Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's a Wild end of the year

Since this is my last Hockey Card Geek post for the year, I figured I'd go out with a bang.
 
While it's true a lot of folks will do year-end card ratings, or their favorites for the year, or such, I don't feel I've been posting enough to warrant such a missive. 
 
So, I'll just have to subject you, dear reader, to a hodgepodge of sorts.
 
I'll begin by thanking Mrs. Santa for the wonderful gifts she left me this year. Besides some nice hockey and baseball card packs and boxes, she left me an Iowa Wild away hockey jersey. As inaugural season ticket holders, I can now represent our team in style.
Rather than put a players' name and number on the back, thereby dating the jersey, she put "McDuff" as the name plate, as well as the number "36," which is the number I've always worn when I was young and stupid and racing motocross (I'm not quite as young anymore), and playing hockey.
 
She also got me an Iowa Wild lace-up sweatshirt.
 
 
 
I must have been a very good boy, this year...
 
Speaking of being good boys, the Iowa Wild have been doing a great job in winning over the hearts and minds of Iowa hockey fans. With previous incarnations of the Iowa Stars (Dallas) and Iowa Chops (Anaheim), leaving a sour taste in our mouths, Iowa fans may have been a bit leery of yet another AHL entity invading the heartland.

With the Des Moines Buccaneers representing the USHL in Tier 1 amateur hockey (since 1980-81), two high school teams (late 90's) and the seventh-ranked Iowa State University club hockey team, vying for our hockey attention, your next thought was, "Gee, I wonder how long this team will last."
 
I, however, feel it's a match made in Heaven. Before the season began, the new owners held a ticket holder open house with free food, an open skate on the Wild ice, and lots of opportunities to meet with trainers, broadcasters, and other staff (the players were away at a pre-season tourney). They opened up the team's locker room and training areas, and held a Q&A session with fans. They said all the right things, which helped set the tone for the start of the season.
 
They even took a picture of all of us - We're about 10 rows up in the middle section.

 
While it's harder to follow players who move on to Texas and/or California, the Wild's parent team is now just a few miles north on I-35. It's not that difficult to head up to the Twin Cities to catch an NHL Minnesota Wild game to see Iowa alumni play. In fact, Goalie Darcy Keumper has been sent up to Minnesota several times already this year.
 
As 2013 comes to an end, the Wild are in the league's top third in attendance, with a 13-14-2 record in the Midwest Division.
 
I actually take my camera to a few of the games, so if any one's looking for some pictures of their team's AHL affiliates, let me know and I'll see what I can get.
 
So now, let's end 2013 with at least two New Year's resolutions.
 
My first New Year's resolution is that I vow to be a bit more consistent in my Hockey Card Geek posts. Once every week or two just doesn't cut it.

As for my second resolution, I vow to re-organize my entire hockey collection. I have eight, 5,000-count hockey boxes that are organized by player, and then I have another four boxes that I have either purchased, or thrown packs into, or any loose hockey cards I pick up. This year, they will indeed be organized and entered into my hockey card data base.
 
Until then, Happy New Year's and I'll see you all in 2014.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

1985 Cartophilium Hall of Fame cards

Since it's Sunday and the middle of the month, it was time to hit the monthly Urbandale American Legion Card Show.

Usually, I'm on the hunt for new additions to my San Diego Padres baseball collection. However, there's been more and more dealers offering hockey card selections as of late.

Which makes me a very happy kind of guy.

Besides picking up a few rookie cards and some Chicago Blackhawks cards, I came across the following three cards in a baseball dime box, of all places.

 
The three cards -- J.J. Adams (#182), J.B (Jack) Laviolette (#159) and S.S. (Si) Griffis (#155) are part of a Hockey Hall of Fame card set issued in 1985 (despite a 1983 copyright).
 
These 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" cards were issued as part of a 240-card set originally sold in the Canadian Sears 1985 Christmas Catalog. The backs are written in both French and English.  It was originally offered in 1983 in a postcard format, re-released in the trading card format in 1985 and then again in 1987, expanded to 261-cards with the newest additions to the Hall of Fame. Each set feature members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, with artwork by Carlton McDiarmid. 
 
McDiarmid served 34-years as a hockey goal judge at Montreal's Forum. A noted artist, McDiarmid, and Jerry Hersh, drew the illustrations for the1986 Kraft hockey cards. McDiarmid passed away in 2009, at the age of 72.
 
