Friday, August 21, 2020

Harold Snepsts: Two Autographed Cards

For all intents and purposes, the Vancouver Canucks look like they'll be eliminating the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues tonight, meaning a new champion will be crowned among the eight remaining teams.

The Boston Bruins last won it in 2010-11 but reached the Final last year; the Tampa Bay Lightning won it in 2003-04 and last reached the Final in 2014-15; the Colorado Avalanche last won it in 2000-01; the Dallas Stars last won it in 1998-99 and reached the Final the following season; the Philadelphia Flyers last won it in 1974-75 and last reached the Final in 2009-10; the New York Islanders last won it in 1982-83 and last reached the Final the following season; and the Canucks (est. 1970) and Vegas Golden Knights (est. 2017) have never won the chalice, but Vancouver has been to the Final three times (1981-82, 1993-94 and 2010-11).

The 1994 (versus the New York Rangers) and 2011 (Bruins) Finals each went the full 7 games while the 1982 one was a four-game sweep by the Isles, a series that could have dragged on longer if the usually-dependable Harold Snepsts hadn't made a crucial error in overtime, a turnover leading to Mike Bossy's game-winning goal.

Snepsts could by no means be mistaken for Denis Potvin or Ray Bourque, but defensively, he was very intimidating. He could fight, push, check (and cross-check!) with the best of them and his presence around the net meant the opposition thought twice about approaching goalie Richard Brodeur. That style of play would bring both Brodeur (1983) and Snepsts (1977 and 1982) to the All-Star Game.

He was an extremely popular figure among Canucks fans for his pleasure at just being in the NHL, his joy and his superb moustache; most were angered when GM Harry Neale sent him to the Minnesota North Stars, a mistake his successor, Pat Quinn, promptly corrected by bringing him back for leadership in 1988. By that point he was an injury-prone #6-7 D, but he helped guide young guns like Trevor Linden and Adrien Plavsic into becoming the core that would lead the team to its next Final.

He played his final 61 games with the Blues.

I mostly remember his days in Vancouver with the "Flying V" uniform, as seen on card #344 from O-Pee-Chee's 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set:
Of course, all hockey fans my age will also remember him with St. Louis because of Pro Set's 1990-91 Series 2 card, because we all spent our entire allowances on those packs of "the coolest cards on ice":
Snepsts was part of the last six NHLers to not wear a helmet.

After retiring, he took on coaching jobs in the AHL (head), NHL (assistant), IHL (head) and WHL (head), but spent the most time as a scout, first with NHL Central Scouting and now with the Canucks.

He is a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

He signed both of these cards in blue sharpie at a convention of retired athletes.

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