Monday, October 31, 2016

Chris Pronger Jersey Card

Time for the final entry in my Month Of Scary...

Once (maybe twice) every decade, a truly elite player joins the NHL with something more than the sum of just his talents; his meanness and penchant for dirty hits make him twice as dangerous, as opponents never know what to expect from him.

The 1910s brought us Sprague Cleghorn, the 1920s and 1930s are still synonymous with Eddie Shore, the 1940s and 1950s had Gordie Howe, the 1970s gave us Bobby Clarke, the 1980s brought us Mark Messier and Chris Chelios, the 1990s gave us Eric Lindros and Chris Pronger, the 2000s made way for Zdeno Chara and the 2010s, apparently, have Brad Marchand, as he's now a 30-goal scorer and World Cup champion with Team Canada.

Of note that I specified "truly elite", which is why very good players like Vincent Damphousse and Brendan Shanahan were omitted from this list.

Which brings me to Pronger who, like Shanahan before him, went from bruiser to working with the league's suspension-regulating committee, the Department of Player Safety, along with fellow former heavy hitters Rob Blake and Stéphane Quintal, the head of the department.

Yes, it's ironic that players who did get into trouble with questionable hits in their own time now get to dish out the punishment to those who do it now, but Pronger may be the weirdest of all; not only is he still being paid as an "active/concussed" player who hasn't played in a game since the 2011-12 season, but he's also a guy who was once suspended twice in the same seven-game playoff series.

The five-time All-Star and four-time Team Canada Olympian (winning gold in 2002 and 2010) is thus still feared by NHLers, it's just that he now does it in a suit and tie.

Here he is sporting the Anaheim Ducks' black uniform from the mid-00s, on card #HS-CP from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Trilogy set and Honorary Swatches sub-set:
It features a small matching game-worn jersey swatch.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dan McGillis: Two Autographed Cards

I featured Dan McGillis nearly two years ago when I inducted him as #33 in my Oilers Numbers Project, but it was time to show him with the team he's most associated with, the Philadelphia Flyers:
What you got every year from McGillis with the Broad Street Bullies was close to or more than 300 bone-crushing hits in the defensive zone, usually good for a top-5 or top-10 spot in the NHL. He did so mainly unpunished, however, as he only topped the 100-PIM mark once (109 with the Edmonton Oilers in 1997-98), with his second-most being the 86 he amassed with the Flyers in 2000-01, when he finished 14th in Norris voting; of note, his teammate Éric Desjardins finished 10th in Norris voting that year, proving they were a formidable pair.

He would usually hover around 60 penalty minutes per year with a +/- over +15; he also topped the 40-point mark twice in Philly, including his career-high of 49 (14 of them goals) in 2000-01.

He signed two cards showing him wearing the Flyers' white (then-home) 1980s/1990s uniform in blue sharpie; first, here's card #262 from Upper Deck's 2001-02 Victory set, leading the rush out of his defensive zone:
And there's also card #119 from Topps' 2002-03 Total set, attempting a pass - likely to Desjardins - to lead the breakout:
The Flyers might be mean, often times dirty, but you have to respect their commitment to their history, their city and their identity, none of which have ever regressed or been on doubt. They are unapologetic, in-your-face and hard to play against, a trait that was true in the days of Bobby Clarke, of Ken Linseman, of Eric Lindros and even now with Radko Gudas keeping opponents honest around their talented crop of young blue-liners.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bill Guerin Jersey Card

Bill Guerin was a hard-nosed power forward who scored a career-high 41 goals in 2001-02 with the Boston Bruins, and led the league with 10 game-winning goals in 2003-04 with the Dallas Stars. All told, he accumulated 20-goal seasons with an NHL-record seven different teams in his distinguished career, which included a number of Team USA nods and the title of MVP of the 2001 All-Star Game.

He won two Stanley Cups as a player - 1994-95 with the New Jersey Devils and 2008-09 with the Pittsburgh Penguins - and added another as the Pens' assistant GM last year.

He was bought out by the Stars after a sub-par 2005-06 season (13 goals, 27 assists and 40 points in 70 games), but not before he got to wear the infamous "mooterus" jersey:
Oh. So. Good. That's card #J2-BG from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set. It features a two-colour game-worn jersey swatch (gold and white) that is likely from the Stars' white (then-home) uniform, but could also stem from his days with the Bruins or Edmonton Oilers.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Cam Russell Autograph Card

Some of hockey's tough guys used their path of playing hard NHL minutes and took it into a successful second career, as is the case with Ron Hextall (Philadelphia Flyers GM), Enrico Ciccone, P.J. Stock and Dave Morissette (TV analysts), and Georges Laraque (politics and activism).

Cam Russell went back to his roots in Halifax, first as an assistant coach with the LHJMQ's Halifax Mooseheads, then coach and GM, and now serves solely as GM. They won the 2012-13 Memorial Cup under his watch, a team that featured future superstars Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.