I actually think they're kind of cool. It would be very interesting to try and compile this set, but I think it could be a very hard one to put together. 
 
In the meantime, however, I'll just enjoy the artwork of Mr. McDiarmid.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Today in history - Flying to an eight-point record

On this date in 1977, Philadelphia D-man Tom "The Bomber" Bladon established an NHL record, as the Flyers decimated the Cleveland Barons 11-1 at the Spectrum. The Edmonton native set the record for most points by a defenseman by scoring four goals and four assists. His plus/minus of +10 also set a record that evening.

The previous record of seven points was held by Bobby Orr, who had a hat trick and four assists in a 10-3 win over the New York Rangers during the 1973-74 season. The Edmonton Oilers' Paul Coffey tied Bladon's record in 1986, with two goals and six assists in a 12-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
As a 6-1 and 195 pounds defenseman who relied more on speed than his physical prowess, he didn't appear to be Philly's proto-typical "Broad Street Bully" despite being drafted 23rd overall in 1972. Bladon, however, scored a respectable 11 goals and 42 points in his rookie campaign. The Dec. 11, 1977 gamed helped propel him to a career high 53 points in 1976-77, with 10 goals and 43 assists.

He won the Stanley Cup with Philadelphia in 1974 and 1975 and played in the NHL All-Star game in 1977 and 1978 as a Flyer. He ended his 11-year career in 1980-81, playing with the Adirondack Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and Detroit Red Wings.

He ended his career with 73 goals, 197 assists, good for 270 points, and 392 penalty minutes. He now resides in Calgary, where he operates a Tim Horton's

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday - Ovechkin, Parent and Roy, oh my!

As I noted in my "Bleedin' Brown and Gold" San Diego Padres blog, I admitted to getting up early Friday morning, dragging my turkey-sated, tryptophan-laden carcass out to take part in a Black Friday shopping spree at RyansCardz, one of my local brick and mortar card stores here in the Des Moines-area.

Ryan had some sweet discounts, so I picked up a Panini Prizm Hockey and some card supplies. Since we were embarking upon a 150-mile trip to visit family, I patiently (?!) waited until Saturday morning to open the box. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait.

Among some of the really nice cards I pulled were this Patrick Roy Immortal (I6), Bernie Parent Orange Endless Impressions Prizm (EI2, #49/50), an Antoine Russel (AAR) autograph, Damien Brunner Initial Impressions Prizm (II10), Nail Yakupov Initial Impressions (II1), and a Mike Smith Net Defenders (ND20).
 
I feel I did pretty well in the RC department as well, with pulls of C Drew LeBlanc (222) and G Ryan Stanton (223)of the Blackhawks, which are going into my PC, as well as G Darcy Kuemper (248) of the Minnesota Wild - we've seen him play a few games with our hometown AHL affilitate Iowa Wild, but he's spent the past week up in Minneapolis due to Josh Harding's injury. Among my better RC pulls are Vladimir Tarasenko (282) of the St. Louis Blues, Beau Bennett (276) of Pittsburgh, Brendan Gallagher (252) of Montreal, and Danny DeKevser (236) and Peter Mrazek (237) of Detroit.
Up to this point, this would have qualified as a really nice box of cards. However (drum roll please), there remains yet another card -- one of the most awesomest pulls I have ever had -- an Alexander Ovechkin Autograph Prizm, numbered 20/20.
What made was Black Friday experience especially nice, was that Panini provided dealers 2013 Panini Black Friday promo packs. Among its hockey offerings, I recieved a Black Friday Steven Stamkos (11) and Sidney Crosby (3) card.
 
Not bad at all.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

1996-97 Zenith Champion Salute set

A few months ago when I was perusing my monthly local card show, I mentioned to one of the dealers how it's hard to find hockey cards anymore.

"Hold on," he told me and then proceeded to pull out a couple of cards.

These are 1996-97 Zenith Champion Salute Promo cards of Claude Lemieux (#10) and Doug Gilmour (#13).

According to Beckett's, they were "Randomly inserted in packs at a rate of 1:23, this special commemorative insert set honors superstar veteran players who have played on a Stanley Cup championship team. The fronts feature color player photos printed on micro-etched, silver poly-laminate card stock, along with a faux "diamond" chip embedded in the Stanley Cup ring icon."

