Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seth Martin Autograph Card

Ask anyone who has played with him, against him, or even just watched him play: Seth Martin was among the best of all time. Vladislav Tretiak credits him as ''hid idol'' and the one whose style he emulated; Hall Of Famer Glenn Hall, who just played one season with him with the St. Louis Blues marvels at his skills, and even asked his teammate to build him a mask; Ken Dryden says ''everyone knew about Martin'', though he kind of had to, because the two questions the Russians had for Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series were ''Why is Seth Martin not on the team?'', and ''Is Dryden as good as Martin?'', which might be hard to fathom for folks born after 1980.

Martin played amateur hockey with the Trail Smoke Eaters, and helped them reach the actual IIHF World Championships four times, winning gold once and bronze twice, and three times being named best goalie and to the All-Star team. Back then, professionals weren't allowed at the Worlds nor the Olympics, so Canada was represented by the best amateur club that year, usually the same one that won the Allan Cup (best Senior-level team in Canada). Except the Russians were considered amateurs, so they had an unfair advantage.

The Smoke Eaters also represented Canada at the 1964 Olympics, finishing 4th. During those five times representing his country abroad, Martin made a huge impression on Europeans, the Russians and Czechs especially.

He made it to the NHL with the Blues, in their inaugural 1967-1968 season that finished in their being swept by the Montréal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals. After the season, at 35 years of age, a backup with perhaps few good years left ahead of him, he was faced with the dilemma of re-signing or moving back to British Columbia, and playing amateur hockey while going back to his career as a firefighter.

It came down to dollars and sense, in the pre-millionnaire days: the NHL pension kicked in at 210 games played, and he'd played 30; he needed six more seasons at the same level just to qualify. He already had 12 years invested in his fireman pension, and would end up with triple that.

Thirthy games isn't enough to qualify for the Hockey Hall Of Fame in Toronto (a.k.a. the NHL Hall Of Fame, a.k.a. The Old Boys' Club), but his success on the international stage did get him elected to the IIHF Hall in 1997. Journalists from Trail also say he was a terrific person.

He died two months ago. He had colon cancer, but it was a heart attack that got the best of him while he was in intensive care. He was 81 years old.

Since then, this card has meant even more to me:
It's card #A-SM from In The Game's 2011-12 Between The Pipes set (the 10th Anniversary of the brand), from the Authentic GoalieGraphs and International Pioneers sub-sets. ITG are generally very good at making their on-sticker autographs fit with the design of their cards, and this one here is no exception; they could, however, have used a picture of his from any other season he played than his lone NHL one, considering they are celebrating his ''international'' feats. Here is a crop from the classic, original picture:
Still a great card of a great goalie, signed clearly in black sharpie.

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