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Monday, January 29, 2018

End Of An Era

The writing has been on the wall quite a while for Jaromir Jagr's resurrected NHL career.  Yesterday officially marked the end of Jagr's time with his latest team, the Calgary Flames, as they moved him to the waiver wire.  He cleared waivers today and the hardest working hockey player is now heading back to the KHL.  He plans to play for the team that he has been owner of since 2011 (ala Mario Lemieux, maybe?), HC Kladno.  It just so happens that Kladno is also his hometown.

Many people know that Jagr is one of my player's that I collect and have since I was a kid.  Back when Jagr was drafted by the Penguins in the first round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, there were high hopes for him as a prospect in the Pittsburgh system.  Everyone knew he was good but I'm not sure that everybody expected his initial 57 points in 80 games.  He never looked back.   

Now, 24 seasons and nine teams later, he is heading back to the KHL for the second time.  He spent three seasons back there in the later stages of Phase 1 of his career, joining the Avangard Omsk team in Russia when the NHL was locked out in 2004.  Returning in 2011 to play for the Flyers, he made his "farewell tour" around the NHL almost an annual thing, playing for six teams in eight seasons.   

But the player that endeared me was the 11-season Jaromir Jagr of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  As a fully aware and engaged hockey fan, I grew up with Jagr.  His posters graced the walls of my room (I can remember at least two different Starline ones).  The first Pens jersey that I had, that was actually not a hand-me-down, was his.   I had numerous magazines that he was featured on.  My favorite t-shirt I owned had a caricature of him with his long flowing locks.  He was the epitome of cool, nightly displaying his talent and skill all while sporting the sweetest hair.  I even tried to grow my hair out just like was close (at least in my mind). 

All good things come to an end and it was apparent this year as injuries plagued the 45 year old, soon-to-be HOFer.  There is still a chance he can get picked up by another team but at this point, I'm not sure there are teams out there looking to spend money on aged player just to add leadership to a locker room.  Because that is what it would be at this point.  Unfortunately, it seems time has finally caught up to Jagr and where he was once a force to be reckoned with on the ice, the NHL game has gotten faster and passed him by. 

A first ballot HOFer for sure, his career stats speak for themselves.  I'll leave you all with some info to marvel over.

  • Games played - - 1,733  3rd All Time
  • Goals - - 766  3rd All Time (behind Howe and Gretzky)
  • Assists - - 1,155  5th All Time
  • Total Points - - 1,921  2nd All Time (only Gretzky is ahead)
  • Game Winning Goals - - 135  1st All Time
  • 10 Time All Star
  • 5 Time Art Ross Trophy Winner
  • Hart Trophy Winner
  • Masterton Trophy Winner
  • 3 Time Ted Lindsay Award Winner
  • 2 Time Stanley Cup Champion
  • Voted one of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players of All Time.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Stormfront Has Officially Arrived In Pittsburgh

I had a fairly long post prepared about the disappointment that has boiled over in Pittsburgh. The Steelers escorted themselves out of the playoffs despite probably being the better team.  Unfortunately they certainly weren't that day and it was Jacksonville that moved on (to be later knocked off by the Cheatr...I mean, Patriots).  The Penguins have been on a yo-yo ride all season due to a variety of factors.  I still think they will be ok come playoff time but lots of people are already in panic mode and it isn't even the All Star break yet.  But my biggest issue was with the Pirates. 

As I said, I had a long post...HAD.  It never posted and when I tried several times to force it to post, it simply sat there and stared back at me in contempt.  Error message after error message ensued.  So I decided I would revisit it and post again later.  Well...Blogger decided that it was not in the cards and somehow deleted the bulk of the body of text I wrote and left me with the outline I had first saved.  This left me with some time to reflect on my ire.  My anger isn't displaced as a fan.  I understand why they did what they did however I don't condone it.   

