Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tony Hrkac: Two Autographed Cards

The last time I featured two autographed Tony Hrkac cards, I purposely skimmed through his time with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim because I knew I had this post as a back-up.

His 140 games with Anaheim was the third-most he spent with any one organization, after the 201 with the St. Louis Blues and 160 with the Atlanta Thrashers. His 38 points with the Mighty Ducks in 2000-01 at age 34 is his fifth-highest total in the NHL, coming in the heart of the Dead Puck Era and his even (+0) plus/minus rating was tied for second-best on the team, with only Antti Aalto falling into the positives at +1, in only 12 games, mind you. The team's stars were all in deep minuses: Paul Kariya (67 points, -9), Teemu Selanne (59 points, -8), Oleg Tverdovsky (53 points, -11), Marty McInnis (42 points, -21) and Matt Cullen (40 points, -23) all brought forth a negative differential, making life difficult on goalies Guy Hebert (41 games, 12-23-4, 2 shutouts, 3.12 GAA and .897 save percentage) and Jean-Sébastien Giguère (34 games, 11-17-5, 4 shutouts, 2.57 GAA and .911 save percentage).

Card #5 from Pacific's  2001-02 Pacific series encapsulates his time in California very well:
The purple (technically "eggplant") and jade uniform was their main away gear from the team's inception in 1993 until 2006, when Disney sold the team and it changed its look and took the "Mighty" out of its name to not interfere with Disney's copyrights from the kids' film franchise, with the team opting to modify its brand and look at the same time.

However, I mostly tend to remember Hrkac as a member of the Blues and Québec Nordiques, as the early 90s were when I followed the sport and the NHL the most religiously, and I also have him sporting the Nords' beautiful blue (away) uniform from the late 80s/early 90s, before they started incorporating red on the contours of the numbers:
That's card #172 from Topps' 1990-91 Bowman set, which enables me to enter Hrkac as #28 in my Nordiques Numbers Project. You might recall he's also there as #40, and he is a rare player who went from wearing a "regular" (read: below #35) number in 1989-90 to a "high number" (40 and up) in 1990-91; back in the day, it was customary for goalies to wear #1, #20, #29, or a number between 30 and 35, while tough guys and goons were given available numbers between 30 and 39 and other skaters typically had lower numbers - except for stars, who could get "the doubles" (11, 22, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88 and 99). The numbers above 40 were typically reserved for rookies who had yet to "earn" their lower number.

Hrkac signed these in blue sharpie when he came out of retirement at age 42, from 2008 to 2010, with the Houston Aeros of the AHL. His 2008-09 playoff run was particularly impressive, as he posted 14 points in 19 games in a deep postseason run.

He's been a pro scout with the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2015, who have acquired the likes of Anton Stralman, Michaël Bournival, Gabriel Dumont, Peter Budaj, Louis Domingue, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, Eddie Pasquale, Cameron Gaunce, Danick Martel, J.T. Miller, Curtis McElhinney, Jan Rutta, Luke Schenn, Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon via other means than drafting during his tenure, so either he is passionate about my blog or he travels from Montréal to New York a lot.

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