Thursday, August 8, 2019

Mario Gosselin: Two Autographed Cards

As a kid, my first "full-on" contact with hockey - apart from the occasional Saturday night game on TV at a relative's or getting up at 4 AM for mandatory practice at ages 3-4 was the 1986 Stanley Cup Final. Watching Patrick Roy play so well that to this day folks still refer to him as having single-handedly stolen the Cup despite playing on a team stacked with Hall of Famers made me want to take up the sport again after quitting it abruptly - between the pipes, to boot.

But Roy's impact was so huge that in the time of just one summer, seemingly my entire elementary school went from wearing "normal" clothes to Montréal Canadiens attire and jerseys kind of made it uncool for me to follow suit - I was more of an independent spirit, a rebel, even at eight years old - that I still kept Roy as my favourite player and single greatest influence, but my allegiance switched to his hometown team, the Québec Nordiques, who also had a goalie who wore #33: Mario Gosselin.

While Gosselin was a star in Juniors (literally a First Team All-Star in the LHJMQ), and an Olympian with Team Canada at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, that is pretty much where the comparisons with Roy stop; Gosselin was, for a time, one of the best back-ups in the league, but his one season as a starter was the first of many terrible years for the Nordiques - the first time in eight seasons the club missed the playoffs. Roy was winning Vezinas and Jennings trophies in the meantime.

As the Nordiques went through a rough rebuild, they traded away such legends as Peter Stastny and Michel Goulet to make room for the next guard; Gosselin was part of the purge. He would move on with the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings, earning his first win in his first game, which happened to be the one where Gretzky tied and beat Gordie Howe's 1850 career points record, scoring the overtime winner in a 7-6 contest.Gosselin also managed to lose a game that season without even having surrendered a goal, as starting goalie Kelly Hrudey had been taken out of the game and Gosselin himself pulled for an extra skater, except the Edmonton Oilers scored what ended up being the winning goal while he was on the bench (the Kings scored another one to get within one, but couldn't tie the game).

After stints in minor leagues with the Phoenix Roadrunners and Springfield Indians, Gosselin got another chance in the NHL, this time with the Hartford Whalers, a team he'd beaten in two playoff series while playing for Québec. It was the Sean Burke/Frank Pietrangelo era in Hartford, however, and Gosselin was relegated to third-string duties.

Still, he'll always be one of the proud bearers of #33 in my Nation's Capital, as can be attested by these two cards, showing him wearing the Nordiques blue (away) uniform, possibly my favourite hockey jersey of all time:
The card on the left is #250 from O-Pee-Chee's 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee set, while the one on the right is #173 from OPC's1988-89 O-Pee-Chee collection. He signed both for me in black sharpie in the 1990s, when he was just contemplating opening a hockey school (he runs it now, pretty much as a part-time job) and I was finding my own game, navigating through Juniors and national team programs.

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