Thanks, Greg

Thanks goes out to fellow sports card blogger Greg Armentrout, who sent me a bunch of cards featuring Michigan State Spartan hockey players – and a few coaches too – including this card you see here of current NHL player Rod Brind’Amour.

As you know, I love cards that show players before they made it to the pros, from the junior leagues to the minor leagues. You don’t often see too many college hockey cards, either, so these are very much appreciated. The Michigan State set has cards of a few guys who made it to the pros, including Joe Murphy, Bob Essensa, Kelly Miller and Kip Miller.

Video Olympics for the Atari 2600

Early hockey video game is really Pong with great box art

Atari 2600 Video Olympics - box frontSometimes we forget how far video games have come. Those old enough to remember when Wayne Gretzky played for the Oilers probably got their start playing video games on the Atari 2600 – with games like Space Invaders, Combat, Surround and Video Olympics. Continue reading “Video Olympics for the Atari 2600”

The Holy Grail

1990-91 Pro Set Stanley Cup Hologram

1990-91 Pro Set Stanley Cup HologramLast week, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings in game seven, winning the Stanley Cup – the third time the Penguins have won hockey’s “Holy Grail” since joining the NHL in 1967. Not long ago, I too acquired a holy grail – one for card collectors: 1990-91 Pro Set Stanley Cup hologram. Continue reading “The Holy Grail”

Beckett Marketplace purchase

Last week, I decided to purchase a bunch of cards from a dealer. I got free shipping, and it scratched a few itches for me.

For several years now, I’ve wanted to own the 2001-02 Topps Heritage Parallel set. Seeded one per pack, the cards resemble the classic 1971-72 Topps/OPC set, which is among my favorites. No one ever sells these cards as a full set, but I was able to find a dealer that had all 110 cards. About 1/3 of the cards were 25 cents, and another 1/3 were 45 cents. It cost me $61.47 to purchase all 110 cards.

I also purchased several cards to kill off some sets:

— 1989-90 O-Pee-Chee (1 card)
— 1993-94 Donruss (1 card)
— 1993-94 Leaf Hat Tricks insert set (2 cards)
— 1995-96 Pinnacle Select (1 card)
— 1996-97 Leaf (1 card)
— 2008-09 Fleer Ultra (5 cards)

Finally, I picked up another 67 different Chris Chelios cards. I’m trying to get all of Chelios’ cards. I now have 326 different Chelios cards in my collection.

If you are considering ordering from the marketplace, you should know that if you order $50 or more from a single dealer, then the shipping is free. However, if you place an order over $100, then for some reason the site wants to charge you for shipping. So, I’d recommend placing an order between $50 and $99.99, because once your order hits $100 they try to charge you $14 or so for shipping.

Final round, fight!

Redwings vs. Penguins

Series: Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

My prediction: Penguins pull the UPSET in 6 games.

Thoughts: Last year, I predicted that the Red Wings would win in 6 games–and they did. Am I psychic? No. Am I really good at guessing how many games it takes to win a particular series? Obviously not, as evidenced by my prior blog posts during this year’s playoffs.

But I do know this: both of these teams are awesome, are totally capable of scoring a lot of goals and have so-so goaltending. But I don’t think we can expect to see games with 7-6 scores. It seems that everyone goes conservative once they reach the finals. I would love to see some blowout scores. It might happen–both teams have the tools to do so.

Now, the Red Wings are pretty much the same team as last year, except now they have Marian Hossa too. Hossa was on the Penguins last year, but figured that if he can’t beat ’em Red Wings, then join ’em Red Wings.

And despite the offense that Hossa adds to Detroit, I can’t help but feel that Pittsburgh will do it this year. Last year, they struggled and lost to the Red Wings. This is very much like the 1983 Edmonton Oilers, who lost to the Islanders that year in the Cup finals. That was the Islanders’ fourth straight Stanley Cup. The next season, a more mature, more confident Oilers team would beat the Islanders, starting a dynasty of their own.

