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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Lost Cards: 1995-96 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Gary Leeman


   Gary Leeman is best known for two things - scoring 50 goals as a Maple Leaf, and being traded for Doug Gilmour.  Or at least, that is how I remember him.  

  Leeman was drafted by the Toronto Maples in the 2nd round, 24th overall, in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft.  He was drafted as a defenseman.  After scoring 86 points in 70 games with the Regina St. Pats of the WHL, he won the Bill Hunter Trophy as the league's best  Defenceman and was a 1st Team All-star.  After the WHL season ended for the St. Pats, Leeman made his NHL debut, playing two games in the 1983 play-offs in the first round against the Minnesota North Stars.

1982-83 OPC Gary Leeman (pre-RC)

  Gary broke camp as a member of the Maple Leafs for the 1983-84 season.  Leeman scored his first career NHL goal on December 10th, 1983, against Reggie Lemelin of the Calgary Flames.  Since was still under 20, the Leafs loaned him to Team Canada to play in the World Junior Hockey Championships.  Canada finished 4th.  Leeman finished his rookie season with 4 goals and 8 assists in 52 games.  It earned him a rookie card in the 1984-85 OPC set

  During the 1984-85 season, Leeman began to spend more time as a forward and eventually made the transition to a full-time.  Gary struggled through the injury bug during his first three NHL seasons, playing in 52, 53 and 53 games during his first three NHL seasons.  

1985-86 OPC Gary Leeman

  Gary started to show signs of breaking out during the 1985-86 season.  He had 32 points in 53 games during the regular season .  A turning point was a two month trip to the AHL in January.  He scored 28 points in 23 games with the St. Catherine's Saints.  Upon being recalled,  Leeman scored five points in the last five regular season games and then added 12 points in 10 play-off games.  Leeman did not make either the 85-86 or 86-87 OPC sets.

1986-87 OPC Gary Leeman

  Gary built on his late season success during the following season.  He had 52 points in 80 games, including 20 goals, during the 1986-87 season.  Gary followed that up with back-to-back 30 goal seasons.  It was all a lead-up to a career season in 1989-90.  Leeman led the Leafs with 51 goals and 95 Points.  He became only the second player in Toronto Maple Leafs history to score 50+ goals in a a season.  Leeman and the Leafs ended the 1980's as a team on the rise.  The Leafs had a solid youth core, including players like Leeman who had improved on his point total in each of his seven NHL seasons.  As a team, the Leafs finished 3rd in the league in goals.  
  It all came crashing down in the 1990-91 season.  The Leafs dropped to 18th in the leagues for goals scored, and Leeman regressed to scoring only 17 goals and 29 points in 52 games.  Leeman missed two months of the season with a shoulder injury.  Although before the injury Leeman only had 5 goals and 10 points in 19 games.  Leeman did shows signs of life near the end of the season, netting 6 goals and an assist in the final 10 games.  There was also discord in the dressing room.  Teammate Al Iafrate was going through a rough divorce and Leeman was dating his ex-wife.  Iafrate requested a trade due to personal reasons.  He was traded in January, while Leeman was injured.
  The following season was no better for Leeman.  He was suspended for four games for hitting Minnesota North Stars player Mark Tinordi across the jaw with his stick.  His goal total continued to nose-dive.  He had 7 goals in 34 games before the Leafs traded him to the Calgary Flames, in one of the all-time bad trades in NHL history.  It was a ten-player deal, which is the largest in NHL history, and the one in which the Leafs received Doug Gilmour.  
  Leeman was buried on the depth chart of the Flames, behind Theo Fleury and Sergei Makarov.  Over parts of two seasons with the Flames, Leeman had 11 goals and 23 points in 59 games.  During the 1992-93 season, Leeman again asked to be traded and was sent to the Montreal Canadiens for Brian Skrudlund.  The trade put some spring back in Leeman's stride, as he netting 13 points in his first 9 games as a Canadien.  He slowed down as the season came to an end, finishing with a total of 18 points in 20 games as a Hab in 92-93.  Leeman suffered an ankle injury on April 2nd and missed the final five games of the regular season and first two of the play-offs.  Leeman was nagged by injuries throughout the play-offs and only played in 11 of the Canadiens 20 play-off games, scoring 3 points.  He did dress for the entire Stanley Cup Finals and got to lift Lord Stanley's Mug as NHL champion. 

1993-94 Score Gary Leeman

  While writing up this post, I decided I should try to make a card out of the picture of Leeman hoisting the Cup.  I went with 1993-94 Score since I figured I could create a template quickly and I like the simplicity of it.  Unfortunately, the font wasn't that simple.  The font I used was the closest font I could find, but it's still a bit off.  I almost went against posting this.
  Injuries continued to nag Leeman.  Leeman played only 31 games, scoring 15 points, during the 1993-94 season.  He missed time due to shoulder and forearm injuries.  Leeman also played 23 games with the Canadiens; farm team in the AHL.  Leeman was a free agent for the 1994-95 season, which was a lock-out shortened season.  Leeman signed on with the Vancouver Canucks.  In ten games, he scored goals.  He didn't play in the final two months or play-offs for the Canucks, or their farm team.  I am not sure if there was another injury or a healthy scratch.
  After playing in Europe for the 1995-96 season, Leeman took another crack at the NHL.  He played two games for the St. Louis Blues, scoring one assist, while spending the rest of the season in the minor leagues.  Leeman returned to Europe for the 1996-97 and played there until he retired in 1999.
  Leeman finished his career with 199 goals and 466 points in 667 games.  After scoring 51 goals in 80 games during the 1989-90 season, he finished his career scoring 47 goals in his last 208 games.
  Leeman's last NHL card was an autograph insert from the 1994-95 BAP set.  Which is arguably not a NHL set, since it was only authorized by the NHLPA and not the NHL.  All the players were either featured in street clothes or NHLPA jerseys from the 4-on-4 NHLPA charity games they played during the lock-out.  So while it was a Vancouver card of Leeman, it was not a Vancouver Canucks card.  I couldn't find a picture of Leeman from his two game stint as a Blues, so instead Leeman's career capper is a 1995-96 Upper Deck Collector's Choice.  

1995-96 Collector's Choice Gary Leeman

1995-96 Collector's Choice Gary Leeman

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