Goodbye and Thank You, Pierre Pilote

Like so many other hockey fans, I was surprised and saddened when I learned that former NHL defenseman Pierre Pilote passed away Saturday night at the age of 85. 

I never saw Mr. Pilote play; he retired long before I was born, so I can’t attest to what kind of player he was without paraphrasing what others have already said, especially during the past few days. However, I have met Pilote many times during the past decade, and can speak to as what kind of person he was towards Blackhawks fans. 

Pilote was at the annual Chicago Blackhawks Convention practically every year since it started in 2008. I also met him at the National Sports Collectors Convention when it was in Chicago in 2011 and 2015, and at numerous Sun-Times Sports Card Shows, where he usually signed autographs for charity as a part of The Fergie Jenkins Foundation.

As you would probably expect of someone who was the Black Hawks team captain for seven years, Pilote was nothing short of awesome when interacting with the fans. Continue reading “Goodbye and Thank You, Pierre Pilote”

Buying Cards in the 1990s, Memory #3: The Wisconsin Dells Antique Mall

In August of 1997, my girlfriend (at the time) and I went on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to the Wisconsin Dells. For those who have never been there, “The Dells” is a touristy area about an hour or so north of Chicago that has tons of fun attractions like water parks, mini golf courses, go kart racing, boat tours, and indoor attractions too, such as the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museum. Basically, good, cheap fun that 20-somethings could afford. One time, I even found some long-needed hockey goodness for my collection.  Continue reading “Buying Cards in the 1990s, Memory #3: The Wisconsin Dells Antique Mall”

My 2017 National Haul

Truth be told, I’ve kind of outgrown the desire to recap the various cards and collectibles that I acquire at shows. Part of it seems like bragging (“Look how much money I spent!”) and part of it seems rather trivial (“Yep, I found that Ilya Bryzgalov rookie card in the quarter box!”). Plus, I’d rather write other articles, like making fun of a horrible hockey card, reviewing the best and worst hockey card sets ever made, re-imagining an old NHL draft, or interviewing a current or former player. 

However, in the last Puck Junk Podcast, I *did* say that I would show some of the items that I got at the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention. So, as promised, here are the highlights of my 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention haul:

Continue reading “My 2017 National Haul”

10 Awesome Hockey Finds at the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention

From Wednesday, July 26 to Sunday, July 30, the 38th annual National Sports Collectors Convention took place in Chicago. While baseball makes up the bulk of the trading cards, game-used gear and other memorabilia at The National, there are always some hockey gems to be found. 

This year was no exception. On my four-day journey at the NSCC (I skipped the last day), I found some diamonds in the rough. Most are out of the price range of all except the most hardcore — and deep-pocketed — collectors. Regardless, all were fun to look at, and would be cool to own. 

Here are the top 10 hockey finds at this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention.

Continue reading “10 Awesome Hockey Finds at the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention”

The Top 8 NHL Players Who Have Yet to Make the Playoffs

Keith Kinkaid (left) and Jack Eichel [Photos by Lisa Gansky Photography]
One hundred percent of NHL players will tell you that their top goal is to hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug over their head, skate around in a circle screaming, and wondering who they’re gonna spray first in the face with champagne. OK, cool squad goals bro. I can say 100% because Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Semin are playing in the KHL these days, and they only give a damn about money. The second goal for every player is to make the playoffs; just to get that extra patch on their jersey and at least play some late-April hockey. 

Now that Ron Hainsey’s Ultimate Ironman Streak of playing so many seasons on so many bad teams —  and having made his tee time on the golf course by April 15 — is over, let’s look at the top eight players currently in the NHL who have yet to make the playoffs and could take up Ron’s mantle of misfortune:

Continue reading “The Top 8 NHL Players Who Have Yet to Make the Playoffs”

Best of the Worst: 2015-16 UD Portfolio

S’up, Puck-Bunnies and Skater Dawgs! Here’s your Southern Home-Fry coming attchu with another Best of the Worst. I picked up my first box of 2015-16 Upper Deck Portfolio and I LOVED it!  I mean, for the most part. Photography-wise, these are some of the best and most-candid shots outside of Upper Deck Series One and Series Two. But that means there are some awesomely BAD shots to make fun of, so let’s dive right in. 