He played in the Q himself, spending four years with the Hull Olympiques with decent statistics (0.6 points per game) and PIM totals in the low hundreds, but the 6'4", 200-pound defensive defenseman knew his path to the Big Show had to do with clearing his zone, clearing the front of the net, and taking matters into his own hands when opponents didn't comply with either - or when they messed with some of his more famous Chicago Blackhawks teammates, such as Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Gary Suter, Tony Amonte, Alexei Zhamnov, or Éric Dazé.

It's a tough job, though, and the injuries can pile up fairly quickly; as such, he never suited up for more than 67 games in a single season (1992-93 and 1993-94). He reached the 200-penalty minute threshold in '93-94, but the 84 he took in the 35 games he didn't suit up for the Hawks in his career (1998-99, with the Colorado Avalanche, after which he retired) were equally impressive.

All told, he finished his NHL career with 9 goals, 21 assist, 30 points and 872 penalty minutes in 396 games - plus a relatively quiet 5 assists and 16 PIMs in 44 playoff games.

Here he is wearing the Hawks' classic red (then-away) uniform, on card #A-CR from In The Game's 2013-14 Enforcers II set (and Autograph sub-set):
It features a black-sharpied on-sticker autograph that seems to spell out "cucu" or "cuca"...

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Antoine Roussel Swatch Card

A month of toughness warranted a look towards Antoine Roussel, the Dallas Stars' resident pest/heavy hitter who's gaining recognition all around the NHL:
He's physical, gets up under guys skins, and can throw opposing teams off balance by creating chaos wherever he is on the ice. Even tougher to swallow for opposing fans is the fact that Roussel isn't just some goon - he can make you pay with his fists as equally as he can on the scoreboard. He's potted a half dozen game-winning goals this year alone.
He's been straddling the right side of the thin line between "right" and "wrong", as well as "legal" and "not", for the better part of two years now.

He's on pace for a 40-point season, which would be a career-high for him and would cement his role in the middle-six and as a part-time powerplay participant. So far, he's flirted with the 15-goal and 30-point marks while accumulating 209, 148 and 123 penalty minutes in three full-time NHL seasons.

I believe he would be most effective in a Milan Lucic-like (dirty power forward) role, perhaps aiming for numbers such as 20/40/100, with highs around 25/55/125.

Here he is wearing the Stars' current white (away) uniform, on card #RG-AR from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set, and Rookie Gear and Dual Rookie Class sub-sets:
It features a matching event-worn jersey swatch.

While suiting up for Team France at the 2014 World Championships - his third straight Worlds participation - he posted 11 points in just 8 games and was selected on the media's All-Star Team; he probably should have been named to Team Europe at the World Cup, with or instead of fellow countryman Pierre-Édourard Bellemare.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rod Brind'Amour: Two Autographed Cards

I must admit, I initially thought there'd be more Broad Street Bullies and Big Bad Bruins featured when I first came up with my "scary" Halloween theme for October. Heck, the Philadelphia Flyers even have the colour scheme in their regular palette...

So I'll make up for it by featuring Rod Brind'Amour, a true leader whose statistics at times resembled those of a power forward even though he played center, who twice passed the 100-penalty minute mark and had nine seasons near or over the point-per-game mark in his 20-year career.

His career-high for goals was 37 (1992-93), while his tops for assists (62) and points (97) were hit the following year, both times with the Flyers, after two seasons with the St. Louis Blues.

He mainly served as alternate captain in Philly, but he did fill in as actual captain when Eric Lindros would be injured. He was eventually traded to the Carolina Hurricanes (for Keith Primeau, essentially a future captains trade), whom he led to two Stanley Cup Finals, including a Cup victory in 2005-06 against the Edmonton Oilers.

In his other two Finals, with Philadelphia in 1996-97 and with Carolina in 2001-02, his teams fell to the Detroit Red Wings in short series.

So here's to his days of wearing the "A" in orange and black, first featuring their away uniform, on card #86 from Upper Deck's 1994-95 SP set, one I never actively collected but traded for when it came to specific players (this one may have been an add-on):
And here he is wearing their white (home) uniform, on card #78 from Fleer/Skybox's 1996-97 Fleer set:
He signed both at the same time but with different blue sharpies, as it was dying out on the first card (the Fleer). He added his jersey number (17) with the newer pen.

The two-time Selke Trophy winner (2005-06 and 2006-07) has suited up for Team Canada a number of times, winning gold at the 1994 World Championships, but was also on the second-place 1996 World Cup team as well as the disappointing 1998 Olympics showing - that time when Lindros was made captain ahead of Wayne Gretzky, that head coach Marc Crawford selected Ray Bourque for the shootout ahead of Gretzky or Steve Yzerman, on a roster that included Rob Zamuner but neither Scott Niedermayer nor Mark Messier.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Stu Grimson Autograph Card

There may not have been a better nickname for an NHL enforcer in the 1990s than Stu Grimson's "The Grim Reaper", although it took him years to actually get the hang of it and stop being a punching bag and magnet for penalty minutes.

