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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lost Rookies: 1980-81 OPC Brent Ashton

  Brent Ashton is best known as, previously, being the most traded man in NHL History.  He was traded a total of nine times during his NHL career.  A career that started with the Vancouver Canucks in 1979.  Ashton scored 23 goals and 48 points in 123 games for the Canucks, before being traded to the Colorado Rockies, via the Winnipeg Jets, in the 1982 offseason.  Ashton did not earn a rookie card until the 1982-83 OPC set, after leading the Rockies in points.  Below is how a 1980-81 OPC Brent Ashton rookie card may have looked.

1980-81 OPC #397 Brent Aston (RC)

  Trivia:  Three of the players Ashton was traded for during his career, were 40 goal scorers.

1980-81 OPC #397 Brent Ashton (RC)

  Brent played a single season with the Colorado Rockies before the team moved to New Jersey.  OPC was pro-active for the 1982-83 set and had the team pictured in their new New Jersey Devils jerseys.  As opposed to a logoless team set like the Calgary/Atlanta Flames in the 1980-81 set.  While Ashton rocked a classic 80s mullet in his 82-83 card, I believe it's fitting to throw in an 82-83 Colorado Rockies Ashton card for the all the Colorado Rockies fans out there.

1982-83 OPC Brent Ashton

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lost Cards: 1985-86 OPC Chris Nilan

  It's surprising that an anglophone American Boston born player would become a fan favourite in Montreal, but Chris Nilan did just that.  "Knuckles" Nilan pounded his way into the hearts of Montreal Canadiens fans during the 1980s.  Often at the center of many a fracas, Nilan patrolled the ice, and manned the penalty box, for 523 games and, a franchise record, 2248 PIM as a Canadien.
  Nilan had a rookie card in the 1983-84 OPC set, and was also part of the 1984-85 OPC set.  When OPC made the decision to cut down its hockey card set from 396 cards to 264, Nilan was one of the causalities, despite setting career highs in goals, points and leading the league in PIM for the second consecutive season.  This how a 1985-86 OPC Chris Nilan card may have looked.

1985-86 OPC #266 Chris Nilan

1985-86 OPC #266 Chris Nilan

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lost Rookies: 1986-87 OPC Gates Orlando

  Gaeteno "Gates" Orlando played parts of three season in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres in the mid 1980s.  Gates was an undersized, 5'8, 180lbs, skilled center whose size and decision to play NCAA hockey over North American junior, let him slip to 164th overall in the 1981 draft.  During his brief NHL career he split time between the Sabres and their farm club, the Rochester Americans.  His team leading 22 points helped the Amerks win the AHL Calder Cup in 1987.  The next season, he crossed the Atlantic to play pro and went on to a successful career in Italy, including representing Italy at two Olympic games.
  In 2011, Gates was diagnosed with a rare heart disease, sarcoidosis.  His heart would eventually give out, but he was saved by the defibrillator vest he was wearing.  On April 4th of 2012, Gates had an artificial heart transplant.  He lived with the artificial heart for over a year until a donor heart could be secured and implanted.  Gates made a full recovery and is, obviously, a big fan of organ donors.  He currently works as a scout for the New Jersey Devils.
  Gates never had a NHL card.  So below is what a 1986-87 OPC Gates Orlando card may have looked.  Quality Gates Orlando Sabres images are in short supply on the internet.  I almost decided against mocking up a card for Gates but you have to give him some love for what he has been through.

1986-87 OPC #267 Gates Orlando (RC)

1986-87 OPC #267 Gates Orlando (RC)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lost Rookies: 1985-86 OPC Jeff Brubaker

  Jeff Brubaker played 178 career NHL teams.  During those 178 games, he played for seven different teams. After racking up 307 PIM for the Peterborough Petes in junior, Brubaker was drafted by the Boston Bruins, 102th overall in the 1978 draft.  He was courted by the WHA's New England Whalers and would eventually sign with the Whalers during the 1978-79 season.  The Bruins did not exercise their rights to reclaim Brubaker upon the the NHL-WHA merger of 1979.
  Upon entering the NHL, the New England Whalers became the Hartford Whalers.  Brubaker would play three games in 1979-80.  He notched his first career point against the Philadelphia Flyers on in his second career game.  It was an assist on a powerplay goal by Blaine Stoughton.  The following season Brubaker would get his first career goal, January 9th on Eddie Mio of the Edmonton Oilers, and the next night, his first career fight, versus Barry Legge of the Winipeg Jets.
  The following preseason, Brubaker was left unprotected and was picked by the Montreal Canadiens in the waiver draft.  Brubaker would only play 5 total games with the Canadiens, but two of those games were play-off games.  In one of those two games, Brubaker helped kick off a 1st period line brawl versus the Quebec Nordiques.  Brubaker would not play again the NHL play-offs.
  Brubaker was once again left unprotected at the waiver draft the following preseason.  This time he was selected by the Calgary Flames.  He played four games with the Flames that season.  As a free agent he signed on with the Provincial rival, Edmonton Oilers.  Only to be once again left unprotected and selected in the waiver draft.  This time, by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1985-86 OPC #269 Jeff Brubaker (RC)

