Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dan Blackburn Autographed Card

Congratulations are in order for the New York Rangers, who have tied their first-round series against the Montréal Canadiens on the strength of a 2-1 win tonight. The Habs did play lights-out in the third, but just couldn't solve Henrik Lundqvist, who was royal for the third time in the series.

Speaking of strong Rangers goaltending, Montrealer Dan Blackburn used to be the man-in-waiting between the pipes for the red, white and blue at the turn of the millennium until a shoulder injury forced him to choose between retiring or attempt playing with two blockers and no catching glove, because nerve issues had him incapable of rotating his would-be glove hand; an MCL strain at the Rangers' training camp then put him in a difficult position: he could either retire and receive $6M in insurance money, covering the end of his contract and a bit more, or forfeit any chance of future insurance and try to earn a spot upon recovery. He wisely opted to retire at age 22, his final game a 5-4 loss at the hands of the Canadiens, the team against which he won his first NHL game as the Rangers' second-youngest goalie of all time.

Here he is wearing the Rags' blue Lady Liberty former alternate (one of my favourite alternate uniforms in hockey history) on card #123 from Topps' 2002-03 O-Pee-Chee set and Topps All Star Rookie sub-set:
Most goalies in the set were pictured horizontally. He signed his card in black sharpie in 2002-03.

Injuries are always the ultimate "What If?", but in Blackburn's case, after winning the WHL Playoff MVP award, the CHL's Goalie Of The Year award and leading his Kootenay Ice to a berth in the Memorial Cup,  then making an NHL roster at just 18 years old - the fifth-youngest of all-time in the NHL - the sky was the limit. That, or nerve damage.

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