Grimson was drafted twice: 186th overall (10th round) by the Detroit Red Wigs in 1983, and 143rd overall (7th round) by the Calgary Flames in 1985, after failing to land a contract with the Wings. He only played 4 games over two seasons with the Flames before switching organizations and making his mark with the Chicago Blackhawks, with whom he developed a heated rivalry against the Wings and their tough guys, Joey Kocur and Bob Probert.

He would eventually play for the Wings, though, in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, losing in the Stanley Cup Final to Jacques Lemaire's trap-happy New Jersey Devils, but his time with the Hawks and his two stints with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are what I remember best of him.

Upon retiring, he finished his law degree and became a lawyer, even working with the NHLPA during and after the 2004-05 lockout.

Nowadays, he's also a part-time colour commentator for the Nashville Predators, the team he last played for, in 2001-02, when he posted 2 points and 76 penalty minutes in 30 games.

Here he is with the Mighty Ducks' classic purple and teal (away) uniform, on the signed insert silver version of card #152 from In The Game's 1998-99 Be A Player set:
It features an on-card black sharpie signature.

He might be affable in real life and smiling on the card, but keep in mind he collected 2113 penalty minutes in 729regular-season NHL game sand another 120 in 42 playoff games. You did not want to mess with him on the ice from 1990 until 2001.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Kelly Chase Autograph Card

From 1985 until 2000, there weren't many tougher hockey players than Kelly Chase. At any level.

In his three seasons in the WHL (1985-88) with the Saskatoon Blades, Chase was never a point-per-game player, though he fared decently, raising his points totals from 25 to 46 to 55 and his goals totals from 7 to 17 to 21. But it was his penalty minutes totals that impressed the St. Louis Blues enough to sign him as a free agent: 172, 285 and 343.

He wasn't done making an impression on them, however, as he collected 278 penalty minutes - as well as 14 goals and 7 assists for 21 points - in just 38 games with the IHL's Peoria Rivermen in 1988-89, earning a 43-game call-up the following season in which he accumulated 4 points and 244  PIMS.

He spent more time with the Rivermen in 1990-91, as the Blues attempted a Cup run with a core made up of Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Curtis Joseph, Jeff Brown, Scott Stevens, Rod Brind'Amour, Paul Cavallini, Gino Cavallini, and the veteran leadership of Rick Meagher and Harold Snepsts - ultimately falling in the second round. Chase made the most of his time in the IHL that year, spending 406 minutes in the penalty box in 61 games, scoring 20 goals to go with 34 assists (54 points) in the process.

He spent three more years with the Blues, topping the 200-PIM mark every time before the Hartford Whalers claimed him off waivers right before the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season got underway.

After two and a half years in Connecticut and two games with the Toronto Maple Leafs to close off the 1996-97 season, he returned to the Blues for three more seasons to retire in the one uniform that most will remember him by.

Which is, ironically, not the one In The Game chose to feature him in on card #A-HC from their 2012-13 Decades - The 1990s set and Autograph sub-set,which instead shows him wearing the Whalers' final dark blue (away) uniform:
It features a black-sharpied on-card signature.

He won a King Clancy Memorial in his return to the Blues for his community work (mainly the Gateway Special Hockey Program, a program he started in the early 1990s to help those with developmental disabilities participate in organized hockey) and now serves as the team's colour commentator during radio broadcasts.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Box Break: 2016-17 O-Pee-Chee Hockey

This year, $35 nets you 14 packs of Upper Deck's 2016-17 O-Pee-Chee via blaster box, with 6 cards per pack, for a grand total of 84 cards, plus the two at the bottom of the box:
What one needs to know when purchasing OPC cards is that, for old times' sake, UD has kept the set's vintage there's-nothing-to-see-here approach of basic cardboard, matte colour on the side with the picture, dry on the other:
Once that much is clear, the 660-card set can be fun to collect, because all the cards are basically signature-ready (no coating), and each team has 15 or so players represented, factoring in the multiple (and mostly useless) inserts.

There are checklists cards, to ensure the fewest people possible want to complete their sets; I got the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils, so nothing to write home about:
The rookie cards (a.k.a. "Marquee Rookies") are cool, and I pulled Anthony Mantha, Kevin Gravel, Daniel Altshuller, and Scott Kosmachuk:
The League Leaders cards as well,though they're really just an excuse to showcase the stars more often, such as Braden Holtby:
One really stupid sub-set is the Retro Parallel cards, of which I got Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden, Justin Bailey (RC), Viktor Arvidsson, Seth Jones, and Casey Cizikas:
There were cool foil versions of both regular and rookie cards, as can be attested by Brett Connolly and Brendan Leipsic:
There was also a flashback to my youth with this Connor McDavid mini card:
But the best insert was without a doubt the Playing Card of Johnny Gaudreau:
Alex Galchenyuk was the only current member of my hometown Montréal Canadiens that I pulled and I got very few players from Canadian teams, so my chances at TTM autographs are slim to none.

This is a box I wish I had paid $15-20 for, not $35 after taxes.

I give it a C+.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sheldon Souray Autographed Card

Montréal Canadiens. Booming shot to receive Andrei Markov's perfect passes. Grit. Fights. Before Shea Weber, there was Sheldon Souray.