    Brubaker's set career highs across the board during his first season with the Leafs in 1984-85.  He finished ninth in the league with 209 PIM.  Brubaker was unable to follow it up and was placed on waivers by the Leafs after accumulating 0 points and 67 PIM in 21 games.  He was picked up by the Edmonton Oilers.  He injuried his ankle after playing four games with the Oilers.  He wouldn't play another game with the Oilers.
  Brubaker returned the NHL for the 1987-88 season when he was traded to the New York Rangers after a short stint as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers organization.  The next season, after signing with the Detroit Red Wings, would be his last as a professional hockey player.  He played a single game with the Red Wings.
  Brubaker would being his coaching career the following season.  He won the league championship in his first season in the ECHL with the Greensboro Monarch.  At one time, he held the record for most wins by a coach in the ECHL, since surpassed by John Brophy
  Brubaker never had a rookie card during his playing days.  There were a few team issued postcards but he never made the cut with O-Pee-Chee.  I figured his best shot would have been the 1985-86 OPC set.  The 1985-86 set was cut down to 264 cards after being 396 cards the previous few years.

1985-86 OPC #269 Jeff Brubaker (RC)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lost Rookies: 1985-86 OPC Ken Strong

  By 1982, after years of bickering, the Toronto Maple Leafs and all-star, and former captain, Darryl Sittler were at the end of their ropes.  In January of 1982, the Leafs dealt fan favourite Sittler to the Philadelphia Flyers for Rich Costello, a 2nd round pick, 25th overall - used to select Peter Ihnacak, and future considerations.  The future considerations turned out to be Ken Strong.
1985-86 OPC #268 Ken Strong (RC)

  In the end, the trade is considered a candidate for the worst Maple Leafs trade ever.  Although Sittler only netted another 205 career points in 252 games before retiring, the return for the fan favourite was lackluster.  Ihnacak had a promising rookie season with 66 points, but then quickly faded away.  Costello played 12 career NHL games.  Strong played 15 career games. 

1985-86 OPC #268 Ken Strong

  Strong would fall out of favour with Maple Leafs management, as the Leafs wanted Strong to add pugilistic elements to his game.  After a shoulder injury, Strong would not return to the NHL after the 84-85 season.  Strong went overseas in 1987-88 to play in Austria.  Strong eventually became a dual-citizen and played for Austria in the 1994 Olympics. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Hockey Card Stories


  Hockey Card Stories: True Tales from Your Favourite Players by Ken Reid was released in October of 2014.  I put it on my Amazon Wishlist and Santa was thoughtful enough to leave a copy under the tree for me. 
 This book is a must read for any hockey card aficionado, especially if you long for the old days when O-Pee-Chee was the dominate, and sometimes only, brand.  The author, Sportsnet's Ken Reid, picked out 61 cards from his personal collection and then called up 59 players on those cards to see what they thought of them.  The book is divided up into ten chapters, with each chapter featuring five to six players.  Each player's story lasts 4-6 pages.
  The cards range from 1971 to 1991 -  all O-Pee-Chee.  There is a solid range of players, from HHOFers, such as Tony Esposito and Bobby Orr, to one game wonder, Bill Armstrong.  Player's reactions of their cards range between pride, to indifference.  Although most, especially the guys with the 1970s cards, expressed embarrassment over their photos.

An example from the WHA chapter
  The book read like a bunch of short articles, or blog posts.  In fact, some of the stories were previously published online a few years ago. Check them out if you want a sampling of what is in the book.  Most stories are directly relates to the card pictures, but a few seem to use the card more of a jumping off point to cover the player more in general. 
  One of the more interesting stories was the 1984-85 OPC Ken Linseman.  I alwasy knew it was an obvious airbrush job, but there is more to it than that.  It's Linseman's head, but not his body.  I will let you google it, or go out and buy the book to learn more. 

