Clemente’s Corner: 6 First Round Playoff Heroes Worth Collecting

Role Players and Small-Market Stars Shine Brightest in the NHL Playoffs

The NHL playoffs rarely disappoint in terms of fun and drama. The first round has been a slog, but also a round tinged with upsets.

The record-breaking Boston Bruins, among the favorites in the Eastern Conference to reach the Stanley Cup Final, were dumped out early by the Florida Panthers in seven games. Over in the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers series with the Los Angeles Kings stood out as the most-exciting – only overshadowed by the Seattle Kraken eliminating the defending champions Colorado Avalanche. 

Both upsets – the Panthers beating the Bruins and the Kraken beating the Lightning – went to seven games. Having the President Trophy winners and the defending Stanley Cup Champions bounced out of the playoffs — and in the same night! — is truly amazing. 

Also, not having any team sweep was certainly a sign of how talented even the lower seeds have been this spring.

Teams aside, the playoffs are also about individual skill. For card collectors, the playoffs can help or hurt a players’ value. Of course, this is just the start. The playoffs are a two-month grind that involves lots of grit and some luck.

One of the biggest storylines from this first round is the ability of second-fiddle players, not the stars, to shine. Whether it meant scoring key goals or making that big play, it was the sidekicks that have shined brightest so far.

Here’s a look at six players who have done just that, while seeing their stocks go up. All figures cited below based on eBay sales and

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Clemente’s Corner: Alexis Lafreniere Needs Time to Be a Hockey Hobby Star

I am a New York Rangers fan. I don’t hide that fact from readers. It’s also the reason why I feel like I have to defend Alexis Lafreniere.

Chosen first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, Lafreniere has been a topic of conversation even before ever skating a shift for the Rangers. That’s because he came into the league during the pandemic at a time when interest in the overall hobby skyrocketed. Sal and Tim tackled this very topic on the Puck Junk Podcast back in March 2021, during Lafreniere’s rookie season.

Three years later, there’s still debate over whether Lafreniere is a bust or has yet to come into his own. I choose to argue the latter. Let me explain.

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Clemente’s Corner: 5 “Patricks” You Should Start Collecting in March

2007-08 Upper Deck #210 - Patrick Kane

It’s March! That means a great many things. There’s the start of March Madness, followed by spring. For hockey fans, it is the end of an anxious time following the NHL trade deadline.  

It’s also the month where many celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, there’s a hockey connection.

The name Patrick and hockey have a very long history. There was once a Patrick Division. It was formed in 1974, then a part of the Campbell Conference. The division moved to the Wales Conference in 1981 and existed for 19 seasons until 1993. It was originally named in honor of former New York Rangers defenseman Lester Patrick. It has been known as the Metropolitan Division since 2013.

There’s also the Lester Patrick Trophy presented each year by the NHL and USA Hockey since 1966. Since the award takes into consideration of the recipient’s contribution to the sport in the United States, it is not considered an NHL trophy because it can be awarded to players, coaches and officials outside the NHL.

There have been a great many NHL players named Patrick. Maybe you are considering becoming a player collector. If so, here are five players named Patrick you should consider collecting:   

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Clemente’s Corner: Hockey Cards I Love

February is a month devoted to love. The shortest month of the year features as its centerpiece Valentine’s Day every February 14. It’s a day devoted to buying flowers and greeting cards for that special guy or girl in your life.  

For those of us who collect hockey cards, Valentine’s Day could also be a day to reflect on what cards we love the most. Whether you’re a set collector or you just buy up singles (or both!), everyone has cards they love most.

A major part of the hobby for those of us who have been around for a while is nostalgia. It isn’t unusual to associate a card or set with a special moment from our past, especially if your collecting days date back to childhood. I can still tell you 30 years later where I was when I purchased or pulled a certain card.

Yes, loving little pieces of cardboard featuring photos of men in hockey gear isn’t for everyone. Having said that, this hobby is a lot more than that. It’s about love of a sport, fandom around a certain team and a connection to the people and places of our past. In other words, it’s more than cardboard.  

