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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! How 'bout some hockey on a football field?

The Winter Classic.  Love it or hate it, I don't think it is going away anytime soon.  I was pretty pumped yesterday after hearing about the delay to "primetime" for the game start.  It meant 1-2 more bowl games that I could pretend to care about and watch.  Plus, something about playing at night is just more appealing.

This year's Classic, as everyone knows, is in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.  We have the two teams that have had their share of streakiness this year in the Penguins and Capitals.  While the Pens went on a rampage for a while in November and December, the Caps had been struggling (quite publicly for anyone that watches HBO's 24/7...which is AWESOME by the way).  Both streaks have ended and here we are.  January 1, 2011.  This could be a preview of the playoffs or a changing of the guard game.  It's only regular season and it's only worth 2 points but this is somewhat of a statement game.  Both teams are in a position to hit a stride at this point in the season and this could be the boost that both teams need.  But I digress.

So I thought I would do a review by period of what we now know.

1st Period.

1.  Both teams don't like each other.  I'm not even real sure they respect each other.
2.  Ovechkin is afraid of no one.  Beast.  I hate him.
3.  Fleury makes some sick saves.  He holds that crease better than I have ever seen him.
4.  The Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry is akin to John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, or Muhammed Ali and Joe Frasier.
5.  I had bets with my brother on which Pen would take the first fight.  We both lost.  It was Mike Rupp.
6.  According to Mike Milbury, goalies are pointless.  They serve no purpose I believe were his words.
7.  I didn't think the crowd would be that loud, boy was I wrong.
8.  The Pittsburgh Airport has way too lenient rules on incoming flights from Washington.  That's a ton of red out there.
9.  This could come down to another shootout.


2nd Period

1.  Ice Skates are not like Roller Skates.  They don't have breaks.  Tell Brooks Laich.
2.  This game is fast.  I'm not sure if this is because of the wet ice or what but these guys are playing fast.
3.  Fleury better get an assist on the Malkin goal.  That pass was incredible.
4.  I can't believe they counted that goal by Washington.  I thought for sure Fleury's stick was interfered with.
5.  If these guys don't slow this game down and stop hitting so much, someone is gonna die.
6.  I thought it wasn't going to rain anymore tonight in Pittsburgh.
7.  Fleury is lucky Brooks Orpik was in the right place at the right time.  Maybe he has snapped out of his zone from the first period.
8.  Now I take it all back.  Fleury is an idiot.
9.  Is it just me or do these camera angles suck?  I can't be the only one here.  Also, hockey pucks don't have breaks.  Tell Tyler Kennedy's face.
10.  Hooray!  2-2...oh, wait.  Rupp cheated again.  Nevermind.
11.  Crosby got his head taken off in an open ice hit.  No call.  No acknowledgment.  Nothing.
12.  I can't believe they tried to rip off the Blackhawks puck shooting thing they do during intermission.  Bettis has a nice wrist shot but sucks at throwing a football.  Go figure.


3rd Period

1.  Well apparently we (ie. Americans) are finally getting a National Hockey Day.  February 20th or something like that.  It is supposed to feature a day filled with rivalry games of US based teams.  That should be interesting.  I wonder how they will promote it going forward?  Of course it's sponsored by McDonald's so I'm sure it will be something stupid.
2. The Geico commercial with the caveman and the announcers...lame.  Enough with the caveman already.  The Gecko I get but the caveman needs to just go away.
3.  Did I mention I don't like Fleury?
4.  These teams really, really, really don't like each other.  6 tenths of a second left and a fight breaks out. 
5.  No matter how much they skated on this ice in the third period, it still looked like it was freshly Zamboni'd.
6.  Doc Emerick's brain moves faster than his mouth sometimes.
7.  The NHL will definitely rethink where they are going to put next years Classic.  The weather here played too much of a roll.
8.  Did I mention I don't like Fleury?

Final score...Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1.  Game Over.  Good Night.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Post of 2010 For Real - - My Continued Review of 2010-11 Hockey Cards

1As promised, I felt like sending 2010 out with one last post on my opinions of this years crop of hockey card releases thus far.  As you have probably surmised by the last post, with few exceptions, I have been less than thrilled with what we have had available to us.  With new blood on the scene, that being Panini, I think there were some expectations by many collectors that were just simply unattainable.  Anything short of genius would have been considered a failure and Panini has, in this blogger/collector's opinion, done just that...failed.

But this post isn't supposed to be a "shame on you, Panini" post.  I will save that for the other doom-sayers out there in the blog-o-sphere because they do it much better than I.  This is the follow up to my review of the 2010-11 hockey card releases that I have had the privilege (um, yeah that's a good word) of adding to my collection.  I have already expressed my thoughts on Victory, Score, Certified, and Upper Deck. 