There's actually a parallel to this set, as well, "Champion Salute Diamond," which incldues an actual diamond chip, which was randomly inserted in packs at the rate of 1:350.

The regular set incudes:
1   Mark Messier                                9   Peter Forsberg
2   Wayne Gretzky                           10   Claude Lemieux  
3   Grant Fuhr                                   11   Patrick Roy
4   Paul Coffey                                 12   Chris Chelios
5   Mario Lemieux                           13   Doug Gilmour
6   Jaromir Jagr                                14   Mike Richter
7   Ron Francis                                15   Martin Brodeur
8   Joe Sakic

Actually, I thought these cards were kinda cool, so I decided to try and collect both the promo and the regular set. Here's the Ron Francis, Mike Messier, Chris Chelios and Peter Forsberg Champion Salute set.  I've even knocked out two of the goalie cards, with Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy inbound from an E-Bay purchase.

There's also two questions which quickly come to mind regarding this set: 1) According to Beckett, there's only three promo cards -- Brodeur, Forsberg and Fuhr. That can't be right, as I already have a Claude Lemieux and Gilmour Promo card, so how many promo cards are there?. 2) How can you tell if you have the diamond parallel or not, since an actual diamond chip is what makes it the parallel. Do you have to take it to a jeweler to find out if it's the parallel?

In any case, it'll be interesting to see if I can actually put a set together. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The oldest card in my hockey collection

I've missed my hockey cards. It seems as if I spend most of my time blogging about my San Diego Padres cards on Bleedin' Brown and Gold, even though the Padres baseball season is over. With hockey season well underway, I need to start showing some man love toward my first love -- my hockey collection.

So there I was, going through my 12 boxes of hockey cards and I discovered a card that I almost forgot I had. I'm a firm believer in history, so this card holds a special place in my collection and in my collecting heart, because it's also the oldest card I own.


I can't quite remember when I picked up this 1933-34 V357 Ice Kings #39 Glen "Swampy" Brydson RC. I know I got if off E-Bay for a pretty reasonable price, considering its condition. All I can remember, is that I thought it was a really cool looking card, I didn't have any cards earlier then 1969, and it's definitely a piece of hockey history. Especially since it was from the early '30s.

Even better, I discovered this scrappy right winger, born Nov. 7, 1910 in Swansea, Ontario, had played three of his eight NHL seasons with my Chicago Blackhawks, after being traded from the New York Rangers for Howie Morenz in January 1936.  According to the Hockey Hall of Fame website, "He was a decent role player for the Hawks but lost his place in the line-up part way through the 1937-38 season. Brydson spent his last four and a half pro seasons in the AHL then played a year with the senior Kingston Frontenacs before retiring in 1943."

He began his NHL career in 1930-31 with the Montreal Maroons, the team he's pictured with on this card. He played for the St. Louis Eagles (1934-35) before being picked up by the Rangers. As a Hawk, he was 14-14-29 in 75 games as a Hawk, with 58 penalty minutes.

He passed away on Dec. 9, 1993 and is buried in Toronto's Park Lawn Cemetery.

Besides the awesomeness of owning a 79-year old hockey card, these early cards present such a sense of history, especially in those early days of the NHL. I also have no doubt that each little crease and curling on this particular card has a story of its own to tell. I'm definitely looking forward to eventually expanding this segment of my hockey card collection.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

34th Nationals VIP Sportkings Blackhawks Anthology Set

For years, I've always wanted to attend the National Sports Collector's Convention. Even though I live about 300-some miles away in Iowa, I've never been to the show when it's been held at Chicago's Rosemont Horizon. The closest I came to going was a few years ago, when I was granted a media pass to report on the event for Sports Card Forum, but I broke my ankle in a motorcycle accident and that was that.

I was hoping to make it to this year's Convention, but again, fate was a way of throwing curveballs at you.

Thank Heavens, howvever, for Sal at Puck Junk. A Blackhawks fan (I knew there was somthing about him I liked...) who attended this year's show, offered up sets of the VIP Anthology Blackhawks cards only available at this year's National Sports Collectors Convention. Of all the cards and sets available to VIP members, this was the one set I really, really wanted.

All Sal wanted, was for you to Post a comment, telling "who your favorite Chicago Blackhawks player is — either past or present — and why." He then picked the answers that he liked the best. Of course, I posted how I'd always been a "Tony Esposito kind of guy. 'Nuff said!"

