Saturday, January 3, 2015

Michel Dion Autograph Card

Michel Dion was a well-rounded athlete in every sense of the word. At one point, he was part of the Montréal Expos' system on his way to become a major league baseball player, but chose to concentrate on being a professional hockey goalie instead (it should be pointed out that he was a catcher, and Hall Of Famer Gary Carter was ahead of him in their depth chart). Now, 30 years after retiring from the NHL, he's a golf coach and teacher in North Carolina.

But let's go back to his hockey career, which started gaining momentum when he was in in the OHA and LHJMQ with the Montréal Junior Canadiens, leading to his being drafted by the WHA's Indianapolis Racers in 1974 (121st overall), ahead of fellow goalies Eddie Mio (138th), and Réjean Lemelin (209th).

In 1975-96, playing in just 31 games, he won the Ben Hatskin Trophy (the WHA's equivalent of the Vezina) as the top goalie, on the strength of a league-leading 2.74 GAA (yes, those were different times!) and a .910 save percentage.

When the WHA folded in 1979, he was picked up by the Québec Nordiques, appearing in 50 games with the injury-depleted team and yet posting two shutouts with a 3.70 GAA. The Nordiques would trade him to the Winnipeg Jets upon acquiring superstar Dan Bouchard, and the Jets elected not to re-sign him when his contract was up.

The Pittsburgh Penguins jumped at the opportunity, and it was with them that he would enter into NHL mythology, with an All-Star Game appearance in 1982, and finishing third in Vezina voting in 1981-82 - but mostly for his timeless duck-shaped scary mask:

He was forced out of Pittsburgh (and got tired of hockey in general) after the 1984-85 season, as the Pens decided to continue forward with a rotation consisting of fellow Montrealers Denis Herron and Roberto Romano, a 5'6'' athletic journeyman.

Even recently, current Pens goalie Marc-André Fleury immortalized Dion (and Tom Barrasso) on his own mask:

It's fitting that Fleury's depiction of Dion comes from a hockey card from In The Game, such as the one I'm featuring today from their 2011-12 Between The Pipes (10th Anniversary) set (card #A-MD of the GoalieGraphs and Decades - The 1980s sub-sets):

It's signed in black sharpie and shows him wearing the Nordiques' white (home) uniform. In his time playing with Québec, Dion wore both #30 and #19.

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