Who knew a New Jersey Devils draft pick (third round, 71st overall in 1994) would one day set the Habs' record for powerplay goals for a defenseman (19, for 26 total goals, in 2006-07)? He'd been traded for Vladimir Malakhov, one of the most talented yet laziest defensemen ever to play in the NHL, so it was 50/50 as to whether Souray would pan out.

And because the Canadiens needed grit first and foremost at the time, in his first three seasons with the team, Souray - who had just scored 4 goals in 182 games with the Devils - scored three goals per, but averaged more than a pair of PIMs per as well.

After sitting out the 2002-03 season entirely to recover from multiple hand surgeries, he scored 15 in 2003-04, then 12 more in 2005-09.

Following his record-setting season with the Habs, however, fresh off an eighth-place finish in the Norris Trophy race, he signed as a free agent with his hometown Edmonton Oilers. Although it didn't end well for him in Edmonton, his contract buried in the AHL with the Hersey Bears because of a disagreement with management over medical issues, he still managed a 23-goal, 53-point season with the Oil in 2008-09.

He had a decent bounce-back season with the Dallas Stars in 2011-12 (6 goals, 15 assists,21 points and 73 penalty minutes in 64 games), he signed a three-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, but was sidelined for two of them. He did manage a career-best +19 rating in his last season, in 2012-13 before, essentially, waiting at home for his contract to expire so he could officially retire.

He married model Barbie Blank - also known as WWE Diva Kelly Kelly - earlier this year. Things had not ended particularly well with his first wife, Baywatch, Playboy and Fantasy star Angelica Bridges.

Here he is wearing the Canadiens' white (then-home) uniform, on card #258 from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Parkhurst set:
He signed it in (fading) blue sharpie.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Zdeno Chara Swatch Card

It used to be easy to defend Zdeno Chara from critics: at 6'9", his elbows are at everyone else's head, so accidental dangerous hits are bound to happen. There was no excusing this, however:

Playing for Claude Julien's Boston Bruins has a tendency to bring the bully out of anyone, including scrawny little fuckers like Gregory Campbell and even respectable players like Patrice Bergeron at times, so imagine how bad it gets when a douchebag like Brad Marchand or a tower of power like Chara buys into the "we're allowed to be dirty" mantra.

And yet, it has netter them a Stanley Cup (2011), another Cup Final (2013), and a Presidents' Trophy (2014). Chara himself has won the Norris Trophy in 2009 to go along with two First Team All-Star nods (2009 and 2014) and three Second Team All-Star selections (2008, 2011 and 2012) since moving to Boston as a free agent after the Ottawa Senators made the hard decision to keep Wade Redden instead.

As the game has gotten faster, he's been looking more and more exposed out there, and at age 39, we may be reaching a time where not only isn't he on the B's top pairing, but he may soon also no longer be on their first powerplay unit despite his booming shot.

Still, with all the team and individual success he's known, he has been the most successful Bruins captain since Ray Bourque. Like Bourque, he could very well end up in the Hall of Fame.

Here he is wearing the Bruins' black (now-home) uniform, on card #48 from Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle set and Threads sub-set:
It features a matching black game-worn jersey swatch.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

9-Pack Break: 2016-17 Upper Deck Tim Hortons

Here's a third pack break from Upper Deck's 2016-17 Tim Hortons Collector's Series hockey cards. I got plenty of Montréal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets players this time around, as well as regular-issue cards of Johnny Gaudreau and Artemi Panarin, so I'm happy...

As far as inserts go, I'm starting to have a few doubles, such as the Henrik Sedin Local Leaders card below; the Erik Karlsson is new, but he's in all of the sub-sets, so it's getting a tad repetitive:
This Clear Cut Phenoms card of Dylan Larkin is nothing short of awesome, as it's made of see-through plastic à la classic Ice cards:
 I got two Pure Gold cards, a double of Jordan Eberle's and a new one of John Tavares:
There were also four Game Day Action cards, including two of Karlsson, plus one each of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid:

As far as the whole collection goes, here's where I'm currently at:

1: Tim Horton
2: Duncan Keith
3: Roberto Luongo
10: Corey Perry (x2)
11: Anze Kopitar
23: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
24: Filip Forsberg
26: Blake Wheeler
30: Henrik Lundqvist
31: Carey Price
33: Henrik Sedin
34: Dustin Byfuglien (x2)
36: Cory Schneider
39: Tuukka Rask
50: Johnny Gaudreau
54: Adam Henrique
57: Rasmus Ristolainen (x2)
65: Erik Karlsson (x2)
67: Max Pacioretty
68: Jaromir Jagr
69: Mike Hoffman
70: Braden Holtby
71: Evgeni Malkin
72: Artemi Panarin
73: Dylan Larkin
80: Sam Reinhart
82: Connor Hellebuyck
83: Ben Bishop
88: Patrick Kane
90: Evander Kane
92: Evgeny Kuznetsov
94: Jason Spezza (x2)
95: Jordan Eberle
97: Connor McDavid (x2)
CC-5: Dylan Larkin
FF-7: Erik Karlsson
PP-1: Johnny Gaudreau
PP-8: Henrik Lundqvist
PG-7: Jordan Eberle (x2)
PG-11: John Tavares
LL-2: Taylor Hall
LL-3: Max Pacioretty
LL-4: Erik Karlsson
LL-5: Tyler Bozak
LL-6: Henrik Sedin (x2)
GDA-3: Johnny Gaudreau
GDA-7: Connor McDavid
GDA-9: Erik Karlsson (x2)
GDA-10: Sidney Crosby
GDA-13: Ryan Miller
GDA-14: Alex Ovechkin