Here are three cards from my collection that I love most and why:  

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Clemente’s Corner: Card Shows You Must Attend in 2023

National Sports Collectors Convention

What makes collecting cards most fun is meeting others who share the same interests. There’s no better way to do that than attending card shows. It’s also a great place to meet other hockey collectors.

I got to attend a good number of shows in 2022. I went to my first National Sports Collectors Convention last summer in Atlantic City, N.J. A few weeks prior to that, I attended my first Sport Card Expo in Toronto.

Sure, buying hockey cards on eBay or other platforms is easy, but card shows bring people together, spark debates about the hobby and help create friendships. As a result, I hope to get to more shows in the new year.  

So many shows, both local and regional, have popped up just as the hobby has grown in popularity since the pandemic. There’s more demand for such get-togethers and that’s a great thing. The explosion in “Trade Nights” is another example of how the demand for get-togethers (as well as the chance to buy and sell cards) has also gone up in popularity.   

There’s yet a date for the 2023 Toronto Sport Expo (typically held in the spring and fall), but here are five other shows you should circle on your calendar scheduled for the first half of this year.  

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The Islanders at 50: How to Own a Piece of Team History

The New York Islanders are celebrating a milestone this season. The other hockey team from New York is turning 50 and even a Rangers fan such as myself can pause to pay homage to a rival franchise.  

Founded in 1972, the Islanders immediately made an impact at the time when the NHL was looking to grow. After just two years of existence, the Isles would go on to secure 14 consecutive playoff berths. It was during that impressive run that the Islanders captured four straight Stanley Cups, dominating the league between 1980 and 1983.

The team’s 19 straight playoff series victories – spanning a time between 1980 and 1984 – remain a feat that is the envy of any North American sports team. The Islanders remain the last team of any major U.S. sport to win four consecutive championships.  

The team’s heyday, however, was followed by an era plagued by scandal, mismanagement and low attendance. The team has failed to win a division title since 1988 and went a staggering 22 seasons without winning a playoff series, a negative streak that finally ended in 2016. The team moved into a new arena last season, trading the famed Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the new UBS Center.

Collectors interested in Islanders memorabilia and collectables, both past and present, will focus their energies on the eight former members of the team inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, seven of whom (Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier, coach Al Arbour and general manager Bill Torrey) were all key members of that early ‘80s dynasty.

From trading cards and autographs to more whimsical items such as music albums and bobbleheads, here are a series of collectibles you may want to add to your wish list (especially now as the holidays draw closer) to commemorate the Islanders’ milestone season.

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Clemente’s Corner: Collecting Hockey Autographs Through-the-Mail

How the Pandemic Turned Me Into a TTM Nut

It was two years ago that the pandemic forced all of us to stay home. Like many of you, I used much of my downtime to do things around the house. It also forced me to organize my card collection.

I can’t say it’s quite as organized as I would like it to be. It was during that process, however, that I refocused some of my hobby energy. I didn’t know what to do with the many junk wax base cards that I had amassed over the decades. Some I gave to charity. Others were given away to trick-or-treaters. Even with that, I had tons left over.

That’s when I discovered TTM – short for Through-the-Mail – autograph collecting. My kids and I decided why not mail cards to former NHL players to see if we could get them back signed. In doing some research online, I realized that there was an entire community out there who have been doing the same thing for years – and with much success. I watched YouTube videos and read blogs where collectors bragged about their returns. I was hooked.

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Clemente’s Corner: 5 Hockey Card Collecting Predictions for 2022-23

October, as far as the NHL is concerned, is all about beginnings. It’s the start of a new season. After a long summer, fans across North America are excited to watch their favorite teams once again.

For those of us who collect hockey cards and memorabilia, it’s the start of a new collecting season. We’re all eagerly anticipating Upper Deck Series 1 to come out, scouring the checklist to see which “Young Guns” cards to gobble up and what will the inserts look like this time.