First and foremost, in my honest opinion, overall the Pirates ownership is garbage.  Absolute smelly, stinky garbage. There is no excuse for how they run this team and absolutely no reason they don't try to spend to the max every year.  When you have one of the best stadiums in MLB and one of the most loyal fan bases in all of sports, why do you waste your resources?  I'll tell you why.  It's not about winning.  It never was.  It is about one thing, and only one

Fans have already begun a petition to force Bob Nutting to sell the team.  They have almost 60,000 signatures as I write this (mine being one of them).  Of course this is just an act of defiance that's not going to force any owner into selling their cash cow but it is definitely a representation of how angry they have made Pirates fans at their complete disregard or care for what it takes to run a successful franchise in today's game.  It's a wonder fans don't just grab the pitchforks and torches on their way to a public hanging.  As most of you reading this already know, Nutting traded away the Pirates' best pitcher in Gerritt Cole and the teams' face of the franchise in Andrew McCutchen.  Not only that, they waited to do it until now, when all that is out there is an uber-soft trade market with nothing but prospects and future-potential maybe's.  It's sad really, and keeps getting worse the more you delve into the actual dollars the team has in payroll, operating costs, and overall value.

Despite being a big fan, I can get over the Cole trade since pitchers are a highly volatile commodity and are traded like Halloween candy.  We have many, many pitching prospects coming up through the system and with any luck, two or three may be in the rotation on a regular basis soon.  However, I probably will never get over getting rid of Cutch.  The guy lives, eats, and breathes Pittsburgh.  He has done more for the community than almost any other athlete in the history of Pittsburgh sports.  The guy was Pittsburgh and wanted to be for the rest of his career.  But Pirates ownership, despite claiming they want to get better, did what they needed to do to stop that.  McCutchen is now forced to say goodbye to his home, the only team he has ever played for, and head out west to the same team we allowed Barry Bonds to go to centuries ago, and where Cutch will finally get a shot at a title.  San Franciso has a plan to win.  Pittsburgh doesn't.

Now Josh Harrison is even saying he should be traded since the team has obviously thrown in the towel on this year, next year, and maybe future years to come.  It's a rowboat made out of a screen door.  The ship is sinking and sinking fast.  Ownership has lost the trust of the fans, the trust of the players, and the trust of the city.  Barring a hot start at the beginning of the 2018 season, I don't see fans losing much of their frustrations anytime soon. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

NHL All Star Game Now The NHL Some Star Game

Over the years the NHL All Star game has grown to become a weekend long event featuring alumni games, celebrity games, skills competitions and many other events. But despite the pomp, it's been gradually losing it's luster with many hockey fans and a lot of that has to do with that fact that there is not a lot of "real" hockey that takes place.

Today, the NHL announced the rosters after releasing the team captains over the weekend. I will just say much of a fan I am of some of these guys and as much as I enjoy watching them play, some players honestly have no business on this list.  NHL rules require all the teams be represented but that will inevitably remove some of the best players in the divisions.  You'll probably read similar opinions out there as well because, at least this year, there seems to be more omissions.

Here are the lists as they stand today...

Atlantic Division Team
Auston Matthews
Steven Stamkos TEAM CAPTAIN
Nikita Kucherov
Brad Marchand
Jack Eichel
Sasha Barkov
Mike Green (D)
Erik Karlsson (D)
Victor Hedman (D)
Andrei Vasilevskiy (G)
Carey Price (G)

Let's start with the Atlantic, or as I like to call them, Tampa Bay Lite.  In their defense, the game is being held in Tampa this year and traditionally the ballot gets stuffed with local "heros".  But come on.  There are other teams in the Atlantic other than Tampa (I know the standings don't make that clear though).  Barkov was chosen because you had to have a Panther but I would probably have picked Huberdeau instead.  And why not Morgan Reilly?  Carey Price is only there because who else do you pick from Montreal?  Last I checked, Kovalev retired.  At least Matthews and Eichel should give a little bit of non-electric offensive flavor to the team

Metro Division Team
Alex Ovechkin TEAM CAPTAIN
Taylor Hall
Josh Bailey
John Tavares
Sidney Crosby
Claude Giroux
Noah Hanifin (D)
Kris Letang (D)
Seth Jones (D)
Henrik Lundqvist (G)
Braden Holtby (G)

I don't even want to comment about the Metro team...but I will.  That lineup is so mistake ridden from a "best of the best" standpoint.  Where in the world is Carmen San D...Kessel?  Seriously, this guy gets no respect.  EVER!  Phil has 18 goals and 29 points in 44 games this season so far (that's 11th in the league by the way).  He is one of the only reasons, offensively, that the Pens haven't fallen off the grid completely.  Get Crosby out of there.  I get that he's the league poster-boy but his season has been less than AS worthy and he will be the first to tell you as much if you ask. Not only that, he hates the ASG.  Every time he gets picked, he bails for one reason or another. Chalk it up to another snub in a long line of snubs for Phil.

