Book Review: Game Change

“Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey”  is the latest treatise by Ken Dryden, and a difficult book to categorize. 

As the title implies, the book tells the story of former NHL defenseman Steve Montador, who died at 35 — but “Game Change” isn’t a traditional biography.

It explains how concussions and traumatic head injuries affect the brain, body and mind — but “Game Change” isn’t a scientific journal entry. 

It also recounts how the NHL, over the past century, has reached its current level of violence and physicality — but “Game Change” isn’t a history book. 

“Game Change” is more than the sum of its parts, and like its name implies, it may very well change the sport of hockey. Dryden, the former Montreal Canadiens goaltender and six-time Stanley Cup-winner, has written several other hockey books. “The Game,” Dryden’s seminal work, is widely-considered to be the best hockey book ever written. “Game Change” may became the most important hockey book ever written, as it thoroughly discusses hockey’s concussion problem — illustrating it with Montador’s biography — and how to fix it. 

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Book Review: A Century of NHL Memories

“A Century of NHL Memories: Rare Photos from the Hockey Hall of Fame” is a hardcover, high-quality book that looks at the National Hockey League over the past 100 years. Well, mostly. There are no pictures from the league’s first nine years, and the book is scant on photos prior to 1940, so calling it a “century” of memories might be stretching it a bit. But what this book does offer is a look at many great hockey photographs — some iconic and memorable, and some that have never been published before — from the Hockey Hall of Fame’s expansive archives. 

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A Look Back at National Hockey Card Day 2018

Kids who attended National Hockey Card Day at Jim & Steve’s Sportscards in Waukegan, IL
proudly show off the hockey cards they received. 

March 3 was National Hockey Card Day, which has become an annual tradition for collectors in the United States and in Canada.

Sponsored by Upper Deck, National Hockey Card Day was started in 2009 in Canada and came to the United States in 2012. Hockey fans could visit a participating sports card shop and get a free pack of exclusive hockey cards.

The cards given out differ by country. The U.S. set focuses more on American players, while the Canadian set keys in on Canadian players. The cards were given out in five-card foil packs, and each set consisted of 16 total cards; the first 15 cards are found in packs, while the 16th card could only be acquired with a $10 purchase. Additionally, there were a few chase inserts.

Both the U.S. and Canadian packs had ten different Victory Black rookie cards of popular first-year players. These cards, numbered 13-22, continue the Victory Black set given away at the Fall 2017 Toronto Sport Card & Memorabilia Expo. Canadian fans also had the opportunity to pull five retro Young Guns reprint cards, while U.S. fans could find five Vegas Golden Knights cards. There were also long odds of getting an autographed card.

Excerpt from Sports Collectors Digest, Vol. 47, No. 10, May 11, 2018. Article also published online here.

Retailers who spoke with Sports Collectors Digest noted that National Hockey Card Day had a positive effect on their stores. Some dealers put up posters advertising the event and emailed their customers, while others went all-out, with sales on hockey products and raffles for signed memorabilia.

“It was unbelievable,” said Jim Amerey, co-owner of West’s Sports Cards in Edmonton. “Lots of people. I can’t count them. We give away packs for three days because there’s a lot of people who can’t come on Saturday, so we do it on Sunday and Monday, too.”

“We did really well with it, but we also had some youth hockey teams come in,” said Steve Wilson, owner of Jim & Steve’s Sportscards in Waukegan, about 40 miles north of Chicago. “Some of the kids were here for the first time. And a week later, we’ve already seen some of them come back and spend some of their money, so that’s always a good sign.”

National Hockey Card Day was a hit in Las Vegas, home of the NHL’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights.

“Saturday was pretty insane,” said Mark Hansen, manager of Legacy Sports Cards in Las Vegas.

Read the full article at Sports Collectors Digest

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

Record: The Chemistry was Just Right!

The story of the 1979-80 New York Islanders

“Dynasty” is a word that’s been tossed around in the hockey world a lot in the last decade. What does it take for a team to be a dynasty in the NHL today? Two Championships in three years like the L.A. Kings? Three Cups in six years like the Blackhawks? Two in back-to-back seasons like the Penguins? The fact that you can’t spell “dynasty” without “nasty” like the Bruins? 

