Monday, December 28, 2015

Craig Johnson Autographed Card

This year, I treated myself to many things I wanted for Christmas, as an excuse to treat myself to things I wanted. One of these was this magnificent ''Burger King'' card of Craig Johnson's, from trusted collector BG:
It's card #80 from Upper Deck's 1996-97 Series 1 set, an otherwise pretty, foil-rich collection.

Perhaps the worst jersey in NHL history, this Los Angeles Kings abomination was part of the NHL's inaugural ''Third Jersey Program'' in 1995-96. Coming out of the (first) lock-out, the league wanted a way to ''reconnect'' with the fans - and take back some of the money they'd lost by not playing any games from October to December - by bringing in ''state-of-the-art'' jerseys to be used on special occasions.

And, just like they did with Reebok coming out of the year-long 2004 lockout, they let the manufacturer design the uniforms (CCM for these) with zero input from the teams that were selected (other victims of this program were the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Mighty Ducks). CCM desperately wanted to showcase that their new manufacturing equipment could print gradients - they just forgot that they still had to design something that was nice to look at.

At this point, the Kings were still wearing their beautiful Wayne Gretzky-era white-black-silver uniforms, coming off their purple-and-gold Marcel Dionne-era uniforms; unlike what they did for other teams (the Bs got a yellow uniform with a grizzly bear as a logo, the Pens and Canucks more of less just got some red inserted on theirs, and the Ducks got a cartoon goalie flying off its jersey), the Kings were treated to a mash-up of their colour palette heritage with these white (as they were primarily to be worn at home) jerseys, with the Gretzky-era grey-to-silver, to which they decided to add a purple collar, purple-and-gold numbering and lettering and, of course, the purple-haired ''King'' with the golden crown logo, worn on the heart rather than middle of the chest, soccer-style.

What you want to do when designing a logo is follow two simple rules: as little text as possible, because fonts can get dated very quickly - and text is boring; you also want to avoid human-like drawings, particularly of faces, as the renderings are often too cartoon-y for a major-league organization, and look downright unprofessional. Here, we have proof of how #2 fails miserably. It looks like something an ECHL team would wear once, not something The Great One should ever be forced to put on.

And it got its nickname because it closely resembled the fast food chain's mascot:
So, yeah, totally minor-league-worthy. At least the team scrapped these after the one season, whereas the Bruins and Pens kept theirs for years - Pittsburgh even made them their road jerseys for a few years, though they were the best of the five. The Ducks also retired them after one season, while the Canucks' experiment lasted two seasons.

As for Craig Johnson, born in the American hockey hotbed of Minnesota, he was the St. Louis Blues' first draft pick of 1990, chosen 33rd overall in the second round; they had traded their own first-rounder to the Montréal Canadiens, who picked Turner Stevenson 12th overall.

Johnson suited up for Team USA at the 1994 Olympics (then reserved for amateur players) as well as many World Championships, and made a good enough impression to become the key player going the Kings' way when they sent Gretzky to St. Louis; he made his way West with Roman Vopat and Patrice Tardif and played in L.A. for seven full seasons after the trade.

2003-04 was a difficult year for him, playing for the Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals, and he exiled himself to Europe where he posted decent - albeit fading in time - numbers in Germany, Finland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Denmark.

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