Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bryan Bickell Jersey Card

Enough about concussions. Let's talk about multiple sclerosis instead...

That may be a dark segue into today's featured player, but it is what is forcing three-time Stanley Cup winner Bryan Bickell to retire after a hard season that started with his being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, essentially as a Chicago Blackhawks salary dump that also cost them prospect Teuvo Teravainen.

Bickell, the Hawks' second-round pick in 2004 (41st overall) turned out to be, for most of his career, a dependable bottom-six winger who could be counted upon for some 10 goals and 20 assists year in and year out, but whose 6'4" frame carrying 230 pounds came in handy in the postseason, where scoring is at a premium for top-line guys but where grinders can usually turn in heroic performances against their ilk and provide the kind of secondary scoring that wins championships. At first glace, his 39 points in 75 playoff games is just that, but even more so in the 2013 (17 points in 23 games) and 2014 (10 points in 19 games) playoffs specifically, the first of which landed him a four-year contract with a $4M cap hit that Chicago eventually had to try to rid themselves of, as his regular-season statistics could no longer justify that salary in the end, particularly with the Hawks' top-heavy cap load (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford).

On every message board and all over the internet, however, commenters who requested his being traded would always have an addendum that featured the words "thanks", "great guy", "nice guy", "too bad" and so forth. Despite how unproductive he had become (2 assists in 25 games in 2015-16 strikes me as a perfect example), Hawks fans regretted wishing he'd be let go or bought out. They liked the man himself and were grateful for his help in securing the 2013 Cup.

So far, Father Time remains undefeated, although for the moment, Jaromir Jagr seems to want to give Him a hell of a fight. Sometimes, He throws curveballs, such as when Bickell was diagnosed with MS after seven games in the Canes' uniform, after a battery of tests trying to explain why he was feeling so weak.

Bickell went through treatment, went to the AHL to get back in shape, and played the Hurricanes' last three games of the season, scoring a shootout goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in his final game.

You hate the way he has to leave the game, but you have to love how he still managed to make the best out of it.

Here he is waiting for the puck, wearing the Hawks' classic red (now-home) uniform, on card #GJ-BI from Upper Deck's 2014-15 Series 1 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a white game-used jersey swatch.

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