While we ponder this, it’s impossible to deny teams like the Oilers’ winning five Cups in seven years, and the Islanders gobbling up four in a row in the 1980s were clearly dynasties. When the Islanders won their first of four straight Stanley Cup Championships, did they know they were on the precipice of greatness? I guess it’s easy to look back and think they may have had an idea that something special was just beginning to brew, but every team that lifts the Cup probably thinks they’re going to repeat the feat next year.

When recently digging through a local record shop, I came across this “audio yearbook” from 1980 celebrating the New York Islanders first Stanley Cup Championship.  Continue reading “Record: The Chemistry was Just Right!”

Review: 1993-94 Leaf Mario Lemieux Collection

When the 1993-94 hockey season started, the Leaf Trading Card Company entered into the foray and released several hockey card sets. The company chose a rather significant superstar as their spokesperson – Mario Lemieux. 

As a Pittsburgh Penguins fan in the early 1990s, it was exciting to see Lemieux heavily featured in all of Leaf’s promotional material. Given the health issues he faced the previous season, seeing Lemieux look so vibrant, and featuring him in his own 10-card insert set, seemed like a fitting tribute to my hero. 

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“The Penalty Box” by Dave Schultz

Dave “The Hammer” Schultz was many things during his hockey career: a Stanley Cup Champion, a Philadelphia Flyers legend and a member of the “Broad Street Bullies” of the 1970s. No one would ever mistake him for the King of Pop or the Thin White Duke. Nevertheless, in 1975, Schultz released a 7-inch double-sided record called, appropriately enough, “The Penalty Box.”

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Box Break: 2017-18 SP Game Used

Last month, when ordering my box of Upper Deck Series 2 to make fun of, I also tossed in a box of SP Game Used since it was on sale. I actually wrestled with purchasing this item verses a box of Artifacts that were at a similar price point, both on sale. Eventually I gauged that the SPGU would have a better value in the promised “hits.” With only one pack per box, let’s see if that holds true…

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The Race for the 2018 Hart Trophy

8 Great Choices – But Only 1 Can Be MVP

With the NHL regular season now at an end, I think we can all agree it has been one of the best in recent memory. If the brilliant debut of the Las Vegas Golden Knights wasn’t enough, maybe it was the play of breakout stars, Andrei Vasilevskiy or Brayden Point. But, the NHL is a stars league, and it is always at its best when its stars are shining bright. And this season is a prime example. When superstar Sidney Crosby is playing up to his expectations and is 10th in the league in scoring, you know the league is firing on all cylinders.

It felt as though this year, all of the big stars were playing their best. So that leaves one question: who is most deserving of the Hart Trophy as the league’s regular-season MVP? The award is always contentious because of the letter“V,” for valuable, in MVP. But I’m not here to try and define value and who should win; I’m here to show that this is one of the most exciting Hart Trophy races in my lifetime. There are arguably eight players,  forwards in particular, that have a legitimate chance to win the award this year. Eight forwards who have arguably been more valuable to their team than anyone else. That is the important caveat: a player’s team success is almost always included in their chances at winning the award, so I will take that under consideration. Here are the reasons why, and why not, these eight are in contention for the NHL’s top individual honor.

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1991-92 Stadium Club Proof Card

When you collect for a long time, you begin to crave unique items that you don’t see all that often. I try to collect every Chris Chelios card that I can find, including offbeat stuff like this 1991-92 Topps Stadium Club proof card. As you can see from the comparison above, the proof (right) is bigger than the standard card. The proof measures 2-7/8″ wide by  3-7/8″ tall — 3/4″ of an inch bigger in both directions. There’s an interesting reason for this. 

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Book Review: Behind the Bench

What is it like to be an NHL coach during the biggest game of his life? What was going through Mike Babcock’s mind when the Gold Medal Game in the 2010 Winter Olympics went into overtime? What game-changing decisions did Ken Hitchcock make in Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals to help the Dallas Stars clinch the Cup? What tactics do coaches like Joel Quenneville, Dan Bylsma and John Tortorella use to motivate their players? 

Craig Custance, formerly with ESPN and currently with The Athletic, finds all this out in his new book “Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey’s Greatest Coaches.” He gets to know today’s best NHL coaches, how they got to where they are, and what they do to succeed. 

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