Happy New Year! With the holidays and other obligations requiring my focus over the past few weeks, I needed to take a little break from Puck Junk and turn my attention elsewhere. But now I am back on track and ready to start writing about hockey goodness once again in 2017.
Before we get on with the new, I thought it would be good to take a look back at the year that was 2016. Yes, a lot of cool people died — rest in peace, Princess Leia and Ziggy Stardust — and a mean Oompa Loompa was elected as U.S. President.
Emergency backup goalies are a celebrated story-of-the-day that happen usually once per season, when a seemingly Average Joe gets to be an NHL player for a game. Who could forget the Washington Capitals web producer who got to be the Caps’ emergency backup in 2008 and again in 2013? Or when Jim Schoenfeld’s son, Nathan, backed up the Arizona Coyotes for a game last season? Most recently, Philadelphia native Eric Semborski was an emergency backup for the Chicago Blackhawks when they played the Flyers in Philly on Saturday. But Semborski got something his predecessors didn’t: he got his own hockey card.
Two, in fact.
In the Topps Skate digital trading card app, Semborski was the subject of two hockey cards, released just four days after he suited up for the ‘Hawks.
Seven exclusive Chicago Blackhawks trading cards, made by Upper Deck, were given away at a Blackhawks game during the 2015-16 season. At a glance, these closely resemble the standard 2015-16 Upper Deck hockey cards found in packs of Upper Deck Series One and Series Two. However, upon closer examination there are several notable differences. Furthermore, some cards even use entirely different photographs, making for an odd, offbeat parallel for team or player collectors.
Pizza Hut restaurants in Chicago offered a five-card set of Blackhawks Legends during the 1998-99 season. I don’t remember the specifics, but I think you had to buy a pizza to get one of these cards. I also think that they gave out a different card each week for a five-week period. I vaguely recall clipping an ad about this offer out of a newspaper.
I also recall that I was two blocks shy of our nearest Pizza Hut’s delivery range. I was living at my college’s dormitory, located in downtown Chicago, and didn’t have a car. I wanted these cards bad enough that I even offered to meet the Pizza Hut delivery driver at the corner of their delivery boundary, but NOOOOO, they’d only deliver to a street address, and not to the corner of Congress and Dearborn.
Fast forward to 2016, and I finally tracked down all of these Blackhawks Legends cards. They weren’t particularly expensive, and a nice collector even gave me the last card that I needed — Bobby Hull — for free. But in all of my years of collecting, I don’t see these pop up too often online or at shows. That said, here is a review 17 years in the making.
Earlier this month, The Hockey News published an article that I worked diligently on writing: “Blood, Guts & Glory – The Making of Youngblood: An Oral History.” For those who subscribe to the magazine, it is in the current issue. However, THN also put my “Youngblood” article on their website for everyone to read.
For those who don’t know, “Youngblood” is a hockey movie that came out in 1986. The film starred Rob Lowe as an aspiring hockey player from the U.S. who joins a junior team in Hamilton, Ontario. The film co-stars Patrick Swayze (who sadly passed away in 2009) as the Mustangs’ team captain.
While Lowe, through his agent, refused to talk with me about “Youngblood,” I still spoke with many awesome sources: director and writer Peter Markle, cinematographer Mark Irwin, hockey coordinator Eric Nesterenko (a veteran of 20 NHL seasons) and former OHL player George Finn, who played the bad guy. I also interviewed a stunt double and two background hockey players, including Steve Thomas.
You can read the article at The Hockey News’ website here. ■
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In Puck Junk Podcast #12, Sal Barry and Tim Parish discuss the Subban-Weber trade, some of the Blackhawks’ free agent signings, the upcoming Chicago Blackhawks Convention and the problem with Case Breaks.
Total Time is 1 hour 6 minutes, so get comfy before you hit play!
The shock of the Chicago Blackhawks losing to the St. Louis Blues on Monday night has not quote worn off yet — at least not among the die-hard fans who didn’t want to even think about baseball until June. Surely, weren’t the Blackhawks supposed to win the Stanley Cup this year, becoming the first team in almost two decades to win back-to-back championships? Alas, it was not meant to be. Game 7 was close. The entire Blackhawks-Blues first round series was close. But being close isn’t good enough when you are down a goal on the losing end.
Still, let us not forget that the 2015-16 season was nothing to frown upon. From on the ice, to behind the bench, to the front office, it was a great season overall for the Chicago Blackhawks. Here are the top six highlights from the year that was.
Like many kids growing up in the 1980s, I played with G.I. Joe action figures. Each figure had an interesting code name like Snake-Eyes, Shipwreck, Roadblock or Cobra Commander, had a ton of poseability — including swivel-arm battle grip! — and came with some pretty cool weapons.
Another great thing about G.I. Joe action figures was that each one came with its own file card on the back of the toy packaging — a small profile about the character that you were supposed to cut out and save for future reference. Believe it or not, these file cards many times became a factor when deciding which figure to buy. As a nine-year old, standing in the toy aisle of K-Mart, with only enough scratch in my Ghostbusters wallet to get one figure, I had to make a tough choice each week. All the figures looked awesome, so the file cards told you what kind of character the toy was supposed to be, which made picking one easier.
So this got me thinking, what if NHL players had file cards that summed up what you needed to know about them? It would quickly get you up to speed if you haven’t been following their career, and help you decide if you were going to like them or not.
Smart drafting and quality development are the two key reasons why the Chicago Blackhawks have been successful over the past half-decade. Many of the prospects that the ‘Hawks draft end up playing a season or two with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, blossoming into NHL players. This year, the IceHogs released a new set of trading cards, which includes many players who may go on to become the newest ‘Hawks mainstays.
Every year since they joined the AHL, the IceHogs have either given away or sold in their team shop a trading card team set. And historically, the IceHogs do a great job, including practically every player and listing all of their statistics, while dressing it up in an appealing design. This year is no exception.