much better team upon his return.

Edit: I'd made the mistake of trading it away a few years ago; I corrected that buying it back this Spring; I know it's the same one from the top-right corner being dented from the car ride home from Ottawa to Montréal.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jean-Sébastien Giguère Jersey Card

I'd been holding onto this scanned picture since May, assuming that Jean-Sébastien Giguère would officially announce his retirement from the NHL early in the summer, and it has turned out not to be the case, though some reports hinted at that; however, when Patrick Roy was in town for a charity golf tournament recently, he mentioned he didn't know what Giguère's plans were, but that the Colorado Avalanche were proceeding next season with Semyon Varlamov and Reto Berra in nets.

But I have plenty of other J.-S. Giguère cards to feature (including a game-used glove one), so when the word officially comes, I'll have another go at it.

I've followed in his footsteps for years. He was a year older than I was, but we played in many of the same tournaments in Pee-wee, Bantam and Midget; he played his Midget AAA with Laval-Laurentides-Lanaudière while I played for Montréal-Bourassa Collège-Français, but the year after my Grade 11, Collège-Français switched its affiliation to Major Junior, and he played for them as they operated out of the Verdun Auditorium, then was traded to the Halifax Mooseheads; upon graduating, I went to play my Junior hockey with the Laval Titan, who took on the Collège-Français affiliation - we'd switcharooed. This was 1995-96.

I wasn't the biggest fan of the culture of violence that Laval represented, and as third-string goalie, I was mostly sparingly used as an additional enforcer the team could use. I'm not even on HockeyDB, though I suited up for 5 games and had over 80 penalty minutes, probably because I played in less than a total minute - I'd played a lot more in pre-season and spring training.

In any event, for the season and a half I spent in Laval, I wasn't seeing many shots, and my reflexes weren't getting the workload they needed, so I asked for permission to play with the unofficial team from my College, Brébeuf, if it didn't interfere with Titan games. Some time in November 1996, my 5-0 record with a 1.00 GAA was shattered in an 11-2 pounding at the hands of another school's official team. I didn't know it then, but that was to be my final formal-setting game.

A week or two later, Laval traded my rights to... Halifax. Halifax had Giguère, the best non-professional goalie in Canada. What it didn't have was a Cégep - pre-university colleges that only exist in Québec. I didn't have a Grade 12 education so I couldn't jump directly to university, and my time at Brébeuf (a Cégep) didn't count. I had to balance it all out, and the way it looked to me was this: if I went, I would never play, as I'd be behind the best in the country, and probably behind the other guy they already had backing him up; I wouldn't be able to get an education right away; and my music career - which I had going for me in Montréal in parallel to school, hockey and girls - would be on hiatus as well. I chose to decline reporting to the team and, effectively, retire.

Near the Holidays, the Hartford Whalers, who had drafted Giguère 13th overall at the 1995 draft, got in a bit of a bind when Sean Burke - one of my favourite goalies growing up! - fell to injury; they recalled Giggy from Juniors rather than have their backup Jason Muzzati - or guys they had in the AHL or ECHL - play; that net in Halifax may very well have been mine for a whole month to show what I could do.

But I have no regrets.

The 8 games Giguère played for the Whalers that year would be all he'd give that organization, as they traded him to the Calgary Flames (with Andrew Cassels, for Gary Roberts and Trevor Kidd), but he mostly spent his time with their AHL affiliate, winning the best goals-against trophy.

It was a trade to the Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim that would forever define his career. He played parts of 9 seasons with the franchise, winning the Conn Smythe trophy in a losing cause in 2003, and the Stanley Cup in 2007. He was an All-Star, was often voted among the top-10 in Vezina-worthy goalies, was in the running for the Hart once, and even got a (first-place) vote in the Lady Byng race (a rare occurence for a goalie) in 2007-08. He won over 30 games with them 4 times, and is still the team leader in wins.

He ended his career with backup stints in Toronto (a year and a half), and two seasons with the Avs. Even last season, he was still among the best in the league at positionning - which can be traced to still being tied to genius goaltending coach François Allaire - but was a few milliseconds away from the sharpness of his past reflexes. Roy even called him out in the Montréal media last season.

Then again, Giguère had called out some of his own teammates the year before, saying:
Some guys are more worried about their [Las] Vegas trip at the end of the season than playing the games, than playing every minute of the games.
True words from a veteran leader, but also the type of words that come back to haunt you later, like, say, when a new head coach needs to put his young leaders on the same page and needs a common focal point for all.