What in the world is Letang doing on that list?.  He should have been there some other years he was skipped over, but certainly not this year.  Why not Ghost?  Where is John Carlson?  I hate the Caps and even I know he is a better D-man this year.  I would have even went with Zach Werenski over Letang...or anyone else.  Hanafin?  No.  Also what about Bob? Bobrovsky and his Vezina should be here.  I could go on, but I won't because it's too bothersome.

Central Division Team
Patrick Kane
Blake Wheeler
Brayden Schenn
Eric Staal
Nathan MacKinnon
Tyler Seguin
John Klingberg (D)
Alex Pietrangelo (D)
Connor Hellebuyck (G)
Pekka Rinne (G)

The Central Division team is missing one player of note in my opinion.  St. Louis' forward rep is Brayden Schenn, who is having a great year, but my money would have definitely been on Vlad Tarasenko.  The guy is amazing to watch play the game.  Every time he touches the puck, something phenomenal is most likely about to happen.  Plus, he's much better suited for the skills competition.  

Pacific Division Team
James Neal
Rickard Rakell
Brock Boeser
Anze Kopitar
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D)
Drew Doughty (D)
Brent Burns (D)
Marc-Andre Fleury (G)
Jonathan Quick (G)

Finally, the Pacific Division team is somewhat of a mystery to me.  As much of a Fleury fan I am and the fact that he is on the upstart Vegas Golden Knights that are barnstorming the league and not just with beginners luck, why is he on the list?  Because the league wanted him to be, that's why.  I'm fine with that but he has been injured the majority of the season and until recently, hasn't been in the lineup since the first week of the season.  12 games deserves an AS nod? All apologies to Flower but either Marty Jones in San Jose or Gibby in Anaheim would have been much better choices.  

The Pac has the only rookie, too.  Vancouver's Brock Boeser is definitely deserving of the nod too.  But really, this team is a bit of a dud overall if you ask me.  

The game will be held January 28th at Amalie Arena in Tampa and aired on NBC.  I'll be watching out of obligation as a hockey fan (and secretly hoping for some injury replacements) but I will most definitely be more interested in the skills competition the day before.  More on that later.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Box Break Frustration

While at my LCS the other day, I decided we needed something to open in addition to all the singles we picked up.  From what was on the shelf, I went with 2016-17 O-Pee-Chee Hockey since I still have quite a few on that list to knock off and it's usually a fun product to open.  Two Octobers ago, we picked up a box of this. 

I wrote about it here...

So fast forward 15 months.  Change card shops (since the first box came from Baseball Card Exchange, also one of my LCS's), most likely distributors as well, obviously different shipments, and definitely different cases and we have a new, shiny box of O-Pee-Chee. 

I generally choose boxes based on the box bottom cards on the back.  For anyone not familiar, Upper Deck generally uses the O-Pee-Chee release to go retro, back to the old days of Topps and O-Pee-Chee by placing cards on the bottom of the boxes (so don't throw away your empties).  If I have the four-card panel already, I will generally choose a different combination.  If I happen to have all the panel combinations (there are usually only four or five each year), I'll most likely get one with a Penguin player. 

Well I chose wrong.

This entire box, if you can believe it, was filled with doubles.  In fact, not only were the base cards almost all dupes from the previous box, the inserts were as well.  Even most of the high number short prints were duplicates.  In all, there were 10 cards I needed.  10!  That's it.

How does this happen?  Well, it's simple.  My luck ran out.