Black Diamond has always been one of those sets that kind of sits on the outside looking in.  What I mean is that unless you buy a hobby box of this stuff, you are only going to find those three-pack blisters or an occasional 5-7 pack blaster in a retail store.  It isn't the kind of set that you are going to build by purchasing retail.  In fact, this isn't really a set builders set at all.  It never has been.  Black Diamond is traditionally known for its multi-tiered cards that range from the basic single diamond up to the quad diamond which feature many of today's superstar players.  Because I have been shying away from my LCS as of late, I figured one blaster couldn't hurt.  These cards don't scan very well since they are covered in silver foil so I didn't bother.  Needless to say, I pulled 4 cards that weren't single diamond...a double diamond Chris Pronger and Jordan Staal, a Nick Palmieri Rookie Gems (triple diamond), and a Steven Stamkos quad diamond.  So if anything, at least I got one Penguin card to go into my PC.  Other than that, I don't know why I keep giving this release the time of day.  Unless I see some great discounts on boxes, I don't see myself building this or buying anymore.

Donruss.  I could have just stopped after that period there but in the spirit of full disclosure, I figured I would give the old Panini one more chance to disappoint and anger me.  These haven't been out that long and while returning some items from Christmas, I happened upon some freshly displayed rack packs.  40 cards for $5 comes out to a really cheap per card ratio so I figured it was worth a shot to see what the revival of Donruss would unleash on the world.  I am going out on a limb here but I have to say that I don't hate them.  The cards themselves are by no means the best looking cards out there but they aren't awful.  They feature nice action shots of the players bordered on the right by a stripe of the team colors that extends from top to bottom.  The player name, team, and Donruss logo, despite being a little large, are mostly unobtrusive to the cards themselves.  That backs, on the other hand, look just like every other Panini release and leave a bad taste in your mouth considering how the fronts had offered up something different for a change.  I don't remember how many packs I got but I pulled almost the same "hits" as I would have from a hobby box.  I got 2 Boys of Winter instead of 3, 1 GU instead of 2, 2 Ultimate Draft cards, 1 Tough Times which feature enforcers, 4 Rated Rookies instead of 6, and after seeing the Justin Bieber Fans Of the Game cards floating around Ebay, I am glad I didn't pull any of those.  Overall though, I was pretty happy with this set and once I get around to it, I may try to put this one together.

Artifacts is usually a set that I put together every year since the base cards number to 100 and it is usually fairly easy to complete.  Plus, these always look good in an album.  This year is no different.  The design theme is essentially the same with the player on the front surrounded by some type artificial background.  One year was Greek columns, another year was some gold foil that gave it an antique look.  They have also used a sort of horseshoe design that looked almost like a pattern you would find on some ornate marble architecture.  This year is smoke, or fog.  It reminds me of player introductions before a big game with all the lights out in the arena and only a single spotlight on the ice where the player emerges from the tunnel through a cloud of smoke.  The effect works 10 fold on the Stars and Legends subsets.  I have only picked up a few packs of these so I am no where near being able to put a set together but ultimately I will.  Did I mention they look good in an album?

Last but certainly not least, is O-Pee-Chee.  This is always my white whale set.  Every year I set off down the path of trying to complete this monster but I have yet to do so.  Despite the almost impossibility of completing them, I still have fun trying.  This years set toned down the technicolor, Fruit Stripe gum style from last year and went with a more subtle black and grey border.  Unfortunately, they once again took up too much of the card with the logo.  It takes up 20% of the bottom of the card.  It is written in about a 26 point size font, while the player name is in a 10 point.  It also means the player photo is smaller and because of this, they look like they are all taken from a distance and then cropped to make them look closer.  This is Upper Deck.  The company known for vibrant, full-color, full-action shots that fill most of the card.  I realize there is a different concept applied to O-Pee-Chee but this is starting to get ridiculous.  Each year, it seems like more and more of the photo is being cropped away in favor of the design border.  The card backs look just like the other O-Pee-Chee cards from the last three years...plain grey/brown cardboard with a few player stat lines and the team logo in the background.  Regardless of some of the shortcomings, I still love this set.

The Retro variations are stellar this year as they look kind of like the 73-74 All Star cards and the Marquee Legends and Rookies share the same feel of design with the 76-77 set.  The Stat Kings, Trophy Winners, and Team Leader cards have all been toned down too as they are now on heavy glossy stock instead of the foilboard from last year.  The only foil I have seen so far from what I have pulled are in the parallels of the the Retro Parallel set...the parallels of the parallels.  My only mystery is whether or not there are Retro back variations or not.  I pulled a Sidney Crosby and Marty Turco retro parallel with different player stats on the back.  The Crosby features Niklas Backstrom and the Turco features Jack Johnson.  If anyone knows about these or can send me a link to some info, I would appreciate it.  I can't honestly believe that these were printed in error.