And so it's fitting to show him wearing the Avs' white (away) uniform, with a matching swatch with some stitching (it's probably from the fight-strap at the back of the jersey), from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1 set (card #GJ-JG of the Game Jersey sub-set), complete with deceased UD CEO Richard McWilliam's guarantee of authenticity:
I'll analyze his impact on the game - and on his teams - in a later post, but he truly was a game-changing player. I wish him the best, retirement or not.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Darcy Tucker Autograph Card

If you've been following my blog of late, you'll have noticed I crossed off #12 off my Habs Numbers Project with Yvan Cournoyer and Mike Keane; another option would have been Darcy Tucker.

Except it's hard to identify him as a member of the Montréal Canadiens even though the team drafted him in the sixth round (151st overall) in 1993. For starters, he wore #42 for his first two seasons with the team, the first of which only lasted 3 games (and a minus-1 as lone stat to show for it), while the second one saw him reach 20 points on 7 goals and 13 assist, and a whopping 110 penalty minutes in 73 games; don't let those numbers fool you, though: those were mostly harassment-type penalties that proved costly to his team, and he rarely took on the responsibility of extinguishing the fires he set.

When he did switch over to #12 in 1997-98, he played 39 games with the team, with just a goal and five assists, before getting shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he played for parts of three seasons. He had his first (of six) 20-goal seasons in Tampa, 21 in 82 games for 43 points... and a minus-34 to go with it.

The Lightning then traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team of goons that fit his style - and both protected him and allowed him to gain the courage to step up himself - with Mike Johnson going the other way. He played seven and a half years in Toronto, where he was a fan favourite, along with other hard-checking forwards Shayne Corson and Tie Domi.

The Leafs offered him a 4-year, $12M deal prior to the 2007-08 season, and bought him out after just one year; his $1M annual cap hit went off the books last June, six years later. All told, he played 947 NHL games, and contributed with 476 points and 1410 penalty minutes. He was a minus player on every team, finishing with a minus-86 in total, plus another minus-6 in the playoffs.

But I do have this card of his time in Montréal, from Pinnacle Brands' 1997-98 Be A Player set (card #119), an insert card signed in thin black sharpie:

On it, he's wearing the team's classic red (then away) uniform, hair flowing without a helmet, most likely during a pre-game warm-up.

He sells autographed items on his website: $50-75 for an 8x10 picture, and $350 for a jersey. All Leafs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Luc Robitaille Jersey Card

In my lifetime, the player who best represents the Los Angeles Kings so far is Luc Robitaille; sure, Wayne Gretzky had more points in fewer games and hit many of his milestones in L.A., and sure the current crop have two Stanley Cups to their credit, but Robitaille, the 171st pick of the 1984 draft, retired as the left winger with the most goals in NHL history (668), and points too (1394). He's also the highest-scoring King with 577 goals, as he played 14 of his 19 NHL seasons over three stints with the team who retired his jersey number.

He won the Cup as a role player with the Detroit Red Wings and also suited up for the New York Rangers for two seasons and Pittsburgh Penguins for 46 games, but like Gretzkky and Marcel Dionne, he defined the Kings, who have also retired the numbers of Gretzky, Dionne, Dave Taylor and Rogatien Vachon.

They will also honour him with a statue outside the Staples Center next season. So it's great to have been able to pull this card from a pack of Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 2 cards, featuring a black swatch that matches the black jersey he's wearing on the front of the card, which is the turn-of-the-millenium uniform that is still used at times:
I had tried writing and sending him cards in 2011 (care of the Kings) but have since learned he only signs at high-cost events ($100 and up), so I don't expect to see those six cards ever again, including a rookie card. It is always a risk I'm willing to take when sending anyway.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Two Michael Kostka Autograph Cards

I jumped on a group break for cheap recently - they desperately needed participants - which was for four boxes of Panini's 2013-14 Contenders; it turns out it wasn't worth much anyway, because what we got were two sets of identical boxes. I ended up with these two Michael Kostka Rookie Ticket autograph cards (#152 in the set), showing him with the Chicago Blackhawks:
At 28 years old, Kostka might just be coming into his own in the NHL. After having been with the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers but never playing a game with them, he took advantage of the locked-out season to play 35 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs before signing with the Hawks, then getting claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning off waivers near the end of the season.