I have opened plenty of product over the years and can't remember a time where I opened basically the same box twice...with the same base cards AND inserts.  Has anyone else had this happen where both the base cards and inserts were all identical in boxes?  I'd like to hear about it.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

LCS Gems

We had a few moments to kill this weekend and stopped by one of my local card shops that I hadn't been to in quite a while. More Fun Sports Cards in Dyer, IN has been my shop du jour for many, many years. I've spent a couple dollars in there since they moved the store to that location. I've written about their shop before as it's the type of shop most collector's wish they had. There is always a nice selection of all the major sports boxes, a huge variety of singles, quarter boxes, supplies, memorabilia, and a place to sit and hang out. Plus, with the collectors' that come in and out, the conversation is usually a lively one . I said, we stopped in there (we as in myself and my wife [yes, she not only condones cardboard but actively participates]) this weekend. It was a fruitful adventure once again as we were able to score a large pile of Upper Deck Young Guns for various sets I have been working on. We sifted through a large box of hockey rookies the owner recently acquired and were able to find a total of 68 Young Guns cards from 2005-06 through 2016-17. Shockingly enough, I didn't get destroyed on a price either considering they all were not "common" scrub rookie cards.

If you have ever looked at my set needs page, you have seen that I am working on a lot of sets, including all the Upper Deck flagship hockey sets going back quite a few years. The highly coveted, short-printed Young Guns are always the hardest to come by, at only six per hobby box and even less in retail. COMC has made this a bit easier over the last few years, especially since Upper Deck ePack allows your "hits" to be added to your account. The competition and virtual flooding of the actual market has made many of the lesser rookies very cheap. These can also be obtained sometimes at card shows too but that's never a guarantee (since I don't live in Canada).

Figured I'd share a bit of this score since it's the largest chunk I have made toward completing any of these sets in a long, long time.  

Here are a few pics of the entire haul...

In my opinion, some of the key guys in the stack...

Jack Johnson and Nicklas Backstrom

Kyle Palmieri and Victor Hedman

Leon Draisaitl and Justin Faulk

Brayden Point and Jesse Puljujarvi

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Strange Things...In a Monster Box...Bashan Imperial Stickers '96

I've purchased a variety of collections over the years from both collector's and dealers. In most cases, I've only kept the hockey cards and dumped the rest. Usually, boxes aren't sorted and are filled with all sorts of things. When I find the time, sometimes I grab a box and take a look.

Today's interesting find are these...


What we have here, in case you had never seen them before (as I hadn't) are 1996 Bashan/Shobtai LTD Imperial Super Stickers. This was a set licensed by the NHL and NHLPA for distribution in January/February of 1996 and could be found mainly in discount stores, mostly in Canada, but supposedly had a limited release in the United States (I haven't been able to verify that though). These were, interestingly enough, manufactured in Israel. Considering there wasn't any recorded hockey taking place in Israel prior to 1986, only 10 years prior to this release, it seems a curious export. But I digress...


The set contains a total of 161 cards which include 110 regular player stickers, 26 team logo checklists and another 25 Die-Cut insert stickers. 136 of the cards are part of the main set while the 25 die-cuts are numbered separately. The cards measure about the same size as regular cards, (as the manufacturer calls it, "Super Sized") unlike the Panini Album stickers most people are used to. In fact, there wasn't even an album made for these so I imagine they became stuck to lockers, books, walls, drawers, or anything else kids stuck stickers to back then.

From what I can tell, packs were sold for about a $1.00-$1.50 each and contained six stickers, including one die-cut.(48 packs in a box). Also in each pack was a stick of the classic, powdery pink gum that every collector loves. You can imagine that over time, the gum became stuck to whichever card it touched. I would think that many of the top cards in packs had to be trashed.


The front of the player sticker features an action shot surrounded by a white border. The player nameplate is located near the bottom of the card in black italic type on a orangish-brown rectangle (printing shades vary on these so orangish-brown was the best i could do). The front also features the NHL and NHLPA trademarks in the border and there is the brand logo either in the top right or left corner of the photo. The team logo stickers feature the 1995-96 team logo as well as a small sticker that features a facsimile signature of one of the players. The fronts of the Die-Cut cards feature players dropped in front of a background of all sorts of fireworks, stars, and explosions. They also include a small facsimile signature of the player on the sticker.


