Friday, November 28, 2014

Lance Pitlick Autograph Card

A rugged, stay-at-home defenseman from Minnesota, Lance Pitlick never even dreamed of playing for the Minnesota North Stars growing up, because he didn't feel he had the skill level to even play in elite leagues. But at every step of the way, there he was, defying the odds, earning a scholarship with the University Of Minnesota Golden Gophers, then being named the Gophers' captain, then getting drafted by the North Stars in the late rounds (180th overall), and spending the better part of a decade in the AHL with the Hershey Bears.

And then the Ottawa Senators called with the exact need he could fit: that of an older, veteran defenseman who can hit, move bodies from the front of his net, a player who can pass on the tape and if he can't see a good pass to be made, instead of just dumping it away, will take a hit to protect the puck and try again three feet further. He was on the first Sens team to make the playoffs, and the first one to win a round, making even players such as Patrick Traverse look like NHL players, and helping groom Chris Phillips and Wade Redden into All-Stars.

He scored 11 of his 16 NHL goals with the Sens, before moving on with the Florida Panthers for three final injury-filled seasons under Mike Keenan. He was a realist to the end, claiming after his first game to just want ''to play one game and get a hockey card'', and that wish got me this one, from Pinnacle's 1997-98 Be A Player set, card #109 in the series, an insert signed on-card in black sharpie, wearing the team's beautiful mid-1990s black (away) uniform:
My favourite anecdote of his is from his days in Florida, in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he was summoned to the point on a 5-on-3 powerplay, lost the puck and cost his team a shorthanded goal, and his coach telling him ''that's why you don't get powerplay ice time''. That's Pitlick for you: humble to a fault, and yet always the first to congratulate every other player on the team. Every team needs a couple of guys like him.

This one also marks my first ''official'' entry in my Sens Numbers Project, now that I know I'm going through with it.

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