He was Tampa's best player in the playoffs, with two assists in three games as they were swept in the first round by the Montréal Canadiens; he signed with the New York Rangers this summer, and should be their seventh defenseman.

One of these is obviously for trade.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lou Brock Swatch Card

Why yes, that's two days in a row with baseball posts. Perhaps something is wrong with me...

Although I've been waiting for an excuse to feature this card (and a few others) for a while now; it features Hall Of Famer Lou Brock, the one-time record holder for stolen bases, on this Century Collection card (#10 in the series) from the 2010 Donruss Americana (numbered 19/250) set by Panini, with a black swatch from ''an item'' worn during a ''professional'' game:

Brock spent his entire Major League career in the National League, playing his first four seasons with the Chicago Cubs, and sixteen years with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he would have the most success. He won two World Series with the Cards (1964 and 1967) and was a six-time All-Star (1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975 and 979) as well.

He did have some power, having knocked the ball out of the park at New York's Polo Grounds, but Cards manager Johnny Keane wanted to have a speedy team, and asked him to concentrate on stealing bases rather than hit homers; he ended his career with 149 homers, but 938 stolen bases (and 900 RBIs, and over 3000 hits).

He was a first-ballot Hall Of Famer.

Upon retiring, he held various positions on the Cardinals, either as coach or advisor. He is also an accomplished businessman and ordained minister.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tom Foley: 4 Autographed Cards

Apparently, there's still a thing called baseball happening in the summer. I don't know: every time I look at Sports Illustrated, the only name I recognize is Derek Jeter's; when I was a kid, I could tell every player from the National League from every possible angle - and most guys from the American League too: from their uniform numbers, their batting stances, their defensive positioning, how they ran. I was a huge baseball fan.

Then came the 1994 players' strike, the multiple fire sales, the changes in ownerships, the games behind the game, and ultimately the death of a healthy franchise at the hands of a man who would end up owning another team in way too short a time span.

But back when hockey was merely a 9-month sport - October until June - my summers were filled with baseball, from May until October. The Montréal Expos would show promise, and they would have the three runners-up to the eventual NL Rookie Of The Year, one guy would finish in the top-5 for batting average, another in home runs, Tim Raines would hit 30 homers and steal over 30 bases (usually over 50, often over 70), a pitcher would finish in the top-5 in wins while another would be in the top-3 for saves, the team would compete with the New York Mets (early-to-mid 1980s), Philadelphia Phillies (end of 1980s) or Atlanta Braves (1990s) for best in the East, then implode come the end of August...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But through those times, whenever I was in town, I'd go see the Expos at least once a week, and watch the other games on TV. I'd arrive early to get autographs during warm-ups, I'd stay late for post-game signature sessions in the long hall connecting the Olympic Stadium to the subway system, and I'd go to events that players might attend. The Expos were so big back then that even Habs players played softball for charity in the summer - rather than golf.

And so I met Tom Foley a bunch of times between 1985 and 1992, and again in 1995 when he had his last go-round with the team before retiring and joining the Tampa Bay Rays' staff, where he still works today.

Foley was mostly a shortstop elsewhere, but played second base more often in Montréal. He didn't make many errors - the most he was credited with was 12, and his error percentage was better at second base (28 in 385 games) than at shortstop (46 in 463 games). In 1990, he played all infield positions at least once, and he even pitched to two hitters in 1989.

All told I probably had a dozen cards of his signed during his time here, but only seem to have these four handy. All of them show him wearing the Expos' classic light-blue (away) uniform and are signed in thin blue sharpie, which was unlikely to be mine; I'll start with these two from Score, where he is shown fielding:
On the left, ready for whatever the hitter brings his way, is card #159 of the 1988 Score set; on the right, having caught the ball and likely throwing it to first base, is card #405 of the 1989 Score collection.

And these two:
On the left, probably taken during warm-ups (empty seats, coach facing the other way, looking relaxed), is card #251 in the 1988 Topps set by Topps; on the right, throwing to first to complete a double-play against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, is from Upper Deck's 1991 Series 1 set (card #381).

The cards from 1988 were purchased in Florida and opened my eyes to the fact that there were more manufacturers out there than just O-Pee-Chee; they were all pretty basic until Upper Deck came along with great action shots on both sides of the card.

