In his latest book, “Golden Oldies: Stories of Hockey’s Heroes,” hockey historian Brian McFarlane talks with former Buffalo Sabres defenseman Mike Robitaille, who fondly reflects on seeing his hockey card for the first time:
“The following season, when I was a rookie in New York, I didn’t play one night and a young kid came up to me and asked me for my autograph. Well, remember how as kids we collected all those hockey cards, the Bee Hives and all the corn syrup our mothers bought so we could get cards and how we idolized the players pictured on those cards. This kid in New York hands me a card with my photo on it. My photo! It was one of the biggest thrills I’d ever had in my life. I’m 19 years old had had my own hockey card. It never dawned on me I’d have a card. I stared at it while the kid waited. I signed it for him and then I turned it over. And on the back, there was a little caricature of me skating down the ice — with a microphone in my hand. And the blurb read, ‘Someday Mike would like to be a hockey broadcaster.’ I think of that first card I ever saw and I think of the 33 years I spent in broadcasting and I shake my head.”
This is a great story by Robitaille, as he had come full circle, to someone who liked hockey cards as a child, to autographing his own hockey card for a young fan.
However, some of his recollection here is a bit fuzzy. Robitaille would have been 19 during the 1966-67 season. Then, he was still playing junior hockey for the Kitchener Rangers, and not pro hockey for the New York Rangers.
Likewise, the hockey card Robitaille so vividly remembers — with the cartoon stating that he wanted to become a broadcaster — was issued during the 1973-74 season in both the Topps (yellow border) and O-Pee-Chee (red border) sets. He would have been 24 or 25 that season.
Maybe Robitaille was scratched for a road game, perhaps due to injury, at Madison Square Garden during the 1973-74 season as a member of the Sabres. While he did have cards in the 1971-72 Topps and O-Pee-Chee sets, the cartoon on the back noted that Robitaille was a right-handed shot, and not his desire to become a broadcaster.
Regardless, this is a cool memory for the former pro and longtime broadcaster to share. It is just one of the many great stories you will read in “Golden Oldies.”
“Golden Oldies,” by Brian McFarlane, was released on October 13, 2015. You can read the review here or get it at Amazon.■
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