The FrankenCard.

  This was a very interesting book to read but it left me wanting more.  I have always wondered what players thought about their cards and what type of cards or memorabilia collections they might have.  Perhaps there will be a sequel.  I do hope so.
  I definitely recommend this book to any true hockey card fan.  There are no stories about game-used jersey or serial numbered cards, so perhaps not a great buy for anyone who has never ate gum from a pack of cards.  It has a $19.95 cover price but, as always, can be had for cheaper online.  Let's finish with a word from Ken Reid himself.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

One Star, One Sheet: Tim Kerr

Tim Kerr

4x 50 Goal Scorer
1987 2nd team All-Star
1989 Masterson Trophy Winner

  When people speak of one-dimensional players, usually someone will bring up Tim Kerr. Tim Kerr could score goals, lots of them.  A four time 50 goal scorer, Kerr also led the league in powerplay goals 3 times, including an NHL record 34 in 1985-86.  Topping out at 6'3" and 230 pounds, Kerr was made for "garbage goals".
  Tim Kerr played his junior hockey for the Kingston Canadiens.  During his drafts season, he scored 42 points in 57 games, which put him 7th on his team.  On draft day in 1979, one of the deepest ever due to minimum age changes, Kerr was not selected.  Available as a free agent, Kerr signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.
  Kerr made the Flyers team out of training camp in 1980, due to an injury to Ken Linseman.  Kerr scored his first career goal against Mike Veisor of the Hartford Whalers on October 26, 1980.  He would finish the season with 22 goals and 45 points in 68 games during his rookie season.  He posted similar number the following season, 21 goals, and 51 points in 61 games.
  The 1982-83 season was a sign of things to come for Tim Kerr.  His goal and point production were up, but also his injuries.  Kerr scored 11 goals and 19 points in 24 games.  He missed significant time due to a knee injury.
  Starting with the 83-84 season, Kerr ran together four impressive seasons, in terms of goals and durability.  Kerr scored 54, 54, 58 and 58 goals in consecutive season while also playing in 74 or more games in each season.  Kerr set a, still standing, NHL record with 34 powerplay goals in 1985-86 and was a Second Team All-Star in 1986-87.
  Kerr would get the nickname "The Sultan of Slot" for how lethal he was in close proximity of the net.  Kerr paid the price for playing in front of the net, but he also reaped the rewards.
  Unfortunately for the Flyers, Kerr's injury bug would resurface during the play-offs, first in 1985 and then again in 1987.  In 1985, after setting a NHL play-off record, scoring  four goals in 8:16, and in a single period, Kerr would be injured and missed the majority of the semi-finals and Stanley Cup Finals.  In 1987, Kerr suffered a serious shoulder injury versus the New York Islanders during the second round.  The Flyers, without its top goal scorer, eventually lost the Stanley Cup final to the Edmonton Oilers in seven games.
  Kerr missed all but eight games in 1987-88 due to the shoulder injury.  Kerr returned to form in 1988-89, scoring 48 goals in 68 games.  Also true to form, Kerr missed time, and a chance at another 50 goals season due to injuries.  This time to a broken jaw.  Kerr did save his best for the play-offs, scoring 14 goals and 25 points in 19 play-off games as the Flyers lost in the Semi-Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. For Kerr's determination to play and for overcoming injuries, Kerr was awarded the Bill Masterson trophy in 1989.
  Injuries continued to plague Kerr for the rest of his career.  Kerr wouldn't play more than 40 games in each of his last four seasons.  Although Kerr's on ice injuries paled in comparision to his loss in 1990, when his wife lost her life while giving birth to the couple's third child.
  Following the season, Kerr was left unprotected in the 1991 expansion draft.  he was selected by the San Jose Sharks and that same day, he was flipped to the Flyers division rival, the New York Rangers.  In another injury shortened season, Kerr had 18 points in 32 games for the Rangers.  In the offseason, Kerr was traded to the Hartford Whalers for a final, yet again, injury plagued season before retiring in 1993.
  Kerr's career is a what could have been career.  While Kerr wasn't a physically dominating player, he was extremely difficult to move once he layed down roots in front of the opponents net.Kerr could have easily had six straight career 50 goal seasons in the mid-to-late-1980s  if not for injuries.  It was the shoulder injury in 1987 that would eventually end his career.  Did injuries rob the Sultan of Slot a place in HHOF?  How do you compare him to Cam Neely's selection?