And thanks to Sal, I was one of his winners of this wonderful set.

blackhawks_vip_set

To me, the Esposito, Mikita and Pilote cards really made this set. Having old Chicago greats such as Bill Mosienko, Charlie Gardiner and Glenn Hall ain't bad, either. No matter how you slice it, this set will now reside within a hollowed place in my Blackhawks collection.

Again, thanks Sal. This totally made my day!



Monday, August 19, 2013

Landeskog gets 7 year/$39 mil extension


Not since Joe Sakic, or perhaps Peter Forsberg, have the Colorado Avalanche had a true star forward. Now, it appears as if they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is, signing 20-year old wunderkind Gabriel Landeskog to a seven-year contract extension.
With this extension, believed to be worth about $39 million, it looks as if the Avalanche have the player they plan on building their franchise around.

Is he worth it? I think so. In a short, but sweet two-year career with the Avalanche, all he’s done is score – 31 goals and 38 assists in 119 NHL games after being selected second overall in the 2011 NHL draft. His +/- 16 is nothing to sneeze at either.
During his freshman season, alone, the young Swede scored 52 points (22-28), led rookies in shots and goals (playing all 82 games). He was rewarded with the Calder Cup Trophy that year and wore the Av’s “C” on his jersey during the 2012-13 season.  At 19 years, nine months and 13 days, he became the youngest captain in NHL history, beating out Sidney Crosby by 11 days.
No matter how you look at it, the 2013-14 season should be an interesting one for the Avs. Former players highlight the coaching staff – Patrick Roy is the head coach/VP of Hockey Operations, with Adam Foote as Defense Development Consultant– while the front office reads like a Who’s Who of Avalanche alumni – with Craig Billington serving as Assistant General Manager, Pierre Lacroix as advisor, and Joe Sakic Joe Sakic taking on Executive Vice-president of Hockey Operations/Alternate Governor responsibilities. Even Adam Deadmarsh is serving as a Colorado Scot.

On the ice, there’s been enough subtle changes to the Colorado, especially on the defensive side.

Following a seven-year absence, former Avalanche Alex Tanguay was re-acquired from the Calgary Flames, along with D Cory Sarich, for F David Jones and D Shane O’Brien. July 5 appeared to have been “Toughen Up the Avalanche Blue Line” day, as they signed free agent defensemen JT Wyman (Tampa Bay),  Dick Holden (Columbus), Nate Guenin (Anaheim) and Andre Benoit (Ottawa) before the day was over.

They also signed F Geoff Walker from Tampa Bay on the 5th, as well. With the exception of Jean-Sebastian Giguere (36 years old), Sarich (35), Tanguay (33) and Pa Parenteau (30), the entire roster consists of 20-some year olds.

Will this help the Avs return to the playoffs after a prolonged playoff drought? We’ll have a better idea once the season starts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Best Badger hockey player ever


Scott Mellanby, Gary Suter, Dany Heatley.

When you think of Wisconsin Badger hockey, you think of the long, red and white legacy of winning.

Kelly Fairchild, Sean Hill, Mark Johnson.

With more than 60 players with NHL experience, past and present, the list of Wisconsin alumni reads like a who’s who of hockey.

Tony Granato, Steve Reinprecht,

Forget the “State of Hockey” I’ll take Badgers hockey any day of the week. While the men’s program boasts of six national championships and the women have four of their own, who can forget 2006, when Wisconsin became the first Division 1 school to earn both the men’s and women’s championships in the same year.

Adam Burish, Mike Richter, Brian Engblom.
At least once a year, my wife and I make a road trip to Madison, Wisc. to catch the “Wha’ D’ya Know” radio show, to shop at the local farmer’s market, run up and down State Street and for a Wisconsin Badger hockey game or two.

However, when you talk about the many Madison alumni who’ve gone on to successful NHL careers, it’s hard to name just one as the best in Badger hockey. In fact, Its almost like having to name your most favorite child.

For me, however, it’s no contest….my favorite alum would have to be Chris Chelios.  
Where would you start?
How about awards…11-time All-Star games; the James Norris Memorial Trophy (1988-89, 1992-93 and 1995-96)’ NHL All-Rookie First Team (1984-85); and NCAA All-tournament team (1982-83); Mark messier Leader of the Year Award (2006-07); Bud Light Plus/Minus Award (2001-02); Olympic Silver Medal (2002); Olympic Tournament All-Star team (2002); and Wisconsin Athletics hall of Fame (2011).

