Sunday, July 3, 2016

Brent Sutter: Two Autographed Cards

Do you know who Conner Bleackley is? He is a talented hockey brat who was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round in 2014, reported to camp out of shape and was never signed by the team, whose rights were traded to the Arizona Coyotes - who also declined to sign him - and was finally re-drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the fifth round this year and signed to his entry-level deal yesterday.

His own coach in Juniors - who happens to be the Red Deer Rebels' owner, too - even famously said, after he was initially drafted:
No, he’s not ready for NHL hockey. Conner still needs to grow, especially with skating and defensive responsibilities. His vision needs to improve. I’m not Colorado, I’m not Patrick Roy, but I feel like he’s not NHL-ready. There is growth in his game. There is a reason he went 23rd and not in the top-10, but I do think he’s a great prospect for that organization.
That coach/owner? None other than Brent Sutter. And, judging by my favourite comments from  Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, honesty and being a straight shooter is definitely a family trait.

There will never be enough Sutters in hockey. They are the example of why and how its players are down-to-earth, much more so than their counterparts in football, basketball and perhaps even baseball. Hockey does have a few flamboyant personalities (Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Radulov, P.K. Subban) - and we love them; but it's those quiet, hard-working "common men" grinders that push the sport itself through the decades.

Sutter's Rebels were the hosts of the 2016 Memorial Cup, which eventually went to Dale Hunter's London Knights; througout the season, he's had to field calls about his team's future - more specifically, if he was looking to sell it.

Here are two cards I got in the mail this winter, signed in black sharpie, presumably from having sent them in 2014 or 2015 (my former computer died and I lost much of my sent-receipt data from 2013-15), first with card #529 from Upper Deck's 2012-13 O-Pee-Chee set and Marquee Legends sub-set, showing him wearing the New York Islanders' white (then-home) uniform, battling for position with a 1980s mustache carrying a hockey player:
And here he is in the same stance, this time in front of Philadelphia Flyers goalie Tommy Soderstrom, looking to deflect a shot, as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks:
That's card #30 from Donruss' 1994-95 Leaf set, showing him in the Hawks' classic red (then-away) uniform.

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