Continue reading “Best of the Worst: 2015-16 UD Portfolio”

A Guide to Attending the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago

[Photo by Sal Barry]
The National Sports Collectors Convention is returning to Chicago in one week. Held annually since 1980, The National is the largest sports collectibles convention in the world, with over 600 tables and more than 300 dealers selling sports cards, autographs, apparel, and anything else sports-related that you can think of. Fortunately, The National is five days long — starting on Wednesday, July 26 and lasting until Sunday, July 30 — so you don’t have to do everything in one day. 

If you plan on going to The National, here are some tips that will help you get the most out of the experience. 

Continue reading “A Guide to Attending the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago”

The Hockey Fans’ Guide to the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention

If you live in the United States, then you know how frustrating it can be to find hockey collectibles at your typical sports card show. In 10 days from now, The National Sports Collectors Convention — a.k.a. “The National” will return to Chicago, and it is anything but your typical card show. It is the largest sports collectibles convention in the world, taking place July 26 to July 30, 2017 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

The National probably won’t have as much “puck junk” as the Fall Expo or Spring Expo, since those shows are in Toronto and feature a hockey-centric lineup of autograph guests. Nonetheless, if you are a hockey collector, you can still get a lot out of The National. I’ve attended this show when it was in Chicago in 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2015, and always enjoyed myself and found a lot of great hockey items, despite the seemingly endless amount of non-hockey memorabilia.

So, here is my guide for hockey fans attending this year’s National. Seek, and ye shall find. 

Continue reading “The Hockey Fans’ Guide to the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention”

Re-imagining the 1992 NHL Entry Draft

Last weekend, the NHL held its annual Entry Draft in Chicago. It was considerably a weaker draft class than the previous two drafts, which were headlined by Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in 2015, and then Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine in 2016. That isn’t to say that the 2017 draft class won’t turn out its share of NHLers; it was just not as exciting of a group. 

Coincidentally, the same thing happened 25 years ago. The 1990 and 1991 drafts were deep. And the 1992 Draft? Well, it had Roman Hamrlik and Alexei Yashin. Oh — and Sergei Gonchar. 

I will admit, after writing fantasy “do-overs” of the 1990 and 1991 NHL Entry Drafts, I was not really looking forward to looking back at the 1992 Draft. There were no 1,000-point or 400-goal scorers to come out of 1992. None made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame. About the only milestone any of the players drafted in 1992 achieved was that seven of them skated in 1,000 or more NHL games. Even then, the NHL expanded from 24 teams in 1992 to 30 teams in 2000, so that probably had a lot to do with it. 

It is easier and more fun to agonize over who should have gone first overall in 1990 — Jaromir Jagr or Martin Brodeur — with hindsight being 20/20 and all. But looking at a bunch of average players and trying to figure out which one is slightly better than the other…well, that’s the kind of challenge scouts deal with all the time. And I’m always up for a challenge. 

Thus, below is my fantasy re-imagining of the first round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. There may be no marquee names, but some went onto exceptional careers, while others were good enough to play a long time in the world’s best hockey league.

And, with the first-overall pick, the Tampa Bay Lighting are proud to select…

Continue reading “Re-imagining the 1992 NHL Entry Draft”

Another Break, Another Brodeur

A short while ago, my online retailer of choice offered a case break of 2015-16 Upper Deck Black, and I’m guessing the 30 spots were not selling as quickly as they’d hoped. It was the day of the scheduled break, most of the spots were still open and so they PUT IT ON SALE! A pretty decent chunk off, too. Since I had a little money to spare, felt like gambling and never owned any UD Black hockey cards before, I decided to buy a spot. 

Time rolls around, the video feed starts and I see my name next to the Maples Leafs. OK, this is promising. Oh wait, they have to run the randomizer and shake up the teams. Shake, shake, shake….

Oh sweet, now I’ve got the Oilers!  Continue reading “Another Break, Another Brodeur”