Championships? How about three in the NHL – Montreal Canadiens (1986) and the Detroit Red Wings (2002 and 2008) – and an NCAA title with the Badgers (1982-83).
Stats? How about 185 goals, 763 assists, 948 points and 2,891 penalty minutes…Skating more than 233 ¾ quarters on ice in 1,651 NHL games…A member of four NHL teams (Montreal, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta).

Longevity? Again, his 1,651 NHL games is the most of any defenseman. If his number of games were to be ranked among position players, he’d rank fifth.
And ultimately…Chelios was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame just last month; the first UW player to be enshrined.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A 4-pack review of the outlandish 2013-14 OPC hockey

Having the afternoon off, I got bored. When I get bored, I visit my local brick and mortar card shops. When I visit my brick and mortar card shops (RyansCards and The Rookie), I spend money. When I spend a lot of money on hockey cards, my wife gets exasperated at me. When my wife gets REAAALLY exasperated at me, I usually end up sleeping in the doghouse.

While I don't like sleeping in the doghouse, I couldn't resist buying a few packs of one of the new products on their shelves,  the 2013-14 OPC Hockey Cards. So, I bought two packs at each store.

Overall, I feel this year's 500-card set is just, okay. Literally.

It's nothing spectacular, nothing to really write home about. I'm not real excited with the card color combinations -- yellow/lime, pink/yellow (gold?), green/orange, purple/light blue and light blue/red -- and with 500 base cards, it seems as if this will be a hard one for set collectors. It almost feels as if OPC really wrote this off as this their low-end hockey set and didn't put much effort into it.

RyansCards Pack #1
Duncan Keith, Blackhawks #22
Blake Comeau, Blue Jackets #104
John Tavares, Islanders #161
Andrew Shaw, Blackhawks #223
Joel Ward, Capitals, #238
Michael Neuvirth Retro, Capitals 332
Theoren Fleury, Flames #370
Mikhail Grigorenko, Sabres RC #527

Highlights of this pack would have to be the Grigorenko rookie card. A 2012 first round pick (#12) by the Sabres, he led the QMJHL's Quebec Ramparts with 14 postseason points (5-9-14) in 2013. The Keith and Shaw cards, meanwhile, will be a welcome addition to my Blackhawks collection.

RyansCards Pack #2
Kyle Wellood, Jets #28
Alexander Semin, Hurricanes #33
Saku Koivu, Ducks #176
Kari Lehtonen, Stars #204
Gustav Nyquist, Red Wings #225
Lubomir Visnovsky foil, Islanders #281
Pavel Bure Sticker, Canucks #SPB
Retro Checklist, #496

While the Visnovsky card appears blue, it's actually a foil card. Stickers are also included in this year's set, complete with a yellow border. Actually, the Bure photo looks pretty sharp, but I'm not really a big sticker fan.

 
The Rookie Pack #1
Nik Antropov Retro, Jets #35
Joe Pavelski, Sharks #116
Richard Clune, Predators #144
Shawn Horcoff, Oilers #170
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals #272
Niklas Backstrom, Wild #478
Keaton Ellerby, Kings #483
Ben Hanowski, Flames RC #596

Another rookie card, this time Hanowski, of the Flames. A third round pick (#63) in the 2009 draft, Hanowski was second in scoring (17 goals) for St. Cloud University, as they reached the NCAA Frozen Four. To me, the retro card of Antropov is hard to read with the two-tone lettering. The "psychedelic" background reminds me out of something from Austin Powers.

 
The Rookie Pack #2
Scott Hartnell, Flyers #47
Robin Lehner, Senators #109
Devan Dubnyk, Oilers #206
Carl Hagelin, Rangers #243
Grant Clitsome Retro, Jets #337
Bobby Clarke, Flyers #372
Brandon Yip, Predators #375
Sidney Crosby Rings, Penguins R43

The card I actually found the most interesting was from this pack. The honors would have to go to the Crosby Ring, which OPC originally offered back in the 70's. It's actually a punch-out ring, with Crosby's picture in the middle and three notches on both ends, so you can actually roll it and use it as a ring. I'm not sure who would do that, but it does look kind of cool, in an old school, retro-way. As for the Clitsome retro card, well, you already know how I feel about them.