This is also a time for me to take out the crystal ball and make some predictions for the next 12 months. These are largely based on experience and observation – no guarantees that I’ll be correct – but it is something to ponder as you enjoy the season.

Collectors have already gotten a chance to whet their appetites with Upper Deck MVP, which is both affordable and plentiful (at least at my local Target), if you’re looking for a fun rip before the puck officially drops on the 2022-23 season.  

Here are five things to watch for over the course of the season:

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Clemente’s Corner: Collecting the ’72 Summit Series

The 1972 Summit Series Between Canada and the USSR has Some Great Collectibles

The year was 1972 and the Cold war was in full swing. Relations between the West and the Soviet Union were tense, sometimes teetering on the brink of nuclear war. It was also a time when the USSR dominated international competition, displacing Canada as the world’s hockey power.

Since the Olympics were only open to amateurs in those years, Canada could not field their NHL players. The Soviets, on the other hand, claimed their players were amateurs because they had been employed as military officers. In reality, they exclusively played hockey, skirting the rules and gobbling up gold medals in the process. Canada, upset that it could not use NHLers, withdrew from the 1970 IIHF World Championships.

In 1971, the Canadian embassy in Moscow learned of the Soviets’ interest in playing a series of games after reading an article Soviet newspapers. The negotiations for the series were finalized at the Hotel International Prague during the 1972 World Ice Hockey Championships. The deal included the playing of eight games – four in Canada and the other four in the Soviet Union – and would pit players such as goaltender Vladislav Tretiak against future Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. 

The games – known as the “Summit Series” – were contested between September 2-28. The expectation was that Canada would win given that they featured the world’s best players; a roster that also included goaltender Ken Dryden, defenseman Serge Savard and center Bobby Clarke.

Canada won the series 4-3 after the third game ended in a 4-4 tie. The hero of the series, however, was Paul Henderson, a player who otherwise had a relatively average NHL career. He played in all eight games for Canada, tallying seven goals and three assists. Henderson scored the winning goal in the 6-5 win in Game 8 that won Canada the series.

On the 50th anniversary of that epic series, here’s a look at the collectables, from trading cards to pucks to signed photos, that continue to grab the fascination of hockey fans everywhere.

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Clemente’s Corner: Recapping the 2022 National Sports Collectors Convention

What Was There and What Did You Get?

If you attended the 42nd edition of the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, then you’re probably still dealing with sore feet. 

I found myself soaking those dogs a day after walking the showroom floor for seven straight hours. My feet did hurt for a day – but you couldn’t take the smile off my face for days.

In 2020, my plan had been to attend my first National, scheduled to take place that summer in Atlantic City. COVID-19 upended the planet. The event, like everything else, was canceled.

Two years later, I got my chance to attend the NSCC, albeit for a day (on the Friday) following a three-hour bus ride from New York City. I finally got the chance to take in all the buzz and enthusiasm that comes with such a massive show. Aisle after aisle lined with tables made it disorienting at times. I couldn’t even find the exit at one point!

There was plenty of buzz and enthusiasm. Indeed, from July 27-31, all hobby eyes were fixated on the coastal New Jersey resort famous for its casinos. In a summer where I attended both the Toronto Sport Card Expo and Chicago Sports Spectacular, I was truly in awe of the National’s size (750 exhibitors spread out across 460,000 square feet!) and variety of collectables inside the Atlantic City Convention Center. It also seemed as if nearly every breaker and YouTuber was at the show.

I got to see a SCG 9.5 Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card, a bat used by Babe Ruth and a game-worn autographed Lionel Messi jersey. While the cards, autographs, ticket stubs and pennants for sale at the National was the big draw, it’s also the chance to meet up with friends, talk about the hobby and get away from the realities of everyday life.

In addition to hockey, I collect baseball and soccer cards. In that regard, the show did not disappoint – although hockey typically gets the short end of the stick at the five-day show.

Here’s my recap of this year’s National.

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