Saturday, December 17, 2016

Byron Dafoe Autographed Card

We're starting to see players get elected in the Hockey Hall Of Fame after short runs of domination, three, maybe four years; players such as Eric Lindros. And yet, either because their good runs were not with the team that drafted them or because they later drifted into obscurity with sub-par teams, others never even get mentioned in the conversation.

Byron Dafoe is one of those guys. We're talking about a guy who was drafted by the Washington Capitals (35th overall, second round, 1989) and saw the Los Angeles Kings into an era of mediocrity (1995-97) before taking the Joe Thornton-led Boston Bruins to the top of the standings on the strength of stellar GAA and save percentage seasons, save for perhaps 1999-2000:
Sure, you can chalk up the low GAA to the Dead Puck Era, particularly the last two on the list when compared to his save percentage, but Dafoe's 10 shutouts in 1998-99 led the league, which means that no only did he get a shutout per each six and a half games, he also did it more than anyone else. That includes Patrick Roy (not a shutout collector), Dominik Hasek (the Vezina winner), and a slew of others, most of whom he dominated by a 2:1 ratio or better:
Unfortunately, injuries took their toll at the turn of the millennium (knee, hamstring, knee - all told, he's had eight knee surgeries), as did aggressive contract negotiations with the notoriously penny-pinching Bruins, which led to his not being able to maintain his All-Star shape, his career ending with the Atlanta Thrashers, as a backup to Pasi Nurminen.

Outside the rink, he became close friends with Olaf Kolzig, his one-time adversary to get the Caps' starting goalie position, whom he fought (literally, as in "in a fight") twice - once in the WHL and once in the NHL. They were best man at each other's weddings.

Post-retirement, he has become a high-end home automation developer and salesman.

To me, however, at least until I can afford to buy one of his products, he'll remain the Bruins goalie from the end of the 90s, in a long tradition of very good Bruins goalies, who dominated in the regular season against most teams but always hit a wall when facing the Montréal Canadiens - particularly come playoff time. His Waterloo came in 2002, when the first-place Bs lost to the bottom-seed Habs and their Hart and Vezina winner that year, José Theodore, in the first round.

Which is why I had him sign a card showing him with the Bruins:
That's card #183 from Topps' 2001-02 Topps set, which he signed in blue sharpie with his number (34) tagged at the end. It shows him stretching during the pre-game warmups,wearing the team's white (then-home) uniform. He was one of very few professional goalies to wear Itech-brand equipment.

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