Blake’s Takes: Gretzky Breaks Another Record

Another week of 2020 is in the books. There weren’t many notable headlines last week, though I dug deep and ended up finding some of my favorite stories from the past year — all of which are random and offbeat. I think you’ll like them. This week, I write about what you all care deeply about: hockey cards. I also get into a bit of social justice and investigate another photo of Connor McDavid looking awkward. 

And I almost forgot, Happy Hannukkah!

1. Gretzky Rookie Sells for $1.29 Million

Seeing that this is PuckJunk.com, it’s about time I wrote more about… puck junk. Once I heard about Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card selling for $1.29 million, I knew I had to lead with it.

Before I get into the take, here are the details. Gretzky’s 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee rookie card was sold at auction last Friday for $1.29 million. It was sold by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. The card was rated as a Gem Mint 10 condition, the highest possible grade by PSA, and one of two in existence to be graded PSA 10. The same card was previously sold for $465,000 in 2016. Most importantly, it is the first hockey card to sell for more than $1 million.

The timing is not surprising. The sports card and memorabilia industry have boomed during the pandemic as people have had more time on their hands to dig up their old cards. That has generated a ton of interest in the industry.

Hockey cards don’t get enough shine in the memorabilia world. Since hockey lacks in general popularity compared to other sports in the U.S., it’s not surprising that hockey cards lag behind in popularity as well. 

However, that doesn’t take anything away from this auction. A hockey card has been sold for over $1 million, and that’s nothing to scoff at. I don’t think anyone is shocked that it was Gretzky’s rookie card that set this record. What I want to know is what hockey card will be the next to sell for over $1 million. 

2. Canucks Part Ways with Anthem Singer

Last Sunday, the Canucks announced that they had parted ways with their anthem singer, Mark Donnelly after he was set to sing ‘O Canada’ at an anti-masker rally. The rally was titled “B.C. Christmas Freedom Rally 2020” and took place downtown Vancouver last Sunday.

Here is a bit more information about the rally according to this article in the Vancouver Sun:

B.C. Christmas Freedom Rally 2020 is set to take place Saturday afternoon outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, the site of multiple anti-mask rallies held throughout the pandemic, often drawing an assortment of anti-mask and anti-vaccine advocates, conspiracy theorists and other far-right figures.

To add insult to injury, after the publication tweeted a link to the aforementioned article, the Canucks owner, Francesco Aquilini, tweeted this:

I have two takeaways from this report. The first is that I commend the Canucks for parting ways with Donnelly. It’s become more and more popular for public companies and organizations to dip their toes into social justice since the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police earlier this year. Some may think these things are “political,” but it’s really just the right thing to do. The Canucks’ owner, and therefore the organization, made a decision that they do not want someone with Donnelly’s views associated with their team. If you agree or disagree with Aquilini, you have to respect his commitment to his values and the values of the organization.

The second takeaway is that Aquilini is a boss and dunked on Donnelly. Typically, this type of decision would be announced with a press release. Aquilini decided to embarrass Donnelly on Twitter. I love that. Considering Donnelly is a public figure and this was a public event, I think Aquilini’s actions are acceptable. Are they professional? Probably not. But that’s none of my business.

3. McDavid and Matthews Visit Arizona State

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Arizona State stays hot! I swear they just do not miss. After repeatedly breaking into the news over the past year with great uniform drops, one featuring Auston Matthews, they made waves again last week after Matthews and Connor McDavid posed for a picture with the latter wearing an ASU t-shirt.

Matthews’ connection with the program is well-documented and he’s a native of the area. I’m sure he had a bit of influence over McDavid sporting the shirt. Regardless of why McDavid chose to wear the shirt, this is a huge recruiting win for the program.

College hockey is not sexy. Not when the best players typically play in the CHL or come from Europe. College players also don’t get paid. However, Arizona State has something no other program has: heat. That heat comes in all shapes and sizes. From the actual temperature, to the Arizona State lifestyle, to the sweaters, and the association with Matthews and now McDavid. ASU’s program has drawn more attention than powerhouse programs like Boston College or the University of Denver since becoming a D-1 program. I would bet I’ve written about ASU’s hockey program more than any other program over the last few seasons, including Michigan State.

Lastly, perhaps the most important part of this photo is Matthews’ quads. Jesus Christ, this dude hits the weight room. He’s obviously not shy about it either seeing as he pulled up his shorts like that. Add this to the list of why Matthews is the most-marketable and electric player in the NHL.

4. Domingue’s New Incredible Mask

My favorite part of a hockey uniform is the goalie’s mask. It’s the one part of the uniform that is completely custom and unique. You only see two each game, three if you’re lucky, so they stand out. Flames’ goalie Louis Domingue recently released his newest mask designed by David Leroux. 

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I like this one. It’s not the coolest or most intricately designed, but it’s unique. I’m not sure why Dominuqe wanted characters from The Incredibles on the sides but who am I to judge? I love the flames coming up from the facemask and they look even better with a white base color. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it 1,000 times: vibrant colors look great on hockey uniforms because of the contrast with the ice. The Flames make it easy with their color scheme and Leroux and Dominque did not screw it up. Great job on the mask; I’m excited to see it on the ice.

5. Chicago Signs Coyne-Schofield as Development Coach

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The NHL has made huge moves this year to advance diversity within their sport. Yes, there have been setbacks, but also major wins. The Chicago Blackhawks added one to the win column when they hired Kendall Coyne-Schofield as a player development coach. This news broke in November, but I wanted to make sure I covered it.

The 28-year-old has built up quite the resume. Coyne-Schofield is a member of the US Women’s Hockey Team and also plays in the Professional Women’s Hockey Association. She’s won six gold medals at the IIHF Women’s Championships and won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team USA in 2018. She has also served as a commentator for the San Jose Sharks and is the first woman to participate in the NHL Skills Competition when, in 2019, she competed in the fastest skater event. 

Hiring Coyne-Schofield is a major move for the hockey community and their quest for equality. There are not many women in hockey-related roles in the NHL. Former U.S. Olympian Cammi Granato, a scout for the Seattle Kraken, is another notable exception. Hopefully, this becomes more common, and more women break into working for teams. What’s most notable is that Coyne-Schofield is joining the organization in a player development role. Those jobs don’t come easy, so that says a lot about how qualified Coyne-Schofield must be.

For Coyne-Schofield specifically, I’m happy for her. Not only has she accomplished a ton on and off the ice, but she’s joining her hometown team as a coach and it must be a thrill. Congrats to Coyne-Schofield on her new role and I hope to see her moving up the ranks in the near future. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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