Monday, September 29, 2008

#219 - Ed Beers

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Ed Beers' name was the subject of lots of stupid jokes in the 1980s -- had I been of beer-drinking age, I would have made them, I'm sure.

I've always been under the impression that he was one of two players born in the Netherlands (the other being the late Ed Kea, who oddly, also played for the Flames and Blues), but sources seem to differ. Wikipedia, HockeyDB and his '83-'84 OPC hockey card all say he was born in Zwaag, Netherlands -- his '84-'85 OPC card and the Society for International Hockey Research say he was born in British Columbia.

He had some pretty nice numbers for Calgary from 1983 through 1985, and then was traded to St. Louis in the deal that brought Joe Mullen to the Flames. I'd expect that Beers was the showpiece coming the Blues' way, but unfortunately he only played half of one season for them, and then suffered a career-ending back injury. He was probably destined to play considerably longer in the NHL had that not happened.

Prior to his NHL career, he played for Denver University -- go Pioneers.

He's coached youth hockey in recent years, and now lives in the Vancouver area.

Ed Beers' profile at HockeyDB
Beers' profile at Legends of Hockey

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Playing Catchup

Illness, home internet problems and general busy-ness have put this on hold, so I'll try to get back on track with a Two-For Thursday.

#365 -- Mike Bullard, Penguins Goal Leader

Mike Bullard was one of those great second-tier scorers of the 1980s that sort of faded into the background because he played for a lousy team and because the first-tier scorers were putting up such insane numbers. I'm pretty sure he was Pittsburgh's first-ever 50-goal scorer, with 51 in 1983-84. He also had one of the great mustaches of the 1980s, a style that always makes me think of highway patrolmen in, say, South Dakota. Yeah, he may have just busted you for speeding, but you know you're dealing with a good guy here.

Bullard started bouncing around the league pretty quickly after Pittsburgh traded him to Calgary in 1986, going from to the Flames to the Blues to the Flyers in quick succession. His career sort of derailed, too, as he went from scoring 103 points to playing in Switzerland in the space of about three years. He came back for an encore with the Maple Leafs (and while that was one of the least consequential of his NHL stops, I usually picture him as a Leaf), then went to Germany, where he carved out a really nice decade-long career as one of the league's stars. He's now a coach there, with EV Landshut, and that's where I got this card signed.

This is one of two Bullard cards in the set, and it's the less attractive of the two, but the signed regular card is also signed in the same green ink and it's pretty much impossible to see. While I love the '84-'85 design, I'm not crazy about the team leaders cards. Pastel blue and pink?

#193 -- Doug Wickenheiser

The story of Doug Wickenheiser always makes me sad, and when Eagles fans booed the selection of Donovan McNabb at the 1999 NFL draft, I thought of him. Sadly, unlike McNabb, Wickenheiser wasn't able to outshine the player (Denis Savard) he was picked over, and Montreal fans weren't the type to let that slide.

He earned a measure of redemption playing in St. Louis, where he was a key part of one of the great moments in Blues history, scoring the winner in the Monday Night Miracle game over Calgary. He also had bad luck -- the year this card came out, he suffered a severe knee injury during a team outing and missed the better part of a year. (St. Louis Blues parties seem to be a bit cursed -- Bob Gassoff died after one, and now Erik Johnson is out for the season after hurting himself on a golf cart.)

Wickenheiser played a few solid seasons for the Blues, then shuffled between the NHL and AHL for a while, went to Europe, came back and settled in St. Louis after his career, becoming a pretty well-known face in the Blues alumni. Sadly, he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and passed away in 1999, at just 37 years old.

The St. Louis Blues 14 Fund was established in his memory, and his father-in-law wrote a book, "The Last Face-Off: The Doug Wickenheiser Story." The Blues haven't retired his number, and as a fan, I wish they would.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

#87 - Brian MacLellan

One of the (many) things I love about this set is its use of color. OPC unapologetically used the proper team colors as the borders, and it looks really good in conjunction with the uniforms, even on teams like the Kings, Flyers and Whalers. It's not too much, it's not a jarring contrast.

Brian MacLellan is a player that I've always had the wrong idea about. He had a face that looked like it belonged on Mount Rushmore -- steely gaze, set chin -- and I think because of that I figured he was a rougher player than he was. In reality, while no shriking violet, he only got above 100 PIMs in a season once. Part of the problem: I frequently, then and now, confused him with Brad McCrimmon.

He bounced around for about ten years (speaking of wrong impressions -- it seemed like he was around forever, and I would have imagined his career lasted 'til 1998 or so), and once he left the Kings, it was pack-your-suitcases time as he went from the Rangers to the North Stars to the Flames to the Red Wings.

He's now in the Washington Capitals management team, and that's where I got this signed.

Brian MacLellan's stats at HockeyDB
MacLellan's profile at Legends of Hockey
MacLellan profile at Bowling Green, his alma mater
MacLellan's bio on the Washington Capitals page

Monday, September 15, 2008

#340 - Morris Lukowich

Back from a weekend vacation, time to get this going again:

I've always thought the Jets cards are some of the best-looking in the set. Their early '80s uniforms are really interesting and I blame the later move to Phoenix on the sheer dullness that was the 1990s design.

