Monday, March 23, 2015

Francis Bouillon Autographed Card

He came back to the Montréal Canadiens in 2012-13 so he could retire as a Hab, finishing where it all started after three seasons in his second stint with the Nashville Predators (all told he's spent 11 years in three stints in Montréal); unfortunately for him, at the end of last year, Francis Bouillon felt he still had some gas left in the tank and didn't want to retire anymore, and the Canadiens wanted to make way for their youngsters.

Both sides compromised with Bouillon showing up for training camp on a tryout, but ultimately he was cut and opted to move to Switzerland on a two-year deal with HC Ambri-Piotta, where he had a decent season, accounting for 11 assists in 31 games so far, on a team that stands in third place in its division with two games remaining in the regular season. Also on the team this season are former NHLers Ryan O'Byrne, Adam Hall, Keith Aucoin, and Alexandre Giroux.

I've always liked Bouillon, a hard-working defensive defenseman with some speed who can pass well and has a decent shot from the point (he was usually on the second wave of the powerplay). Though barely 5'8'', he hit hard in those corners as if he was a full foot taller; his low center of gravity and 200-pound muscle mass definitely had something to do with that, but he was also super-strong, definitely the strongest relative to size in the entire league. He rarely made mistakes on the back end, but he was starting to slow down as he neared the ripe old age of 40 (which he will attain in October).

I met him a few times in the past decade, as he was always a willing participant in team promotions and events, but this particular card was signed last summer, when he came around at the arena that now bears his name a few blocks from my place (and his), where I teach young goalies one weekend per month. It was our last practice before the league's award ceremony (probably in June), and I was happy to have this iconic card of his:
He's raising the team's mythical torch, the emblem of over 100 years (older than the league itself!) of blood, sweat, tears, broken bones and 24 Stanley Cups, most of them as underdogs save for a series of two as a dynasty, wearing the classic bleu-blanc-rouge formerly flannel jersey, the last one to hold it during the inaugural game's player presentation, an honor usually reserved for the captain or star goalie, this time savoured by the comeback hometown kid.

It's from Panini's 2013-14 Score set (card #266 in the collection), a brand that was good at showcasing special moments (such as Nik Antropov modeling the Winnipeg Jets' uniform in front of a plane), and it was signed in thin blue sharpie (the hue and blur is from the penny sleeve).

And though he wore #51 for most of his career, in his final two seasons (100 regular-season games) as a Hab, he wore #55, thus cementing his place in my Habs Numbers Project.

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