Tom Foley played a total of 13 seasons in the majors, all of them in the National League. Eight of those summers were spent in Montréal. His career batting average is at a respectable .244; he has as many career home runs as he does stolen bases, 32.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Marc Staal Jersey And Stick card

So, apparently contract extension talks are, uh, stalling, between Marc Staal and the New York Rangers. There are few defensemen of his caliber set to also become unrestricted free agents next July, which means the longer talks drag on, the higher his potential value will become.

His current cap hit is under $4M per year, and I could see him getting $7M on the open market; perhaps the Rangers can convince him to sign between 6 and 6.5 by offering a longer term. Although with three brothers in the Carolina Hurricanes organization, it may not be New York who gets the hometown discount...

Known primarily as a shut-down defender (which will happen when two of your three brothers are All-Star-caliber forwards) and shot-blocker, he is one of the players who learned to hone their offensive game under John Tortorella, whose qualities often get overlooked because of his attitude. He reached the 25-point mark twice under Torts, both times finishing in the plusses and with nearly 10 goals and averaging 25 minutes per game; he was a minus player before and after those seasons.

He'll be more fragile now that he's had at least one serious concussion, but will likely still be very effective when called upon. This is the fourth ''jersey and stick'' card I'll have showcased, all of them Rangers players, all from Panini's 2011-12 Luxury Suite set; it's as if someone at Panini stole a shipment of game-used equipment en route to a game...

It's card #26 in the series - just like the regular card, but thicker and with holes for the memorabilia - and shows him wearing the Blueshirts' off-white Winter Classic uniform from 2012, wearing the alternate captain's 'A'. I got it in a trade for a couple of football jersey cards and an index card signed by CFL and NFL legend Doug Flutie.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Valeri Bure Autograph Card

I had already crossed #18 of my Habs Numbers Project with this signed framed lithograph of Hall Of Famer Serge Savard, but if I end up making it harder on myself and count only signed cards, then this Valeri Bure card from the 1995-96 Be A Player set (#S34 in the series manufactured by Upper Deck, signed in thin black sharpie with his number tagged at the end) would become the one that counts:
It shows him wearing the Montréal Canadiens' white (then-home) uniform, without the team's logo showing (for copyright reasons), probably making a pass - and judging by the spectators not staring in the puck's direction the way Bure is, I'd say the picture was probably taken during warm-ups.

Bure has also worn #20 on the Habs, in a career that saw him spend time with the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars as well. He played in one All-Star Game, representing the Flames in a season in which he posted 35 goals, 40 assists and 75 points - all career highs - in 1999-2000. He reached the 20-goal mark six times, finishing his NHL career with 174 to go with 226 assists and 400 points in 621 games.

He was less productive come playoff time, with no goals and just 7 assists in 22 games. Those statistics match his international record, where his senior stats read 5 goals, no assists in 19 games; he was part of Team Russia's bronze-winning team at the 1994 World Juniors, and has two Olympic medals, silver (1998) and bronze (2002).

As a player, he and his wife owned a café in Florida, which they closed when he stopped playing for the Panthers; upon retiring, the family moved to California and opened a winery. Recently, it has been his wife, former Full House actress Candace Cameron Bure, grabbing headlines, admitting last January to being submissive to her husband and letting him have final say all the time, and about a month ago opening up about the couple's sex life. They are devout Christians. Valeri also has a brother who played in the NHL, Hall Of Famer Pavel Bure.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Yannick Weber Jersey Card

I wanted to put the Yannick Weber card I featured last month in a binder, but there was no sense in doing it for just one card. So here's another one, a photo shoot-worn jersey card, from Upper Deck's 2009-10 SPX set, card #152 of the Rookie Jersey sub-set (numbered #256/799, though I find it hard to believe one jersey could be split into 800 pieces each measuring a bit over square inch, so there were likely numerous worn in that photo-op), featuring a nice blue swatch, likely from the Montréal Canadiens' red (home) three-coloured jersey:

I want to reiterate my faith that the two-time Olympian (at barely 25 years of age) for Team Switzerland will become a regular NHLer if only for his powerplay prowess (great first pass, great shot, good foot speed), but also full-time as a #4 or 5 defender.

All he needs is ice time and a coach who will let him play his own style. He's won championships in Juniors and was an All-Star in the AHL. This season or the next will be his breakthrough.