History is cyclical. It’s time for a changing of the guard.

Penguins in six.

Round 3 recap

With only two series in the third round, I can be either half-right, completely right, or completely wrong. No more of this 75% stuff.

Series: Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (4)

My prediction: Red Wings in 7.

What actually happened: Red Wings won in 5.

Thoughts: While I was hoping that the Blackhawks would pull off an upset and make it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992, I knew that they could not beat the Red Wings this year. The Wings depth players performed well, while most of the Blackhawks depth players were nowhere to be seen in this series. Byfuglien, Ladd and Bolland were all non-factors.

I was right about the winner, but really thought the ‘Hawks would test the Wings better. Oh well. What do Cubs fans say? Oh yeah, Wait ’til next year!

Series: Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6)

My Prediction: Penguins in 7.

What actually happened: Penguins in 4.

Thoughts: Ah, stupid ‘Canes. Two weeks ago, I stated

At this point, no team is just going to roll over and die. The Penguins will win the series, but it will be another hard-fought battle. The Hurricanes bumped off two teams ranked above them–the Devils in Round 1 and the Bruins in Round 2. Clearly, this team is for real.

Hard fought? This team is for real? Not only does that sound hokey and cliched, but it was wrong. I stated that the Hurricanes would not “roll over and die”, but that’s pretty much what they did. Other than the first game, which the Pens won by a single goal, the rest of the games were lopsided victories for Pittsburgh.

By the way, during Game 2 I heard Versus commentator Darryl Reaugh say “The Malkin Mind Meld,” in reference to one of Evegeni Malkin’s goals. Dude, seriously–keep Star Trek out of hockey. I can see the appeal of alliteration, but using it for a thinly-veiled sci-fi reference is just sad. Now, had Tomas Vokoun been tending the nets for either team, Vokoun Mind Meld might have been funny.

Well, I did pick the winners of each series, but come on–anyone could have done that. Those kids from Mozambique that we see in those “Right to Play” ads could have picked the conference winners. I’m not saying that kids from Mozambique don’t know hockey–I’m just saying that once the Sharks and Capitals were out of the way, everyone was smelling a rematch of last year’s final.

Not quite a "blast"

Today, after watching the Blackhawks lose 5-2 to the Red Wings, my girlfriend Shellie and I got some shopping done at Target.

And like a junkie, I am always drawn to the trading card aisle. I must need to get my head checked because I know that blaster boxes of trading cards are a waste of time and money. But as a fool and his money soon part ways, I purchases a blaster box of 2008-09 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey cards.

Here’s what I got:

— 51 base cards

— 2 Young Guns (Brad Staubitz, Teddy Purcell)

— 3 Victory update cards

— 3 Victory Rookie update cards (Petr Vrana, Dwight Helminen, Nathan Oystrick)

— 1 Tales of the Cup insert (Clark Gillies)

Wow…what a waste! Sure, you’re not always going to get an awesome rookie card in a box–especially a blaster box.

But let’s do a little math here. Don’t worry, I promise it will be easy.

A single pack of Upper Deck Hockey cards costs $2.99 and contains 8 cards. Young Guns are found in 1 out of every 4 packs (1:4).

A blaster box of Upper Deck Hockey cards contains 12 packs–but the packs only have 5 cards each. Additionally, Young Guns are seeded at a rate of 1 in 6 (1:6).

So, what’s the better “value”? Glad you asked.

A blaster box gets you 60 cards for $20.

To get 60 cards from single packs, you’d have to purchase 7 1/2 packs of cards. For argument’s sake, let’s just assume you could purchase a “half pack”. Your total cost would be $22.45.

Purchasing single packs would cost more to get the same amount of cards. Besides, grabbing eight packs at random from the shelf does not mean that you will get two Young Guns…it means you might get two Young Guns. And seriously folks, we know that’s why we buy these damn cards.

