Thursday, September 19, 2019

Nikolai Antropov Autographed Card

(As per years past, this is a twin-post with my "regular" blog, where I predicted the Toronto Maple Leafs would finish second in the Atlantic Division in 2019-20).

The ultimate irony, in my case, is that the hockey player of whom I have the most "collectibles" of in terms of signed or jersey cards spent the bulk of his career playing on a team I despise - only one of two I feel strongly about in a negative spectrum, with the San Jose Sharks - the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It's 1967, it's the constant choking, it's the league bias in their favour for reviews done in their city, acting like they own the sport, cheating - whether it be pretending players are injured to save cap space or bullying their way past better teams only to do nothing with it in the end (see how they treated the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs in the early 00s) - and bending of the rules (see: using the injury list to go over the cap more than other teams during the summer, and front-loading contracts with signing bonuses to give themselves an advantage over small-market teams, who can't afford those practices), it's fucking up the RFA market by overpaying two young players who had zero leverage, caring more about turning a profit than icing a decent team for decades, always getting chosen for the outdoor games, and changing their uniforms too often. It's being in the goddamn NHL to begin with when the league was specifically designed to get away from Toronto.

It's the city where they play, which isn't even truly Canadian it's so Americanized - what with guns, a shitty subway system and an NBA team - yet they often get the lone non-U.S. dates on music tours; having the Hockey Hall Of Fame despite having less than 50% the amount of Stanley Cups of the Montréal Canadiens, who had an empty, legendary Forum to house it.

No, seriously, fuck the Leafs.

Which doesn't mean I disrespect everyone who's ever played there. Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, Félix Potvin, Wendel Clark, Luke Richardson, Syl Apps, Johnny Bower, Jacques Plante, Lanny McDonald... lots of great people with great talent, most of which was wasted on Torontonians.

And, of course, there's also my favourite Leaf, Nikolai Antropov. Was he better than Sittler or Gilmour? Of course not. But he sent me six signed cards at once when I was getting back into the hobby, and was the first signed insert I ever pulled. He marked a turning point for me in collecting, where it was no longer just about the people I had played with in high school (Ben Guité, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Mathieu Darche), international competitions (José Theodore) in Juniors (Jason Doig, Benoit Gratton, Georges Laraque, Edin Burazerovic, Sébastien Charpentier) or went out for drinks with (Marcel Hossa), but just regular humans whose job I dreamed of having when I was a kid who were extremely nice and willing to give a bit of their time.

After playing for the Leafs from 1999 until early in 2009, Antropov finished that 2008-09 season by suiting up with the New York Rangers for 18 regular-season games and a seven-game first round postseason, then spent the remainder of his four NHL seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization, playing two years in each city.

He then suited up for Astana Barys in the KHL for two seasons before moving back in the Toronto area so his son Danil Antropov could pursue his own hockey aspirations; Danil is currently in the OHL, and had 52 points in 66 games as a right winger for the Oshawa Generals last season; if he averages a point per game this year, he will likely at least get an invitation to an NHL rookie camp next summer, or even perhaps get drafted.

The elder Antropov sent me this signed card (in black sharpie, with #80 tagged at the end, the number he started wearing during the 2002-03 season) this summer, and I'd been eagerly waiting to feature it here:
It's #55 in the 2017-18 Toronto Maple Leafs Centennial set by Upper Deck, showing him wearing the Leafs' blue (away) uniform from the end of the 1992-2000 era - "square" logo from the 1980s, old "more accurate" leaf as a shoulder patch, stylized numbering with extra white layer, and the NHL's "2000" patch on the chest. That's probably my favourite Leafs uniform, right there.

No comments:

Post a Comment