Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Steve Christoff Autographed Card

I really started getting into card collecting in 1986-87, although I'd had a few packs of hockey and baseball cards here and there previously, but that was the year where my whole world of toys and collectibles was all about cards instead of G.I. Joe, Transformers, M.A.S.K. and Thundercats figurines; my parents were thrilled at first because they figured it'd be cheaper, but that 35-cent pack I'd get as a ''tip'' every time I'd ''volunteer'' to go get whatever we needed at the convenience store probably amounted to a lot more in the end.

That's when I got the bug, and one summer, I ''worked'' with my grandmother, helping her sell shoes and purses (I think) at a flea market, and the seller a few tables/stands over had a bunch of randomly-divided packs of 100 hockey cards from the late 1970s and early 1980s, and that's where I spent all of my allowance and whatever pay I got for the duration of July and August.

Later, as the 1990s came along and card stores started popping up everywhere, I traded a bunch of O-Pee-Chee cards for their Topps equivalent because it felt more exclusive to have the imported (American) brand than the local (Canadian) one, even though both were worth the same.

One such trade from a card I'd originally gotten at that flea market was this one, of Steve Christoff, which I got him to sign with a black eraser-board marker in the first half of the '90s, I'd say around 1993 in one of three trips my local team made to Minneapolis (we also had annual trips to Boston and New Jersey in the United States):

It's from Topps' 1981-82 Topps set (card #104, its O-Pee-Chee equivalent being #160), showing him as a member of the Minnesota North Stars, a team I didn't feel any emotion towards until I played for the NDG North Stars as a kid, at which point I started liking Neal Broten and Don Beaupre.

Christoff was one of the star forwards of the 1980 Olympics Team USA - you know, the Miracle On Ice team - along with Broten and Dave Christian. Prior to that, he'd been a star with the University of Minnesota Gophers, and like Broten and Phil Vercota, was a local boy who'd grown up and gone to school in Minnesota, played for Gophers then the national team based in Minneapolis, then was drafted by the North Stars in the second round in 1978 - the hometown hero route.

He had three decent seasons with the North Stars, starting off with 15 points in 20 games in 1979-80, 26 goals and 39 points in 56 games in 1980-81 and another 26 goals this time totaling 55 points in 69 games and another 16 points in 18 playoff games in 1981-82, losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the New York Islanders.

Unfortunately, he was traded to the Calgary Flames where he didn't quite fit in (17 points in 45 games in 1982-83), so they sent him and the draft pick that became Frantisek Musil to the Los Angeles Kings for Mike Eaves and Keith Hanson, and he only played 58 games with L.A., with 15 points and a -19 to show for it before calling it quits.

He's still a hero in Minnesota, and in every traditional hockey state; these days, he's an airplane pilot, which is fitting, considering he was among the fastest and strongest players of his era. He also had a heavy shot, if I remember correctly.

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