Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mike Hough Autographed Card

Another day, another story about Arizona Coyotes arena trouble, another one about the New York Islanders' arena trouble, and another story about the Carolina Hurricanes playing to empty stands.

Which brings me to the Québec Nordiques, or rather, the absence thereof.

In the mid-1990s, there was no salary cap in the NHL and revenue-sharing was just about a joke, a minuscule blip on the radar, which meant the larger cities with the most hockey history usually had the largest fanbases, which in turn meant those teams had the highest revenue in a league where ticket sales were the #1 source of income and paraphernalia was a distant albeit non-negligible second.

That meant the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Montréal Canadiens could, technically, afford to pay the highest salaries (from homegrown talent as well as free agency), leaving the rest of the league to fight for scraps, particularly smaller markets; this led to the Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers and Minnesota North Stars being forced to relocate, no longer able to survive in small markets.

The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were in similar dire straits, as were the Ottawa Senators.

Since then, the economic conjecture has changed, and even smaller towns have joined the NHL, such as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators; the league has gone back to Winnipeg and Minnesota (with the Wild), and next season will bring the Vegas Golden Nights.

And yet, there remain teams that struggle in their own markets - the above-mentioned three, plus the billionaire toy club Florida Panthers - who are there just so owner Vincent Viola can have the right to book high-grossing concerts at his team's arena - while Québec has a brand-new amphitheater with no NHL tenant.

But this uniform would look great in it:
That's Mike Hough, wearing the Nordiques' final (and best-looking) iteration of their blue (then-away) uniform, with red contours on the jersey numbers and name plate; it's card #393 from Score's 1993-94 Score set. He's seen wearing the alternate captain's "A", though he did also serve as co-captain for a season. His #18 uniform fits perfectly in my Nordiques Numbers Project as well, in addition to being today's date.

Hough was one of many Montréal-born Nordiques players, which just added to the rivalry between both teams. In 707 NHL games, he posted 100 goals, 156 assists and 256 points with 675 penalty minutes; he was a tough, grinding defensive specialist who could, at times, contribute offensively.

Afraid they were going to lose him in the expansion draft, the team traded him to the Washington Capitals (for Réginald Savage and Paul MacDermid), who in turn left him unprotected, so the Panthers did indeed end up selecting him; he played with them for four seasons, scoring the double-overtime elimination goal against the Flyers which would be the last NHL goal scored at the Philadelphia Spectrum.

Following his time in Miami-Dade county, he signed a two-year deal with the Isles as a free agent, retiring after the 1998-99 season.

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