At least when you buy a blaster box, you almost always get two Young Guns.

But now, I must voice a few gripes that most of us are thinking anyways:

1. The blaster box does not state how many cards per pack. This is a recent development in the design of these boxes, as sets released earlier this year state on the blaster boxes how many cards per pack. This feels very “bait-and-switch” to me. One might assume that if a single pack contains 8 cards, then each pack in a blaster box also contains 8 cards. That’s a reasonable conclusion, albeit an incorrect one. The fact that Upper Deck does not state how many cards you get in a pack (or a box) should be illegal. Seriously. If you buy a box of tissue or a bottle of aspirins, it clearly states how many you get. Why are trading cards exempt from this?

2. The insertion of Victory Update cards. For those of us trying to build a set of Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey, it is frustrating to get one Victory Update card in every other pack–or every pack if you buy the 8-card single packs. Six out of 60 cards I got were Victory Update cards–that’s 10% of the box. Most of us would rather get another Upper Deck card–bringing us closer to completing our sets–than a Victory Update card. Plus, I got more Victory Update Rookies than I did Young Guns. Which brings me to my third point…

3. Cost of Upper Deck-brand cards. Really, what is the difference between the $2.99-a-pack Upper Deck cards and the 99-cents-per-pack Victory cards? Both are printed full-bleed, are ultra glossy and have full-color backs. The only difference is, Upper Deck sells the Upper Deck-brand cards for more. Sure, we have a 1-in-300 chance of getting some dumb memorabilia card. So what? That just drives up the cost. Upper Deck cards are really not any better than Victory cards, quality-wise. Therefore, they should be a buck a pack. But they are not, which leads us nicely to point number 4.

4. Cost per card. Time for more easy math. A blaster box costs $20.

$20 divided by 60 cards = 33.3 cents per card. That’s 3 cards for $1.

But, living in Chicago, I have to pay 10.25% sales tax. So let’s recalculate.

$20 plus 10.25% tax = $22.04 divided by 60 cards = 36.73 cents per card. That’s closer to 3 cards for $1.10.

Unless you live in Chicago like I do–which has the highest sales tax in the U.S.–you’ll pay less for cards than I do, but are still paying about 33 cents per card. If someone at a card show tried to sell me Upper Deck commons for 33 cents each, I’d have to lacerate them with a rough-edged OPC card from the early 1980s.

And yet today at Target, I willingly–and foolishly–paid that amount. Like I said, a fool and his money.

… … …

On a related note, I still need about 70 base cards from Series One and 60 base cards from Series Two. If you have any, please take a look at my Wantlist.

Likewise, if there are some 2008-09 Upper Deck Hockey cards you need for your set, check out my Trade List. I’d rather trade with someone than pay 33 cents a card.

Round 3, fight!

Hockey’s “Final Four” starts today, with the Chicago Blackhawks facing off against the Detroit Red Wings in the

Series: Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (4)

My prediction: Red Wings in 7, but if the ‘Hawks win, they’ll have to do it in 6.

Thoughts: Has any team gone from non-playoff contention to Stanley Cup winner?

Actually, yes. The Montreal Canadiens did not make the playoffs in 1970, but won the Stanley Cup in 1971 (ironically, at the expense of the Blackhawks). So, a team can turn it around in a year and go from zeroes to heroes. And the Blackhawks can be that team.

But let’s be realistic here. The Red Wings are pretty much the same team as they were last year, minus Dominick Hasek (who was a non-factor) and plus Marian Hossa (who helped the Penguins reach the Finals last year). They are an awesome team that became a little awesome-r with the addition of Hossa.

I don’t think goaltender Chris Osgood can carry the Red Wings, but they have so many high-scoring players that it does not make a difference. Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa are all deadly with the puck, and Nick Lidstrom ain’t no slouch, either.