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Randy Moller: Two Autographed Cards

In keeping with my Month of Toughness, I thought it was time to go blue with former Québec Nordiques first-rounder (811th overall in 1981) Randy Moller.

First things first, he was a solid defender. His +/- statistics were usually among his team's best, such as his second-place on the Nords in 1984-85 (+29) and his team-leading +13 (yeah, sad), on the New York Rangers in 1990-91.

One of the reasons his +/- was so high despite never hitting the 30-point mark was that he was feared. While he could take the puck away and make a decent first pass, his main attributes were his shoulders, which delivered extremely hard hits, and his fists, which he used to bruise opponents' faces relatively often. Those attributes made the Battle of Québec (Nordiques versus the Montréal Canadiens) a much bloodier rivalry than its cousin Battle of Alberta.

And yet, he didn't necessarily look so tough or mean on card #297 from O-Pee-Chee's 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee set, which he signed in blue sharpie:
I assure you, however, that he was.

As the team entered the 1990s in a devastating rebuild, they sent him to the Rangers for fellow defensive defenseman Michel Petit, a local boy.

However, all the hits and fights started taking their toll, and with the Rangers, he only dressed for 60, 61 and 43 games in just under three seasons, leading them to trade him to the Buffalo Sabres (for Jay Wells), with whom he played for in 126 games over two seasons, including 78 in 1993-94, the year he posted his third-highest career penalty minutes totals, with 154 - but also his lowest full-season points total, with 13.

Of his days in New York, I have this signed card from Pro Set's 1991-92 Series 1 set (card #163 in the series):
He signed with the Florida Panthers prior to the 1994-95 lockout-shortened season, but only suited up in 17 games before announcing his retirement, his body aching too much to continue playing.

Younger readers may remember him as the Panthers' radio play-by-play announcer, whose goals celebrations were often tinged with pop culture references:

He was so enjoyable that when a spot opened for him to be the team's TV colour commentator, he was the only possible choice.

He's also the obvious choice to represent #21 in my Nordiques Numbers Project.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Jason Allison Jersey Card

I briefly mentioned Jason Allison yesterday and figured I could feature the one-season captain (in 2000-01) of the Boston Bruins today.

Allison was a Washington Capitals draft pick, going 17th overall in 1993, but the Caps grew tired of the power forward's slow development and sent him to the Bruins after three years of alternating between the NHL and AHL and during his fourth season, where he failed to crack their top line.

In his first full season in Boston, in 1997-98, he exploded for 33 goals, 50 assists and 83 points to go along with 60 penalty minutes, resulting in a top-10 finish in Hart voting and top-15 in Selke voting; he kept that pace throughout his time in Beantown, with a high of 36 goals and 95 points in 2000-01.

The Bs then sent him to the Los Angeles Kings (with Mikko Eloranta, for Jozef Stumpel and Glen Murray), where he would enjoy a similar production rate - 74 points in 73 games in 2001-02, and 28 points in 26 games in 2002-03), but injury troubles forced him away from the game for a year and a half.

He made his first comeback with the rough-and-tumble Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005-06, posting 60 points in 66 games with 76 penalty minutes before the speedier game and personal issues forced him out... until 2009-10, when he attempted a second comeback, this time with Brian Burke's truculent Leafs, eventually failing to make the team, but making enough of an impression on Philadelphia Flyers forward Darrell Powe's helmet:

He retired with 485 points and 441 penalty minutes in 552 regular-season NHL games as well as 25 points and just 14 PIMs in 25 playoff games.

Here he is wearing the Kings' black and purple uniform from the turn of the millennium, on card #DM-JA from Upper Deck's 2002-03 Series 1 set and Difference Makers sub-set:
It contains a white game-worn jersey swatch.

He also won two gold medals with Team Canada at the World Juniors, in 1994 and 1995.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Brendan Witt Autograph Card

In the 1990s, the Washington Capitals had a habit of selecting tough guys early in the draft, and they continued down that path in 1993 when they made Brendan Witt the 11th overall selection, ahead of the likes of All-Stars Kenny Jonsson (12th), Adam Deadmarsh (14th), Jason Allison (17th), Finnish legend Saku Koivu (21st), Todd Bertuzzi (23rd), Janne Niinimaa (36th), Bryan McCabe (40th), Éric Dazé (90th), Miroslav Satan (111th), Tommy Salo (118th), Patrick Lalime (156th), Manny Legace (188th), Pavol Demitra (227th), and Kimmo Timonen (250th).