Lukowich was a pretty good player in both the WHA and NHL, from a not-bad-at-all hockey family -- he's related to Bernie Lukowich of the Blues and Penguins and current journeyman defenseman Brad Lukowich. This signature is a bit curious. Every Lukowich signature I've ever seen (including several others in my collection) are either his full name or "Luke" followed by "12." This one, though, is "Luke 212." That suggests a Bible verse (and there's both a Luke 2:12 and Luke 21:2), but neither shed any light. Maybe he was just writing fast.

During this season, he was traded from the Jets to the Bruins; he'd also play for the Kings before calling it a day.

Morris Lukowich's page at HockeyDB
Lukowich's page at Hockey Draft Central

Lukowich's profile at Legends of Hockey
Lukowich profile at Winnipeg Jets Legends

Page for Morris Lukowich's "Hockey Mentors" program

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

#4 - Tom Fergus

Nice signature here from Tom Fergus, who went on to have several decent seasons with Boston and Toronto, before closing out his career with Vancouver. That's where I remember him best from, but only because I really liked playing Vancouver in the earliest Sega Genesis EA Sports hockey games, and he was one of the lower-liners on those teams.

Now runs Blue Leaf Limited in Toronto, and that's where I got this signature.

Tom Fergus's profile at
Fergus entry at Hockey Draft Central
Fergus profile at Legends of Hockey
Blue Leaf Limited's web page

Monday, September 8, 2008

#108 - Harold Snepsts

Harold Snepsts is one of the earliest players that made a lasting impression on my young mind, alongside more obvious selections like Gretzky/Bossy/Potvin. His physical appearance was and is pretty distinctive -- the man-mountain build, receding hairline, and of course that mustache. I think that mustache has made him into something of a cult figure in recent years, and it's kind of overshadowed his abilities as a defenseman -- people remember him less as a good, solid player and more for the 'stache.

This card came in his first season outside of Vancouver, and is the first to show the scourge of 1970s-1980s O-Pee-Chee cards -- airbrushing. Snepsts had been traded to Minnesota in time for this card to be updated, but there were no photos of him as a North Star -- so -- someone got drafted to hurriedly update his uniform. In other seasons, you'd see a severely cropped photo with just a hint of the jersey, but in 1984-85, O-Pee-Chee went 99.9% with full-body action shots, so there was nowhere to hide. This is hardly the most egregious example of the airbrusher's art -- a quick glance and you wouldn't notice anything (the autograph does obscure it even more, too). The artist managed to make Harold's shoulders even more imposing.

He lasted only one season in Minnesota, then bounced around between Detroit, St. Louis, Vancouver again and the minors for a few years. I'm pretty sure he's a youth coach in the Vancouver area these days, and does some work with the Canucks.

Harold Snepsts' stats at
Profile at Legends of Hockey
Profile at Hockey Draft Central
Profile at Hockey's Tough Guys

Saturday, September 6, 2008

#164 - Brad McCrimmon

Brad McCrimmon was a steady defenseman for a really long time, one of those guys you sort of forget about because he's not flashy, not hazardous, and not a thug. He spent nearly 20 years in the NHL and picked up a Cup with the 1990 Flames. I remember him most because in the early 1990s, it seemed like there was a minimum of one Brad McCrimmon card in every pack of cards I purchased.

More recently, he was a well-regarded assistant coach with my local team, the Thrashers, for several years. Word was that all the players wanted him to get the head coach job after Bob Hartley was canned, but it ultimately went to John Anderson instead and McCrimmon is now, I think, an assistant with the Red Wings (where he played for a few years, about the time I was stocking up on his cards). I don't know if he was seen as too much of a players' coach, or if the well-run machine in Detroit seemed more appealing after the dysfunction down here, or what.

Brad McCrimmon's stats at HockeyDB
McCrimmon's profile at Hockey Draft Central
McCrimmon's profile at Legends of Hockey

Friday, September 5, 2008

#153 - Reijo Ruotsalainen

He's the possessor of one of the most melodious names in hockey history. I'm bad with languages, but Finnish is more befuddling to me than anything short of Mandarin -- but every once in a while it produces a name that's just really aesthetically pleasing and rolls off the tongue - Reijo Ruotsalainen. Say it a few times when you're stressed out -- it helps. Pekka Rautakallio is another.

"Rexi" was a small, quick defenseman who put up some decent point totals in the NHL and had really good timing. The Rangers dealt him to the Oilers (part of a seven-player trade) in October 1986, putting him in place to win the 1987 Stanley Cup. The next year, the Devils picked him up on waivers, but he was on his way to Sweden anyway -- he spent the next two years in Sweden and Switzerland. He came back with the Devils in 1989, but midway through the season the Oilers took him back on waivers, and bingo -- Cup #2. He scored 13 points in 22 playoff games for Edmonton that year, then went back to Europe to play out the string.