Oh by the way, you can keep your wrappers, as OPC will once again offer a wrapper redemption program. However, it's only Canada exclusive, so if you live south of the border like me, you're out of luck.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New collectable on E-Bay -- Stanley Cup Stitches!


Do you collect game-used cards? That’s so yesterday.

How about autographs? Yawn.

How about hockey memorabilia or equipment? Been there, got it.

How about an exciting, new form of hockey collectable – Stitches from the 2012-2013 Stanley Cup Championships?
 
 
If you remember, during Game six of the 2012-13 Stanley Cup at Boston, Bruins winger Shawn Thornton's attempted a dump-in that climbed up the stick of Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, nailing him on the right side of his face. While Bruins fans booed, Shaw lay motionless and bleeding on the ice, before skating to the locker room.

Once stitched up, Shaw was back on the bench at the start of the second period. It’s amazing the healing power the Stanley Cup has. He didn’t appear to be in too much pain, as he lifted Lord Stanley’s cup later that evening with his Blackhawks teammates.

Now, according to Shaw’s Facebook page, those very stitches will be on auction through E-Bay to benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research.



“Starting Thursday August 15th, 2013 we will be auctioning off the actual stitches that Andrew Shaw received from a puck he took to the face in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals. This auction will be run for ten days ending on August 25th, 2013 on eBay.com

“We will post links to the auction on this page. The stitches are being professionally framed with an autographed photograph of Andrew Shaw, plus there will be other items included in this auction lot.”

I’m not sure, however, if the auction is for individual stitches, or for the lot. In any case, it’ll be interesting to see how much money it raises for the V Foundation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gartoony the Loony


While baseball may have had its share of flakes with the likes of Bill “Spaceman” Lee and Turk Wendell, hockey can certainly boast of having its own eccentric players. Perhaps one of the biggest flakes to take to the ice was Gilles “Gratoony the Loony” Gratton.
In a day and age when goalies were often considered eccentric, Gratton’s folly has been well documented….
He often sat out games, complaining of recurring abdominal pains. A centuries-long believer in reincarnation – he could give explicit details of each of his lives – he said it was from when he was a soldier killed by a lance during the Spanish Inquisition.  Another time, he sat out a game because he said the moon was located in the wrong place in the sky.
He liked hanging out naked after practices and occasionally skated nude on the ice, wearing nothing but his mask. Despite often threatening teammates he’d do a strip-tease during a game (this was after the movie Slapshot was made), he never played without his sweater.
Ultimately, he felt playing goalie was perhaps a just (and somewhat ironic) punishment after stoning people during one of his previous lives
The brother of former Buffalo Sabre and Minnesota North Star Norm Gratton, Gilles was a 69th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 1972. An OMJHL second-team All-Star with the Oshawa Generals, he signed with the World Hockey Association instead, playing three years with the Ottawa Nationals and Toronto Toros, recording an 81-66 record, with four shutouts and a 3.69 GAA.  He was actually on the roster of the 1974 WHA Summit Series vs. the Russians.  
I have to admit, he did have one of the coolest goalie masks, however, based on Leo the Lion, his astrological sign. While the mask alone may have been somewhat intimidating, he would often growl at opposing players nearing his crease and once hissed during a fight.
 


He played six games for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues in 1975-76, before announcing his retirement. Knowing the wanted to return to the Toros, St. Louis refused to grant Gratton waivers, so he was forced to sit out the rest of the season. He signed with the New York Rangers as an unrestricted free agent during the 1976-77 season, recording an 11-18 record and a 4.22 GAA.
He played on game with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks during the 1997-78 season, retiring for good  at the tender age of 24. After touring Europe as a photographer I last read he was working for Quebec’s Classic Auctions


.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Blake, O'Donnell earn Kings Front office jobs


You have to love it when an NHL team hires its star players for front office positions. Can you imagine Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic working anywhere else but Colorado, or Kris Draper and Jiri Fischer in any place other than Detroit?
That’s the case for the Kings, as a pair of former defensemen recently began their new careers within their LA-based organization. It’s not just a case of rewarding faithful service, but rather recognizing a player’s talent, work ethic and management potential, while tapping into their knowledge and experience.

On Wednesday, the kings hired Sean O’Donnell as manager of their fan development and alumni relations. Last month, they named Rob Blake as the club’s Assistant General Manager. Blake also serves as GM for the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ AHL affiliate.
 