However, none of those players have 1424 career penalty minutes, nor were run over by an SUV making an illegal turn only to participate in his team's (the New York Islanders, at that point) morning skate mere hours later.

The Caps loved Witt so much they made him co-captain (with Steve Konowalchuk) for the 2001-02 season, until they revoked the title from him at the beginning of the following season; he eventually asked for a trade in 2005, a demand the team acquiesced to in March 2006, sending him to the Nashville Predators for former Caps first-rounder Kris Beech and the first-round pick that became Semyon Varlamov.

A three-time member of the 200-PIM club in Juniors, his highest single-season total in an NHL sin bin was the season he split between the Preds and Caps, with 209, followed by 131 in 2006-07 with the Isles.

Upon retiring, he and is family moved to a log cabin in Montana, which he put up for sale earlier this year as the group was preparing to move to California so their daughter could study in marine biology.

In The Game included him in their 2013-14 Enforcers II set (and Autograph sub-set), showing him with the Capitals:
It's card #A-BW in the series.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dan Kesa Autographed Card

In keeping with my month of tough guys or tough teams, I thought I'd go with the local player the Vancouver Canucks chose 95th overall in 1991, Dragan "Dan" Kesa.

Though his NHL stats line doesn't read like an enforcer's at 66 PIMs in 139 games with four teams over four seasons in a seven-year span, his statistics in Juniors tell another story:
Yes, those are Milan Lucic-like numbers, which is fitting considering he's Lucic's uncle.

After mostly toiling in the minor leagues for over a decade - including a 77-point season with the IHL's Detroit Vipers in 1997-98 - he took his talents to Russia (Avantgard Omsk, one assist in 9 games in2001-02) and Austria (Vienna Capitals, 20 points in 27 games in 2002-03).

Here's a card he signed in blue sharpie:
That's card #116 from Classic's 1993-94 Pro Hockey Prospects set, showing him wearing the Hamilton Canucks' black (away) uniform.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ken Linseman Autograph Card

I couldn't make it a month of tough guys, tough teams and pests without including the "top" pest of my lifetime, "The Rat", Ken Linseman.

Linseman spent two seasons of his prime with the Edmonton Oilers (1982-84, winning a Stanley Cup in the process), as well as his penultimate season (1990-91), with a five-and-a-half-year stint with the Boston Bruins tacked in the middle, culminating in another Cup Final appearance (1988).

He also spent significant time with the Philadelphia Flyers (1979-82 and 29 games in 1989-90), with another Cup Final in 1980. He retired after playing two games with the insignificant Toronto Maple Leafs in 1991-92...

Here he is wearing the Oilers' classic blue (then-away) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers collection (on card #FI-CH of the Franchise Ink sub-set):
It features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph of perhaps the most despised players of the 1980s.

Of course, he's the ideal representative of #13 in my Oilers Numbers Project...

Monday, October 10, 2016

Darren Langdon Autograph card

Let's continue with our month of toughness with 11-year NHL enforcer Darren Langdon, whose career 1251 penalty minutes is comprised of more fighting majors than any other type combined. It makes sense, then, that the undrafted winger from Newfoundland started in the ECHL, with the Dayton Bombers, accumulating no less than 429 PIMs in just 54 games (along with 23 goals and 22 assists, mind you, though I have no idea how he managed to spend enough time off the penalty bench to participate in 45 goals) in 1992-93.

He paid his dues with the Binghamton Rangers for a few years and eventually became a permanent fixture with the New York Rangers in 1995-96. The Rangers traded him, along with former New York Islanders prospect Rob DiMaio, to the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the 2000-01 season, and he spent a little over two seasons with the Canes, until they traded him (with future Rangers shootout specialist Marek Malik) to the Vancouver Canucks for Harold Druken and Jan Hlavac.

He spent the 2003-04 season with the Montréal Canadiens - who claimed him off waivers - and played his final 16 NHL games with the New Jersey Devils in 2005-06.

From 2002-06, he did not score a single goal and had 5 assists in 132 games; he did get 316 penalty minutes in that span, though.

Here he is wearing the Blueshirts' then-away uniform, from In The Game's 2013-14 Enforcers II set and Autograph sub-set:
It's card #A-DL in the series, featuring a black-sharpied on-sticker autograph made to resemble a band aid.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Jonathan Huberdeau (Triple) Jersey Card

Today, I'll take a break from featuring scary players and instead focus on Jonathan Huberdeau, who just suffered a scary injury. At first, it seemed like he had severed a tendon, which usually takes six to eight months to recover from; the prognosis seems to be three-to-four months at this point, which indicates a tear. However, when he does get back, he will not be at optimal shape like the rest of the league, so this may be a full year lost for the former Calder Trophy winner.

It had been a summer of ups and downs for Huberdeau, starting with his being left off Team North America at the World Cup then signing a cushy yet cap-friendly six-year deal with the Florida Panthers that will pay him just under $6M per season starting next year.

The injury is just one more obstacle in the Panthers' attempt at repeating as the Atlantic Division champions, what with Nick Bjugstad also being out for four weeks.

