Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Brian Hayward: Three Signed Sharks Cards

Remember the good old days when you could count on the San Jose Sharks to not make the playoffs? Well, according to me earlier today, things are looking bad for the boys in teal this coming season, as I see them finishing 6th in the Pacific Division.

It's not that they don't have top-level talent, they do: GM Doug Wilson has built a strong roster with good upper-end players like Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Marc-Édouard Vlasic, who can provide an almost-elite-level 20 minutes per game, plus the 60 games of top-notch goaltending from Martin Jones. Instead, the problem lies within the team's depth and a lack of youth among their prospects, considering none of Danny O'Regan (23 years old, C, point-per-game AHLer), Julius Bergman (21, D), Antoine Bibeau (23, G), Marcus Sorensen (25, LW), or Radim Simek (25, D) are under the age of 20, and some are already in their mid-20s.

It's not as bad as the Sharks' inaugural season, mind you, when a rookie by the name of Pat Falloon, whom many (not me) see as a failed draft pick or, worse, a "bust", led the team in every offensive category with 25 goals, 34 assists and 59 points in 79 games. Those would be half-decent numbers in 2017, but they were extremely low in 1991-92. So low that he was also a -32, which was in a three-way tie (with Jayson Moore and Pat MacLeod) for fourth-worse on the team; indeed, Paul Fenton was -39, current GM and then-captain and All-Star Wilson was -38, and Bob McGill was -34.

In net, the highest save percentage was a tie between Jeff Hackett and Wade Flaherty, at .892; followed future All-Star Arturs Irbe (.868), Team Finland goalie Jarmo Myllys (.867) and three-time Jennings Trophy winner Brian Hayward, whose back gave out from all the flailing around required to stop pucks with that porous a defense (.867, in 7 games). In terms of goals-against average, it ranged from 3.84 (Hackett) to 5.02 (Myllys), with three at 4-or-more in between (Flaherty at 4.38, Irbe at 4.47 and Hayward at 4.92).

It was while injured that Hayward caught the broadcasting bug, as he would serve as colour commentator for Sharks games when he was sidelined, until he retired and the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks came calling and offered him to do the job for them... fives times. He declined for a while, wanting to finish his MBA at Cornell University instead.

He did eventually agree and, 23 years later, he's still there, occasionally taking on double-duties with Hockey Night In Canada and on NBC. It was during one of those double-broadcasts in the playoffs that I crossed his path at the Bell Centre, where he took a black sharpie to sign cards featuring him wearing the Sharks' inaugural uniforms.

Let's start with the white (then-home) uniform, for which all players posed with the same, generic #91 jersey, on card #59 from Upper Deck's 1991-92 Series 1 set:
For the teal (then-away) uniform, I decided to go with two cards from the Topps brand:
On the left, possibly in the middle of one of his patented two-legged pad slides, is card #436 from the 1992-93 Topps set, while the picture on the right - also known as card #60 from the 1992-93 Bowman set, of which I have an unopened box for sale or trade, if anyone is interested - is probably from a pre-game warmup. What I like on the Bowman card is that he's two years removed from asking for a trade away from the Montréal Canadiens, but is still wearing Lefebvre pads, hand-made made by then-Habs trainer Gaétan Lefebvre for Patrick Roy and other butterfly goalies. Lefebvre produced these from 1987 until roughly 1995 for close friends and their families, but had already drastically reduced production when Roy started using all-Koho equipment prior to the 1992-93 season.

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