During the early to mid-1990s, he kept showing up on the Oilers' waiver availability list each year in the Hockey News -- I think he may have remained even after his European career ended. In the late '90s, he'd show up in a coaching or administrative position with random ECHL teams -- he was an assistant coach with the Miami Matadors, and did something with the New Orleans Brass as well, I think. Now he's an assistant coach (to former Quebec Nordiques coach Pierre Page) at Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.

Reijo Ruotsalainen's stats at HockeyDB
Reijo Ruotsalainen's profile at Legends of Hockey
Reijo Ruotsalainen's profile at Hockey Draft Central
Lowetide post with pic of Reijo

Thursday, September 4, 2008

#252 - Dave Lumley

Wha hey, I start this up and get another card for the set in the mail:

Dave Lumley was on the downside of a relatively short career by the time this card came out. His point totals in the early '80s are the definition of up-and-down -- 58-16-74-37-21-32. He was buried in the Canadiens' system for a couple years, at a time when that lineup was about the hardest possible to crack, got picked up by Edmonton in the expansion draft, and played an agitator role on the first Oilers' Stanley Cup team. The Whalers picked him up off waivers, hence the "now with" note on this card; but he was back with the Oilers (on waivers, again) by the end of 1985, in time to pick up a second Cup. He had some knee problems, which I'm guessing (but don't know for sure) played a part in ending his career prematurely -- he retired in 1986, at age 32.

He now lives in Arkansas, which for some reason I find intriguing. That seems like one of the least predictable places for an ex-hockey player to end up. He did work for the CHL's Border City Bandits, based out of Texarkana, but they only lasted for part of a season and I don't know if he was already in the area.

One of life's little mysteries, I guess.

Dave Lumley's stats at Hockey DB
Dave Lumley's profile at Hockey Draft Central
Dave Lumley's profile at Legends of Hockey
Lowetide post with a bit more on Lumley

#289 - Richard Sevigny

Seems appropriate to start this off with a player from one of the two teams I collect (Nordiques and Blues).

Richard Sevigny's always been most interesting to me for an on-ice incident that had nothing to do with his talents as a goaltender. In 1984, the Quebec Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens engaged in one of the most notorious brawls ever -- the Good Friday Massacre. Sevigny was on the Canadiens at the time, and ended up fighting Clint Malarchuk, and racked up more than 30 penalty minutes for his trouble.

The most interesting thing? After that playoff series (won by the Habs), Sevigny was with the Nordiques the next year. Now, the Canadiens and Nordiques had a pretty nasty rivalry in the 1980s. And players going directly between two fierce rivals is pretty rare (I can't think of any players that went directly between the Oilers and Flames; in the 1990s, Uwe Krupp went straight from the Avalanche to the Red Wings... I think there were a few that went between the Islanders and Rangers over the years). To go straight from one team to the other directly after one of the bloodiest fights in hockey history? That must've made for a few awkward moments.

I can only think of one other player off the top of my head who went directly between the Nords and Habs -- Jean Hamel, who the Canadiens picked up before the 1983-84 season... and who also played a major part in the Good Friday Massacre. But we'll get to him later in the set.

Sevigny, for his part, played 35 games for the Nordiques over parts of three seasons, down the depth chart behind Dan Bouchard, Mario Gosselin, and Clint Malarchuk -- the last of those the guy Sevigny fought back in 1984.

He's now reachable through Canadiens alumni.

For those who like their hockey fights, here's the fight in question.

Richard Sevigny's stats at HockeyDB
Richard Sevigny's profile at Hockey Draft Central
Richard Sevigny's profile at Legends of Hockey

What it is, what it will be

The '84-'85 O-Pee-Chee set has long been my all-time favorite hockey card issue. Not because I got them when they came out -- in 1984, I wouldn't have known how to get my hands on O-Pee-Chee cards.

But when I was in college down in Arizona, I frequented a little card shop called the Sports Page. The guy who ran it was a blast -- older fellow from Michigan who'd relocated to Tucson, and who knew more about the WHA than anyone I've ever met. He had boxes and boxes of hockey cards and memorabilia that no one ever touched, including big crates of the '84-'85 OPC.

I'd head over there, root through those boxes and listen to his stories, and as a result ended up with more cards from that set than any human being really needs.

I've also been a hockey autograph collector, for 15 years or so now, and in the last year I've been trying to step up attempts to get as many cards as possible autographed. I post a lot of autographs on my site, -- but I can be kind of lousy about updating that, and this is a different/fun way to post the autos and go off on tangents of free association as I do it.

I'll try to update this every two days or so, either posting autos as they come in or digging them out of the collection I already have. Occasionally I'll toss in little oddities as well.

The Sports Page, alas, is long-gone -- I haven't been to Arizona in nearly a decade but one of the last times I was there I drove by and it was gone. The guy who ran it popped up on eBay, selling old WHA stuff, but I haven't seen him offering anything in a while. It still lives on, though, in the ten million '84-'85 OPC cards I've got.


Great things to come, soon.