Here is Huberdeau wearing the Panthers' now-former/best-looking red (home) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Ultimate Collection set and Rare Materials sub-set, featuring no less than three game-used jersey swatches:
I bought it off Ebay last year, to help me decide if I wanted to invest in packs of the set; turns out I was satisfied with this card.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Donald Brashear Autographed Card

After featuring the Vancouver Canucks' best pest of my lifetime, I thought I could talk about one of the toughest enforcers of his generation, Donald Brashear.

Brashear went undrafted after three decent and extremely busy seasons - in terms of time spent in the sin bin:
Yes, in that last season, that's 98 penalty minutes in 18 playoff games.

Still, his hometown Montréal Canadiens signed him as a free agent and, soon enough, he literally tore through the AHL with the Fredericton Canadiens, first by putting up a whopping 261 penalty minutes in 70 games in 1992-93, but more impressively, with 38 goals, 28 assists, 66 points and 250 PIMs in 62 games in 1993-94. Many saw a budding power forward where once they may have seen a goon or a liability on the ice.

He made his place with the Habs under head coach Jacques Demers, but when Mario Tremblay took over in 1995, everything changed; most people remember Tremblay's final (and most public) altercation with superstar goalie Patrick Roy, but the people in Québec know of an even rougher one as the Canadiens, being close to a religion in the province, was the first team to have full media coverage even during their practices.

On November 9, 1996, Brashear showed up to practice two minutes late. He was still allowed on the ice, until the team wasn't performing to Tremblay's liking and he singled Brashear out as an example and scapegoat/punching bag, yelling at him to get off the ice and back into the dressing room. But he didn't stop there, as he kept yelling even as Brashear had his back turned and was skating away. Out came a few swear words and the French version of "the N word", which made Brashear turn around, skate forward towards center ice, then turn back around and leave. In that split second, he knew he could demolish Tremblay with one or two or 50 punches, but also quickly realized he'd had to face justice if he did, so he changed his mind, full aware he'd just lost his dream job for something that probably wasn't his fault at all, just another one of Tremblay's impossible-to-understand weeding out the team of its leaders.

Four days later, GM Réjean Houle traded the poor tough guy as far West as he could, for defenseman Jassen Cullimore. Brashear's stint with the Vancouver Canucks would be the longest he's played with a single team; his team record 372 penalty minutes in 1997-98 led the league (obviously) and ranks 10th all-time in NHL history, surpassing teammate Gino Odjick's mark of the previous season by a single minute.

Ahead of him on the all-time list at #5 is Marty McSorley, whose dangerous hit to Brashear's head had nasty consequences. From Wikipedia:
During the February 21, 2000 game between the Canucks and the Boston Bruins, Brashear was involved in a fight with Marty McSorley. Brashear handily won the fight and on his way to the penalty box taunted the Bruins bench.[16] Later in the game, Brashear collided with Bruins goaltender Byron Dafoe, who had to be taken off on a stretcher with a knee injury. For the rest of the game, McSorley attempted to fight Brashear, who refused.[17] With 4.6 seconds left in the game,[18] McSorley struck Brashear with a two-handed slash to the temple with his stick;[16] Brashear collapsed, and his helmet fell off upon impact. He suffered a seizure on the ice and the slash resulted in a grade three concussion.[17] Goaltender Garth Snow would later try to fight McSorley, but McSorley was ejected with 2.8 seconds left in the game. McSorley later received an indefinite suspension from the NHL[19] and was charged with assault with a weapon as a result of his actions.[20]
The case went to trial in British Columbia, where Brashear testified that he had no memory of the incident.[21] McSorley testified that he tried to hit Brashear in the shoulder to start a fight with him, but missed, resulting in the head shot.[22] McSorley was found guilty but avoided a jail sentence. He was required to complete 18 months of probation, in which he was not allowed to play in a game against Brashear.[23] Brashear returned to play prior to the end of the season.[16] McSorley, who missed the remaining 23 games of the regular season, had his suspension officially set at one year following the conviction.[24] However, he ultimately never played in another NHL game during his career.[25]
In 2001, the Canucks sent him to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he enjoyed three and a half decent seasons before the Washington Capitals requested his pugilistic talents to protect Alex Ovechkin. As for many NHLers in my lifetime, his NHL career ended with an unsuccessful stint with the New York Rangers.

He wasn't done lacing them up, however, and he returned to play in Québec's semi-pro league, the LNAH, where he'd also played during the 2004-05 lockout. His fist two seasons with the Riviere-du-Loup 3L were alright, save for a post-game incident where he lost his cool after the entire Trois-Rivières Caron-Et-Guay team taunted him and wouldn't let his car leave the parking lot, and idiot Éric Labelle continuing even after his teammates had boarded the team bus, prompting Brashear to exit his car and punch him in the noggin. Labelle sued for $215,000.Then $378,000. Ultimately, Brashear was acquitted of most accusations and had to pay $9280, essentially legal fees, as the judge rightfully not only decided Labelle had been the instigator, but that the punitive damages he was suing for due to post-concussion symptoms were actually attributable more to the punches to the face he'd suffered in his entire hockey career.