But the Blackhawks won’t go down easily. They made it this far for a reason. They, too, have a lot of scoring potential, with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Martin Havlat and Patrick Sharp. Maybe these guys aren’t as dynamic as the Red Wings scorers–yet–but they’ve all come through in the past two series.

Series: Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6)

My Prediction: Penguins in 7.

Thoughts: At this point, no team is just going to roll over and die. The Penguins will win the series, but it will be another hard-fought battle. The Hurricanes bumped off two teams ranked above them–the Devils in Round 1 and the Bruins in Round 2. Clearly, this team is for real.

So are the Penguins. They have two of the best players in the league–Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bill Guerin has been stepping it up too. As the Penguins proved in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals, their offense can be devastating.

Really, it will have to be Pittsburgh’s offense that wins this series. Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has not proven himself to be a standout goaltender, and stands to be the Penguins biggest weakness. Things will get troublesome if the ‘Canes learn how to exploit that weakness. Of course, they did solve Martin Brodeur.

Looks like it’s going to be another Detroit-Pittsburgh matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals. But, I would love it to be Chicago-Pittsburgh–even more so because the Penguins are my sister’s favorite team, and she still won’t drop the fact that the Penguins beat the Blackhawks in the 1992 finals. A rematch is long overdue.

Round 2 recap

Round 2 of the playoffs was by far the best hockey I have seen in a long time. Three of the 4 series went down to the bitter end and were settled in 7 games. The fourth series went 6 games, but like the other series was also very close.

Here is the breakdown of my Round 2 predictions and the actual results.

Series: Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (4)

My prediction: Red Wings in 7.

What actually happened: Red Wings in 7.

Thoughts: You can’t get much closer than this. Most of the games were within 1 goal, but the Red Wings did win by 3 goals in Game 4 and Game 5. Regardless, I was right about this one going 7 games. Feelin’ pretty smug…

Series: Vancouver Canucks (2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (3)

My Prediction: Blackhawks pull UPSET in 6.

What actually happened: Blackhawks pull UPSET in 6.

Thoughts: Oh yeah! There are some games in this series where the Blackhawks looked lethargic–namely Games 3 and 4 in Chicago. But in Game 2 they were dynamite. The Hawks had their ups and downs in the series, but when they did good, they did really good. Their big guns like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews came through, but so did depth players like Adam Burish and Dustin Byfuglien. And the fact that the scored 7 goals against Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo is pretty amazing,. I also correctly predicted that this would be settled in 6 games. The smugness continues!

Series: Boston Bruins (1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (4)

My Prediction: Bruins in 5.

What actually happened: Carolina UPSET in 7.

Thoughts: I guess the Hurricanes are a better team than I give them credit for. But what the hell happened to the Bruins? They were the best in the East, and self-destructed a la the Sharks. I’m kind of disappointed, because I would have loved a Bruins vs. Penguins conference finals. I’m a little less smug, now…

Series: Washington Capitals (2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (3)

My Prediction: Penguins UPSET in 6.

What actually happened: Penguins UPSET in 7.

Thoughts: The Penguins-Capitals series by far was the best of the playoffs so far, and might prove to be the best series of the playoffs, period. The first 6 games were close, and both Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were awesome. Pittsburgh’s 6-2 win in Game 7 was the only real decisive victory in the series.

This round, 3 of my 4 predictions were correct, as far as series winners go. That’s another 75% for me–same as last round, where I correctly picked 6 of 8.

One person’s puck…

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the saying goes “One man’s puck is another man’s junk.” At least, that was the case yesterday, when my girlfriend Shellie and I investigated a few boxes of discarded books in the alley. You usually don’t find anything good when people throw books away–just romance novels and The Da Vinci Code. I, on the other hand scored a hat trick and found two pucks and a hockey book amongst the otherwise mundane collection of travel guides and cook books.

One person’s junk…my pucks. Or treasures. Or however that saying goes. Continue reading “One person’s puck…”