O’Donnell had two tours of duty with the Kings – his first from 1994-95 to 1999-2000, after being traded for Doug Houda, and again during the 2008 season. He also wore sweaters for Minnesota, New Jersey, Boston, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Chicago, finishing his 17-year NHL career with the Blackhawks. He skated in 1,224 regular-season NHL games, scoring 31 goals and 229 points, while recording 1,809 penalty minutes.


Like O’Donnell, Rob Blake is serving his first season with the Kings. He’ll assist President/GM Dean Lombardi in everyday operations, such as contract negotiations and overseeing the Kings’ top prospects.
Blake was originally selected from Bowling Green by the Kings in the fourth round (70th overall) of the 1988 NHL draft. He made his NHL debut with the Kings during the 1989-90 season.

Fourteen of Blake’s 20 NHL seasons were played as a King. He sported the white “C” from 1996-01 and from 2007-08 (six seasons totals). He led the Kings into the Stanley Cup finals (1993), eventually winning it with the Colorado Avalanche (2001).
Should he be considered as “Mr. King?” Perhaps not. But consider all the many in-house awards he earned playing with the Kings alone – He was winner of the team’s  Most Popular Player Award (1997-98), a two-time winner of the Kings MVP award, a six-time Outstanding Defenseman award winner, winner of the Most Inspirational Award (1997-98), and a three-time winner of the Kings Community Service Award. He was also the first King to receive the Norris Trophy (1998).

After recording 777 points and 240 goals in 1,270 regular season games, he hung up his skates.
At least the LA Front Office was smart enough to hire O’Connell and Blake for management positions. Hopefully, their vast experience will help the Los Angeles franchise to become “Kings” of the NHL once more.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

All about the hockey card geek

While I’m a baseball (San Diego Padres) and enjoy football (Green Bay Packers), in what other sport can you find such finesse, speed, grace, and physicality, as hockey? Don’t even get me started on basketball – it’s a wuss sport – you get a hangnail and you’re on the DL for two weeks. In hockey, you break your jaw, get it wired shut and then continue to skate your shifts. It’s a blue-collar sport.

Hockey wasn’t that big when I was growing up in Southeast Iowa in the late ‘60s, early 70’s, but I still followed it. It was during my junior and senior years of high school when the Broad Street Bullies lofted Lord Stanley’s Cup.

It wasn’t until I joined the Navy and moved to San Diego that I was able to see my first live hockey game. That was the “golden” days of the San Diego Mariners, who played their World Hockey Association games at the San Diego Sports Arena.

I returned home to Iowa’s hockey wasteland in 1980, and it wasn’t’ until 1995-96, that hockey raised its head in Moline, Ill., as the Quad-City Mallards were born. They originally played in the old Colonial League, which was later reformed into the United Hockey League. Even though it seemed somewhat “goonish,” it was entertaining, and the Mallards went on to record six straight 50+ win seasons, as well as three league championships.

I now live in Des Moines, Iowa, where we have the Buccaneers, a Tier 1 USHL team, (which sent Erik Cole, Kyle Okposo and Scott Clemmensen to the NHL, winning the national championship in 2005-06); two high school teams (the Oak Leafs and Capitals, Midwest High School Hockey League); as well as Iowa State University’s club team (1992 ACHA National Champs).

The Iowa Wild (formerly Houston Aeros) begins AHL play at Wells Fargo Arena this season, and we already have our season tickets in hand. It’s good to have AHL hockey in the area again, as the Iowa Stars (Dallas Stars, 2005-06, 2006-07) and the Iowa Chops (Anaheim Ducks, 2008-09 formerly resided here.

While I don’t have one favorite hockey team, I like the Blackhawks and Avalanche, and follow teams of interest such Boston, Philly, St. Louis, and the Rangers (I consider Toronto my “Canadian team.”). The only team I actually love to hate, is the Detroit Red Wings. As you can well guess, “Slapshot” is one of my favorite movies.

I have more than 30,000 hockey cards taking up a corner of the guest bedroom (much to my wife’s chagrin) and more on shelves in the basement. I enjoy vintage hockey cards, today’s offerings, and the thousands of hockey cards in between. Whether it’s autos, game-used, RCs, serial numbers, refractors, I love them all.

What can I say, I’m a hockey and hockey card geek.