Blake’s Takes: Outdoor Games and Pot

Welcome to the first installment of Blake’s Takes, where each Monday I’ll write about what stood out to me from the previous week in the NHL. It could be anything, from a coach saying something he shouldn’t have in a press conference, to an accomplishment worth celebrating. 

1. “They are what we thought they were.”

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To quote the late Dennis Green, many of the teams that we thought would be great this year have done nothing but back up the hype. Continue reading “Blake’s Takes: Outdoor Games and Pot”

2017-18 Upper Deck China Games Chinese Hockey Cards

Longtime collectors will remember when Upper Deck used to make hockey cards written in French for fans in Quebec in the early 1990s. Taking that idea to a whole new level, in 2017 Upper Deck issued hockey cards written in Chinese, and gave them to attendees of the NHL’s “China Games” — a two-game preseason series between the L.A. Kings and the Vancouver Canucks. The Kings won the first match 5-2 on September 21 in Shanghai, and again in the shootout 4-3 on September 23 in Beijing. 

The series marked the first time that NHL games were played in China, and for many in attendance, it was probably the first time they saw a live hockey game. Likewise, it was probably the first time many of the Chinese in attendance saw a hockey card too. Upper Deck gave away an eight-card panel of hockey trading cards. 

China may not be big on hockey, or hockey cards for the matter, but fans in attendance got some pretty sweet cards. 

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Rookie Cards of Every NHL Head Coach for the 2018-19 Season

Becoming a coach in the NHL may arguably be harder than becoming a player in the NHL. While the NHL has roughly 700 jobs for players — not counting call-ups from the minors — there are only 31 jobs for head coaches. Making the task even more daunting is that there is no clear path to become an NHL coach.

Sometimes, an accomplished NHL player is given a shot as an assistant coach when they retire. Other times, a player might spend their entire career in the minor leagues, retire from playing, and then work their way up through those same ranks again, finally appearing in the NHL, but as a coach. Some NHL head coaches never even played minor pro, instead opting to coach once their junior careers wrapped up. 

But all of these men have been involved in hockey before they became an NHL head coach, and therefore have at least one card chronicling their career. So, here is a look at every 2018-19 NHL head coach’s rookie trading card.  Continue reading “Rookie Cards of Every NHL Head Coach for the 2018-19 Season”

Review: 2002-03 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Set

The 2002-03 Minnesota  Golden Gophers team set has a sharp design and is about as comprehensive as a team set can get. It includes everyone — everyone! — from future NHLers like Thomas Vanek to the team’s third-string goalie. 

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Deja Vu Tuesday: Doug Wilson

Chicago Blackhawks fans remember Doug Wilson as a workhorse –a gritty, reliable defenseman that always gave a sense of comfort and dependability when he was on the ice. Not-so-die-hard Hawks fans may remember him as one of the last players in the league to play without a helmet. After spending most of his playing career with the Blackhawks, Wilson was traded in 1991 to the brand-new San Jose Sharks. He played with the Sharks for two seasons before moving into a management position, now sitting as the team’s General Manager.

Upper Deck has made most of the hockey cards released over the past 15 years, and even though the card may not say “Upper Deck,” cards like SP Authentic, Parkhurst Champions and Fleer Retro are all made by Upper Deck. So, it is no surprise when the same photo of a player appears on different cards in different sets. There is one, less-than-flattering photo of Wilson that Upper Deck has used on various autographed and memorabilia cards over and over again. 

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Book Review: Hockey Card Stories 2

If you enjoyed the 2014 book “Hockey Card Stories,” then you will absolutely love the sequel, “Hockey Card Stories 2.” Author Ken Reid asks another 59 hockey players about what they think about one of their old trading cards. 

Right away, the book starts off with a hit: Bob McGill’s 1991-92 Upper Deck hockey card. Continue reading “Book Review: Hockey Card Stories 2”

Book Review: Cap in Hand

You might think a book about the salary cap would as exciting as watching the ice freeze before an outdoor hockey game — and you would be wrong. “Cap in Hand: How Salary Caps are Killing Pro Sports and Why the Free Market Could Save Them” is a new book by Bruce Dowgiggin that expertly explains why salary caps and the promise of parity are killing sports in North America.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Interacting with Hockey Players

A stick to the face, a car door covered in paint marker and hearing “Hot dogs!” screamed at him was just one day of Phil Kessel’s experience of meeting fans outside of the new Pittsburgh Penguins practice facility. Can you blame the guy for being so secluded? This is just one of the many instances I have unfortunately had to witness when interacting with players. 

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not an autograph hound. I am not a re-seller. I am just a fan of the game. NHL players are extremely talented and hard-working, but in the end they are just like you and me, and want to be treated with respect. 

Think about it. If you walked out of your job every day and 20 people that you’ve never seen in your life ran up to you screaming, waving markers in their hands and asked you to autograph something, it would get old, wouldn’t it? So, with that perspective in mind, here are some do’s and don’ts for interacting with players.  

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1993-94 Stadium Club Proof Card

Being a collector of oddball items, there was no way I could pass up this 1993-94 Topps Stadium Club proof card of Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux. Measuring 2 7/8″ by 3 7/8″, the proof card is 3/8″ bigger in width and height, showing some of the photo that was ultimately cropped out.

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Speculating on Athletes is a Bad Idea

Recently, I saw a brief write up on “success” of Upper Deck’s 2017-18 SP Authentic, in part because collectors are chasing Upper Deck’s buyback of Connor McHockeyJesus’ Young Guns rookie card. Not just because it’s his rookie card, but because they have also been autographed and numbered only to 97. Aren’t we lucky that McDavid doesn’t wear a jersey number like 2? 

While there are more reasons to buy a box of these cards, like some handsome autograph and jersey swatch hits, these ultra-rare McDavid cards are fetching upwards of $3,000 at card shows. That’s like five times more than I paid for the Volvo I used to drive. Now, it is pretty exciting to pull a rare card like that from a pack; I was mildly excited when I pulled a McDavid Young Guns RC from a Series One pack a few years ago, let it lay around on my dining room table unprotected for two weeks, and then sold it on eBay for $150 so I could buy an expensive-ass bicycle seat (pun not intended), and Sal can hate me forever for not selling it to him. What-evs!

But should you purchase the card of a young player at such an exorbitant price? He’s got his whole career ahead of him, however long or short that may be. 

History is generally cyclical. There have been other young athletes who have put up promising careers only to derail them due to personality issues, off-field antics, or REEEEEALLY poor decisions made when they play in some of the most stuffy, old fashioned, conservative sports on the planet. Let’s look at three such athletes.

Continue reading “Speculating on Athletes is a Bad Idea”