I'm just going to get this out of the way quickly...I love this set!! There is a ton of controversy surrounding it because it "glorifies" fighting. I say go cry to someone who gives a flying (bleep!@#$). It celebrates the men that sacrificed themselves day in and day out to make an impact for the teams they played for, rarely, if at all, getting the recognition they deserve. Although these aren't the first cards to feature the ice warriors, I applaud Dr. Brian Price and In The Game for making an entire set dedicated to those combatants. With that being said...
I picked up a box of ITG Enforcers the other day as I was trying to get free shipping on a purchase from DACW but once I started, I figured, might as well get the free gift too. (which coincidentally was 2 boxes of 2010-11 Panini All Goalies which I will review another time). I have wanted to check these out as I have seen many collector's break boxes and pull some nice, rare player autographs and memorabilia. By rare, I don't mean serial numbered or anything like that. I'm talking about players that are next to never included in any card releases in the modern era with GU or Autographs available as a regular inserted pull. Guys like Peter Worrell, Rob Ray, Stu Grimson, Garth Butcher, Jay Miller, Marty McSorley and Chris Nilan to name a few. These are the warriors of hockey, the thugs, the goons, the ENFORCERS.
Once a necessary "evil" on any roster, the job of the enforcer was to basically act as a body guard to whatever top scoring line, tandem, or individual star a team had. If another player needed to be taught a lesson that their superstar player was off limits, then they dropped the gloves. When the team needed a proverbial motivating kick in the ass, they dropped the gloves. And each and every time, the hockey masses went wild. The days of the enforcer have slowly began to dwindle as players have gotten bigger, stronger, and many stars pull double duty and fight their own battles. Also, with the league cracking down on "extra curricular's", the role of the enforcer has been diminished. This is why I was really interested in seeing what In The Game did with a set that features the unsung heroes of the ice.
As you can see by the box itself, there are 12 cards per pack. Within each pack, there will be five autographed cards that feature the 80 different players chosen for the checklist. There are also two game-used memorabilia cards which are broken out of one of the many insert sets, including, Dual Combatants, Quad Tough Franchise, Fight Straps, Instigators, 1/1 Fight Strap Dome Fastener cards, 1/1 Enforcer Nameplates. And finally, there are five "base" cards that come from four different subsets including, Tale of the Tape, Tough Franchises in the 90s, Bloody Battles, and Record Holders. For the ambitious, there are 90 base cards (not including the memorabilia or autos).
So since the entire box can basically be considered all "hits", I'll show all 12 cards. First up we have the "base" cards. I pulled...
Two of my base cards were Tale Of The Tape cards. The first features Link Gaetz vs. Gino Odjick. The second highlights an old school battle between Dave Schultz and Clark Gillies. The cards show the date and place of the "altercation". The backs feature what is basically a head to head breakdown of stats including all the basics like height, weight, age, and number of career penalty minutes. There is also a small blurb about the fight. Link and Gino fought on my birthday which is cool as I haven't noticed a game dated card before that featured that day. In fact, they fought twice in that game. The Hammer and Jethro went at it in their game back in 1975 too. Gillies was a rookie at the time and trying to make it known that he wasn't going to back down from anyone, not even one of the Broad Street Bullies. According to the card, Schultz "took a serious beating". Awesome!
The first card I pulled features "the Legend" Jon Mirasty against Ryan Hand. This is a minor league battle from 2006 from the NAHL between Mission de Sorel-Tracy and To Design de Saint-Hyacinthe. Both guys went at it for almost a minute and when it ended, Mirasty skated away as the crowd cheered. Doesn't the sketch of Mirasty look like Taz from the WWE? Or does Taz look like Mirasty?
Here is the video of the fight (excuse the music dubbed over the sound).
The other Bloody Battle was a fight between two NHL heavyweights...that being Tony Twist and Bob Probert. This battle, from 1996, saw Twist jump to action after Probert took a shot at Igor Kravchuk against the boards. For the first time, probably ever, Probert didn't even get a punch off. Within a few seconds, they both hit the ice as the officials swooped in to take them both to the box. The card makes reference to the fact that this was the "fourth, and final, battle" between the two of them.
The fifth "base" card that I pulled comes from the Tough Franchise subset. In my box, I got the Florida Panthers. What a lot of newer hockey fans may not remember is that Florida used to be a rough team back when they were in their infancy. The original roster had guys like Brett Severyn, Scott Mellanby and Paul Laus, who is the franchise's all-time penalty minute leader with 1,702. In the 01-02 season, they set a club record of 1,994 PIM of which 354 of them were Peter Worrell. In the last few years, Florida has cleaned up their game and they haven't had a player in the 100 range since 2006.
In addition to Laus and Worrell, the card also features Rocky Thompson and the late Wade Belak.
I'm breaking this into a couple posts since I am a bit long winded when it comes to these. Did I mention that I love this set?!!
(to be continued....)