The backs of the player cards are kind of plain but what do you expect for a sticker? The corner has the typical "Bend and Peel" label while the rest of back the card number, player name, number, team, and position. There is also a brief Career Statistics section that shows overall stats of Games Played, Goals, Assists, Points, and Penalty minutes. The team logo stickers feature a checklist of the players featured in the set. The backs of the Die-Cuts feature the player name, the number in the sub-set, and a brief statement telling you to create your "dream team" of players by sticking them together on your mother's refrigerator.

I have quite a few of these with a ton more duplicates. Unfortunately I'm missing quite a few as well. If you are reading this and have any to trade, I'd be happy to oblige. Just another example of one of the many sets produced during the overproduction era of hockey cards.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The China Wall

If you ask any Maple Leafs fan who the best player has been for their franchise over the last 100 years, the answer will most likely be dominated by the great China Wall himself, Johnny Bower. The 11 year Toronto veteran passed away December 26th after succumbing to the effects of pneumonia. Today, the Maple Leafs are paying tribute to the late goaltender in a ceremony celebrating his life at the Air Canada Centre.

I'm not old enough to have seen Bower play but of the tons of videos I've watched, I don't recall watching a player with as much grit and guts. Frank Mahavolich called him a "workhorse" and that is exactly what you got with Johnny Bower. Punch Imlach said that Bower was the best athlete he had ever coached or seen in his life. His athletic ability and toughness was unparalleled, especially when you consider the time that he played in.

Johnny became the master of the poke check, developing the ability to launch his stick toward a streaking opponent, sometimes taking them out along with the puck. The great Jean Beliveau even once said that Johnny was the toughest goalie to deke against due to his signature move. His talents helped the Leafs to four Stanley Cups, led him to the All Star team in 1961, and helped him win the Vezina in 1961 and 1965. In 1969, he retired at the age of 45 (the oldest goalie in hockey history) after a knee injury took him out of the lineup. In 1976 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2014, he was selected #7 all time for the Maple Leafs and is also now a member of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players of all time. In 2016 his sweater number #1 was retired and put into the rafters of the Air Canada Centre. 

Johnny Bower is not only considered one of the best to play the game but also one of the best people to be around and one of the best ambassadors of the game. He not only served the great game of hockey, but also his country (by lying about his age during WWII...he was only 15), his community, and his family. He was a very humble man who never could understand why people liked him so much. Those reasons most certainly include that smile he always carried and the kindness he showed to everyone he met. Very few players that have taken the ice over the years have been as well liked, well respected and spoken as highly of as Johnny Bower. 

Lynn Patrick, former New York Ranger and long time Leafs executive once said , "if you don't like Johnny Bower, there's not much hope for you."

I don't have a ton of Bower cards (which I should change) although there have been many produced in the last 30 years as part of tribute sets, retro sets, or legends. I just wanted to pull out a few and showcase in tribute to the late, great netminder.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Dogfaced Daily Update

I decided to make an attempt to repair the "Dogfaced Daily" over there on the left side of the screen.  Many of you have used this as a jumping off point for perusing the latest hobby musings of bloggers out there in the past and if there are any of you that still come here, I wanted to get things in order.

After having gone through the list of sites, I realized there were a couple dozen in the feed that are either dead links or haven't been updated for over six months or more (like I can talk).  I have also voluntarily added about a dozen or so new blogs that haven't been there before.

If you have a blog that you would like to have added to the "Daily", drop me a line and I will add it.  I won't even ask for a follow back either because that's not what this is about.  I'm taking some small baby steps toward resurrecting this site and this is a good start.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the Flair Showcase Hot Shots of Brett Hull...there's no reason for it other than because it looks like fire and I'm really cold right now.  It's -11F or -24ish for my Celsius friends (wind chill is closer to negative "I give up on life"). 

2018 Winter Classic: the 10 Year Anniversary

Now that the 2018 edition of the NHL Winter Classic is in the books after a J.T. Miller OT goal gave the Rangers a 3-2 win over the Sabres, I wanted to give my take on the 10 year anniversary edition of the event.

