1963-64 Cleveland Barons Team Photo

1963-64_cleveland_barons
The 1963-64 Cleveland Barons Hockey Team. Click to view larger.

If you gaze at a minor league team photo long enough, you won’t see a sailboat, but you will probably find a few guys who went on to play in the NHL. It’s like watching a Burger King commercial from ten years ago starring your favorite television actor before they were famous. Only in this case, it’s a hockey player who was riding buses to far-flung midsize American towns, such as Cleveland.

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Book Review: Chill Factor

chill_factor_coverSo many stories about minor league hockey are of sad-sack franchises — the teams that can’t pay their players on time, have little support from the community, and end up folding or relocating in a few years. This is not one of those stories, because the Columbus Chill were not one of those teams. “Chill Factor: How a Minor-League Hockey Team Changed a City Forever” recounts the history of the Columbus Chill, one of the most successful minor-pro teams in hockey.

Just how successful was this team? The franchise got to go out on their own terms, turn a tidy profit and help build the city of Columbus into a serious contender for — and eventual winner of — an NHL franchise. Like any good story, there were setbacks along the way, but for once, the little guy comes out on top.

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Vintage Puck Haul

group_of_pucksI am not really a collector of pucks, even though you think I was, considering that this blog is called Puck Junk. Pucks are an iconic and necessary part of hockey. But pucks are also hard to collect. They are heavy and take up a lot of space. Numerous pucks are made each season — not just counting one for each team, but all the commemorative, outdoor games, all-star game and other “one-offs.” And really old, or really unique pucks can go for hundreds of dollars. So I usually steer clear of pucks and stick to cards, which I enjoy so much more anyway. However, I recently gave in and added a few pucks to my hockey collection.

I was at my local card shop and saw a box marked “Pucks $3 Each.” Continue reading “Vintage Puck Haul”

Book Review: Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em

cover_got_emCompiling a list of the top 100 sports trading cards is a harder job than it sounds. Sure, you have the obvious choices, like the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan, the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky and — for those with really deep pockets — the T206 Honus Wagner.

But what comes next? In “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em,” co-authors Stephen Laroche and Jon Waldman take on the unenviable task of listing the top 100 cards of all time. The duo does not focus solely on high-value cards. Instead, they select cards that have transcended the boundaries of their sport or that have made a historical impact on card collecting. It is a fascinating book that every collector should read.

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Thank You, Elmer Lach

lach_autoElmer Lach, a former Montreal Canadien and an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, died on Saturday at the age of 97. He was the oldest living former member of the Les Habitants at the time of his passing. Lach played in the NHL from 1940 to 1954, and was the center of the “Punch Line” with Maurice Richard and Toe Blake on his wings. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966, and had his jersey number, 16, retired by the Habs in 2009. Despite all these accolades, Lach remained humble and fan-friendly, and always signed autographs for anyone who wrote to him. Continue reading “Thank You, Elmer Lach”

Book Review: He Shoots, He Saves

coverI had high hopes when reading “He Shoots, He Saves: The Story of Hockey’s Collectible Treasures.” It isn’t every day that a book about hockey collectibles comes along. Plus, the book is written by Jon Waldman, who co-authored the excellent sports trading card book “Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em,” and is a regular writer for “Beckett Hockey Magazine.” Even better, Waldman got this book published without making it your typical price guide that slavishly informs us what every scrap of paper, ink or fabric is supposedly “worth.” That’s great, because while price guides may give values, they don’t tell the whole story.

Unfortunately, with heavy heart I must confess that “He Shoots, He Saves” did not meet my high hopes. Although well written, too much of the book talks about the teams and players, while very little actually talks about the collectibles. Continue reading “Book Review: He Shoots, He Saves”

Career in Cards: Martin Brodeur

2000-01_VintageMartin Brodeur announced his retirement yesterday, ending a remarkable NHL career. During the past two-plus decades, Brodeur won many awards and set a lot of records. He also had a diverse array of hockey cards over the past 25 years. When Brodeur was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1990, trading cards were just plain pieces of cardboard. By the time Brodeur’s career ended, cards were as decorated as he was. Here’s a look at the past 25 years of Martin Brodeur’s career, illustrated with some of his best hockey cards. Continue reading “Career in Cards: Martin Brodeur”

Chicago Stadium 60th Anniversary Patch

chicago_stadium_patchLongtime Chicago Blackhawks fans may recognize this patch. It was issued in 1989 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Chicago Stadium, which was the home of the Blackhawks back then, as well as the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. I missed out on getting this patch when it was a giveaway in 1989. Since then, it has been on my want list — but I finally nabbed one! Continue reading “Chicago Stadium 60th Anniversary Patch”

Ed Belfour Originally Wore Number 1

belfour_1989This is one of the earliest photograph of Ed Belfour as an NHL player. It predates his “Eagle” mask. In fact, this photo is so old that he’s wearing number 1. Practically every photo you find of Belfour with the Blackhawks shows him wearing number 30, which was his number from 1990 to 1997. His 1990-91 Upper Deck rookie card (and 2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies card) shows Belfour wearing number 31. But Eddie the Eagle started his career wearing number 1 for six weeks — the same number that Glenn Hall donned for a decade. Continue reading “Ed Belfour Originally Wore Number 1”