Sunday, April 9, 2017

Henrik Zetterberg Jersey Card

If you know anything about me, you know I'm a romantic at heart. And not just beneath a gruff exterior - though I do have one - but I actually wear my heart on my sleeve at all times. I'm the type of guy who would drink a case of 24 beers in 24 hours at a rate of one per hour with friends in the summer, just to bask in the experience of spending an uninterrupted day of laid-back good times.

So when a scheduling quirk - a postponed game - made it so that Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was going to play his 1000th NHL game on the final, farewell night of Joe Louis Arena, I almost cried. Then I saw a few of the tributes to the Joe and actually did:

Growing up in the 1980s, there was talk of Original Six teams and all, but most of them were a joke: the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks hadn't won a Stanley Cup since before my parents were born, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins hadn't won since my parents were kids - although the Bruins came close in 1988 and 1990, falling to my Edmonton Oilers both times - and the Wings would sometimes fail to make the playoffs altogether in a division where four teams made it and the same number of teams usually played below .500. The Montréal Canadiens were the only Original Six team that remained among the league's prestigious clubs, though 1995 was just around the corner, and with it a decade of shame.

Pre-salary cap, when owner Mike Illitch bought the Wings - and the Detroit Tigers, really - he went all-out to have his teams be as best as possible, hiring the best people to make the best decisions to best represent his beloved city. The Wings were among the league's biggest spenders - with the Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche - and purchased themselves the last consecutive champion teams (1997 and 1998) and a 2002 championship by developping their own talent to build around, sure (Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Osgood) but also signing the best available veterans who agreed to leave their egos at home and step into specific roles that went against everything individual achievement they may have accomplished in the past, including the likes of highest-scoring left winger Luc Robitaille, highest-scoring right winger Brett Hull, most over-rated right winger Brendan Shanahan, one of the best defensemen of all time in Chris Chelios, and former-star-goalies-for-hire Mike Vernon, Curtis Joseph and Dominik Hasek.

Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg - along with a fine supporting cast - helped Detroit reach the third-longest consecutive playoff streak with 25 despite the salary cap era bringing forth unparalleled parity, a streak that ended this season. Now, Lidstrom's in the Hall Of Fame, Datsyuk is playing his final season(s) in Russia, and Zetterberg's 36 years old, which didn't stop him from leading the Wings in points with 68 in 82 games, good for 904 in 1000 games so far. He also has 120 in 137 playoff games.

Here he is wearing the Winged Wheel's white (then-home) uniform, on card #MM-HZ from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Bee Hive set and Matted Materials sub-set, which features a red game-worn jersey swatch:
Like a card I featured nearly four years ago, it shows both Zetterberg and Lidstrom (in the background), the Wings' back-to-back Swedish captains.

He's an Olympian gold (2006) and silver (2014) medalist with Team Sweden, and also holds all three medal types from the World Championships: gold (2006), silver (2003), and bronze (2001 and 2002).

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