This year's WC took it's pomp and circumstance to Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets.  Like any year the game has been played, there is always the unpredictability of the weather.  Cold temperatures, wind, snow, rain and fog are all issues that can pop up in any outdoor game in January.  Today was no different and despite the sun that shined overhead, the temperature was frigid (maybe not as frigid as Jeremy Roenick after jumping into the waters off Coney Island) and the wind was roaring.

This posed a problem for viewing the game on TV.  The shadows that were cast over the ice made it very difficult to view the puck or the players sometimes and this is coming from a die hard hockey fan.  I don't recall a year where this has been as much of an issue.  To complicate matters, the latest trend in broadcast sports (and the bane of my current existence) has infiltrated hockey as well and that is the "video game" viewing angle.  For those not familiar, think any of the NHL (insert year here) games.  The game play is from an overhead perspective to give the gamer a better angle of the ice they are trying to maneuver players on.  Makes sense when you have a controller in hand and are mashing buttons, attempting to propel good ol' JR down the ice for his 24th goal in the first period (at least while playing NHL 94...or NHLPA 93 if you had the luck of getting your hands on that one).

For a live event on television though, this isn't for me.  It's confusing.  It's obtrusive.  It makes me angry to be quite honest.  If growing the game and expanding your brand is your goal, and bringing in new fans is the way to get there, my opinion is that this doesn't help.  Maybe the "kids" like watching sports this way but I'm no where near there yet and I know others are with me.  When the biggest complaint from the casual fan or newbie strapping on their viewing skates for the first time is usually that they have a hard time tracking the puck on a live broadcast, Mother Nature made this a virtual viewing disaster.

If you watched and stuck around though, it was still decent hockey.  I think both teams fought hard, treating this game not as a worn out novelty but a grand stage game where the 2 points at stake actually mattered.  It wasn't as exciting as some WC games in the past 10 years but the OT battle was definitely fun to watch. Other than my critiques of the broadcast, here are a few other takeaways...

1.  I'm by no means an analyst but the Rangers would be so much better if they could stay out of the box; Other teams in the East would not allow that much power play time to go without consequences.
2.  Watching Jack Eichel...he's way too good to be playing for Buffalo.  He needs help and it's unfortunate he'll probably never get it.
3.  To NBC...great job limiting the Pierre factor.  Keep up the good work.
4.  It was nice to see them take the time to announce the USA Hockey teams; not just the men and women but also the sled hockey team.
5.  I had no idea Dick Enberg died and it happened over a week ago.  When your viewing habits include binge watching shows On Demand and through Netflix as well as endless cartoon shows, I guess it's no surprise though.

There have been many Winter Classic cards released over the years.  I thought I would leave a little montage here of some from my collection.

2012-13 Panini Prime Duals Winter Classic
Ryan Miller & Brooks Orpik

The card on the left was a promo card from the Toronto Expo while the Vanek came from the 2008-09 Upper Deck Winter Classic insert set.  This particular card has an error that was never corrected as it's missing the WC logo above the "HIGHLIGHTS" text.

2008-09 MVP Winter Classic
Wrigley Field
(While it doesn't feature any players, it's interesting to have a hockey card featuring a baseball stadium.)

 2008-09 OPC Winter Classic & 2008-09 Upper Deck Winter Classic
Sergei Gonchar & Ryan Malone
(It's interesting that "the snowy conditions created nostalgic feelings".  Indeed, they did.)

 2010-11 OPC Winter Classic 
Marc Savard
(apparently Marc attributes the Bruins win over the Flyers that year to the fans exuberant singing of Neil Diamonds' "Sweet Caroline"...seriously, that's what the card says)

 2010-11 Panini Contenders The Great Outdoors
Sidney Crosby
(this was an entire insert set devoted to outdoor games)

2011-12 Upper Deck Oversize Box-Topper Winter Classic
Evgeni Malkin
(These were inserted randomly into retail tins of Upper Deck cards.  This year featured both the Penguins and Capitals.  They came in a pressed plastic holder, which acts as a nice protective device.)