So that's it for the new additions to the collection for this years releases.  You may have noticed that there are a few issued sets missing from this list.  Famous Fabrics Inks is one that comes to mind.  I have no intention of purchasing a product that features 1 card for $100.  Even if I knew what the card was, I wouldn't buy one card for $100.  That's just insane.  Another set is ITG's Ultimate Memorabilia set.  I love ITG's releases but this one will set you back about $550 for 15 cards.  Again, why?  I don't want to be hosed with a $5 card that I paid $100 for.  Panini Limited is out there.  1 pack, 7 cards for about $70.  Considering their train wreck so far with releases, you would have to be smoking something illegal in all star systems to risk that.  So for now, I'm biding my time until ITG puts out Heroes & Prospects, whatever Retro set they are working on (if any), and Between the Pipes.  I also will pick up Series II Upper Deck and probably scold myself 100x's over after the fact but still pick up SP, SP Game Used, or SPx (or all three).  Oh, and let's not forget the return of Pinnacle and Crown Royale (Panini, you better not screw these up). 

And with that, I bid you all adieu.  Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Last Post Before 2011 - - A Review Of My 2010-11 Hockey Experience

I have been posting quite a bit more on the Garage lately because of all the weird cards I have been finding.  Soccer cards, Johnny Mize HOF cards, some of the first custom cards of all time, and some crazy holograms have all been discussed.  But, what about my normal collection?  Just because I have half the free world's worth of cards in my garage doesn't mean I haven't been working on my own collection.

I don't have a whole lot to post as far as pictures go.  In fact, I have none.  I was going to take the time to scan in a bunch of my cool pulls from this year's hockey releases thus far but what is the saying...the road to failure is paved with good intentions?  That's me.  Actually, nothing has really gotten me that excited to be honest.  But again, that's not to say that I am not doing my part for the hobby.

Victory was first this year.  It's always first.  It's also the cheapest...well until Choice comes out.  Victory was a quick build.  It is a 200 card base set and I was able to put this together fairly quickly.  I still need a few rookies but my rack pack theory worked out for me on this one.  It helps when you pull the packs from the same box too, so no doubles.  But no one cares about Victory.  They are cheap, boring, and fail to live up to any hype other than being the first release of the new year.  In fact, they aren't "real" cards in the minds of many and are simply ignored by half the collecting public.  I like them though.  My favorites were the Red Parallel version available in rack packs.  They look nice in an album. 

The first "real" packs of the year were Certified.  I'll be honest, I wasn't a fan when I saw the previews but I had to have something new.  I picked these up right after the big acquisition so I was a little spent.  There was a deal so I took it.  Fortunately (unfortunately) for me, I busted a "hot box".  I am a set collector so this kind of sucked since, as most of you know, a hot box is basically all parallel cards.  I got a few decent cards, a redemptions for a Cal Clutterbuck auto, a couple nobodies sigs, and a few GU cards including an Ovechkin I could have done without.  Overall, I think the set didn't shy too far away from their football releases and thus, was a bit boring for me, despite the hot box.  My LCS dealer was nice enough to give me a pile of base that another "HIT ONLY" customer left behind. burned me once.

Up next was Score.  I really liked these when I first saw them.  I really, really did.  But after two Hobby (actually I don't think there is a difference) boxes, a few rack packs, two blasters, and a few loose packs, I am not a fan.  First problem was the fact that the redemptions that were promised as part of the sell sheet were missing.  After contacting Panini, their excuse was that they pulled them all at the last minute in favor of inserting the players that were available into packs.  Of course these were short printed so they fall only 1 or 2 per case.  You do the math.  Not happy with their customer support as they offered up the typical "that's only a guide and not a guarantee of collation" answer.

As a set builder, you would think I was well on my way to a complete set.  Well you would be wrong.  In fact, at this point, I think I have more doubles than I do toward my set.  Good Grief!  I think I need a couple hundred cards still.  In the two boxes I opened from my LCS, half the second box was dupes of the first.  Don't even get me started on the "glossy" vs. regular cards that you have to tilt at a 45 degree angle to tell what set it comes from.  I know it is supposed to be a low end product but come one, Panini!  As far as I'm concerned, you burned me twice.

Oh, but you wouldn't fail me, Upper Deck, would you?  The flagship Upper Deck set has been in my collection since the beginning.  I have most of them, have parts of others, and vow to complete the chronological history of Upper Deck base in hockey one time in the near future.  Each year, the Upper Deck set is the pinnacle of the hobby when it comes to quality of design, value, and variety.  So would this year disappoint?  Well, I went with my rack pack theory once again, only this time it backfired.  I picked up half from one box and another portion from another and I believe a couple from a third.  Sure enough, I ended up with quite a few doubles, even some triples, in fact 1 quadruple.  I'm 43 from a 200 card base set and even farther from the Young Guns as they seemed to be few and far between.  I am still happy with the set.  I love the retro parallels that hearken back to the days of 1990-91 when Upper Deck was the new kid on the block.  My only criticism is they are on a much more flimsy card stock than the base cards.  So we have one winner in my book.  One out of four.  Not good.  (Although Victory is a "you know what you are getting" set so maybe one out of three is a better ratio).

Since my head hurts, I'm sick, falling asleep, and relishing in the fact that the Eagles are getting beat by a horrible Vikings team, I will continue this little rant later with my foray into Black Diamond, Artifacts, and O-Pee-Chee.

To Be Continued....