For instance, the year he faced Brashear, he'd accumulated 44 penalty minutes in just 5 games. He'd had 193 in 36 games the previous season, and 150 in 29 before that. And so forth since his 335 penalty minutes in 60 games in his first year in Juniors in 1999-2000, with a notable 390 PIMs in 67 games with the UHL's Rockford IceHogs in 2004-05.

Brashear was also suspended for running into goalie Julien Ellis that year, and again in 2012-13 for sucker-punching Gaby Roch (who had injured two of Brashear's teammates in the same game and refused to fight).

Off-ice, however, he's usually seen as affable, nice, and sweet - when he's not defending his family. He's currently involved with a company, Brash/87, that is striving to sell affordable quality hockey sticks.

Here he is wearing the Canucks' mid-1990s white (home) uniform, on card #190 from Topps' 2001-02 O-Pee-Chee set:
He signed it in blue sharpie during one of his first two seasons with the 3L.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Alexandre Burrows Jersey Card

In keeping with my "October/Halloween is scary" theme that has thus far included enforcers, borderline dirty Hall Of Famers, power forwards and members of the Philadelphia Flyers, I thought I could include pest extraordinaire Alexandre Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks.

After a string of six consecutive seasons with Selke Trophy votes - four of them of the 25+ goals variety, with a high of 35 in 2009-10 - Burrows' numbers have dipped below what he had accustomed onlookers to, perhaps even below what might have been expected at his salary.

Part of that falls on his shoulders for concentrating on playing his opponents' heads instead of playing the puck, but part of it also lies with the Canucks' coaching staff for not using him in favourable situations. And Canucks management, for putting an awful aging team - and young players who are clearly not yet ready for prime time - on the ice.

His 33 points in 70 games in 2014-15 were still good enough for sixth on the team, and his 2 points in 3 playoff games were the highest per-game average on the team, tied with the Sedin twins.

The 35-year-old will be a free agent after this coming season; I'd probably keep him around as a third-liner on a smaller cap hit than his current $4.5M, say 2.5 for two years, so he can retire with the only team's he's ever known.

Here he is on card #GJ-AB from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 set (and UD Game Jersey sub-set):
It shows him wearing the Canucks' white (away) uniform, with a matching game-worn jersey swatch.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

5-Pack Break: 2016-17 Upper Deck Tim Hortons

Here's another pack break from Upper Deck's 2016-17 Tim Hortons Collector's Series hockey cards. I got doubles of Connor McDavid and Erik Karlsson, so I can't complain...

As far as inserts go, they were all new, starting with a Platinum Profiles card of Henrik Lundqvist:
I got two more Local Leaders cards, this time of Max Pacioretty and Taylor Hall, ironically, since he no longer plays for the Edmonton Oilers thanks to the second-biggest trade of the summer (and of that day)...
And I also got two Game Day Action cards, of Alex Ovechkin and Johnny Gaudreau:

And here's where I'm at with the set:

1: Tim Horton
10: Corey Perry
11: Anze Kopitar
23: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
24: Filip Forsberg
33: Henrik Sedin
34: Dustin Byfuglien
36: Cory Schneider
54: Adam Henrique
65: Erik Karlsson (x2)
68: Jaromir Jagr
69: Mike Hoffman
70: Braden Holtby
71: Evgeni Malkin
73: Dylan Larkin
80: Sam Reinhart
88: Patrick Kane
92: Evgeny Kuznetsov
94: Jason Spezza
97: Connor McDavid (x2)
FF-7: Erik Karlsson
PP-1: Johnny Gaudreau
PP-8: Henrik Lundqvist
PG-7: Jordan Eberle
LL-2: Taylor Hall
LL-3: Max Pacioretty
LL-5: Tyler Bozak
LL-6: Henrik Sedin
GDA-3: Johnny Gaudreau
GDA-13: Ryan Miller
GDA-14: Alex Ovechkin

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Samuel Morin Autographed Card

The Philadelphia Flyers will soon have one of the best defensive groups in the NHL, with the likes of Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Samuel Morin, but we'll have to wait until next year to see them all in the same season-opening ceremony, as Morin was cut from training camp and sent to the AHL earlier today.

A gold medal winner for Team Canada at the 2013 U-18 Championship as well as the 2015 World Juniors, the Flyers' first-round pick in 2013 (11th overall) posted 4 goals, 15 assists, 19 points and 118 penalty minutes with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season.

He'll be a very solid defensive defensiveman who can play the second wave powerplay at times, and is usually compared to Zdeno Chara for his size, but he has a lot more mobility than the current Boston Bruins' captain.

I played in a scrimmage with him this summer, and he looks a bit like Chris Pronger in his younger days, before he became the complete package; I'm not certain Morin will reach that Hall of Fame-level of skill, but at the very least he'll be a first-unit defender like Mike Komisarek in his heyday.

He signed this card in blue sharpie:
It's card #17 from Upper Deck's 2014 Team Canada Juniors/Women set, in an official team photo from his 2013 U-18 days.