Monday, August 31, 2009

Pack Rip - 2008-09 SHL Elitset Hockey

Variety is the spice of life, so every so often I find myself picking up a pack of cards for no reason other than that I've never seen them before. Such was the case when this pack of SHL Elitset cards caught my eye. I picked this up about 6 months ago just to have something different to rip. Since the cards portray members of the Swedish Hockey League I did not expect to recognize a single player. Let's just say that the pack met my expectations. Apparently the card to get was Victor Hedman, who was drafted second overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year's entry draft. Let's take a look at the 6 cards...

#44 - Eero Somervuori - Tampa Bay apparently selected Eero in the 7th round (170th overall) in the 1997 draft, however Eero never saw any ice time in the NHL.

#59 - Andreas Jamtin - From what I've read online, Andreas was supposedly signed by the New York Rangers in 2008, but played just 4 games for their minor league affiliates before returning to Sweden. I have to say, the design on these cards isn't terrible, but the photography is very boring.

#102 - Andree Persson - Apparently less successful than the first two players in the pack. I'm basing this on the fact that when you Google his name, you get a 1-line Wikipedia entry, followed by the Facebook profiles of various Andree Persson's in Sweden. Andree looks suspiciously like a Heineken bottle.

#TL1 - Pavel Brendl - Team Leaders - Not a horrendous looking insert I suppose. I don't recall what the odds are on these, and I threw away the wrapper long ago. Can I just say for the record that I'm glad the NHL doesn't allow blatant advertising on their jerseys? These sweaters are so chock full of company logos that the players look like Nascar cars. Pavel actually saw a decent amount of action with the Flyers, Hurricanes and Coyotes a few years ago, but has since returned to Sweden.

#43 - Johan Motin - Current property of the Edmonton Oilers. Advertising on the socks too? Come on!

#58 - Jonas Johansson - Jonas actually appeared in one game with the Washington Capitals during the 2005-06 campaign.

Well that was interesting. I won't be buying any more of this (doubt I will have the chance anyway). It was kind of interesting to look into some of these players, but I would stay away unless you're a die-hard hockey fan, and even then... If you're so inclined though, you can find a checklists for all of the SHL Elitset releases here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Completed Set - 2008-09 Fleer Ultra Hockey

Have you ever ended up completing a set that you had no intention of collecting? That's what happened to me with 2008-09 Fleer Ultra hockey. I picked up maybe a dozen packs of this stuff in total, but only because the hobby shop where I would occassionally stop for supplies at the time was completely bereft of hockey cards save one hobby box of this stuff.

I had long since moved on to other sets when Sal of Puck Junk offered me a large stack of these, probably a good 2/3 of the base set, when I was unloading some of my 08-09 O-Pee-Chee doubles off to him. Had this been a baseball set I would've passed, but I'll take absolutely any hockey card I don't already own. When I combined the cards I already had with what Sal sent along, I realized I was only 20 or 25 cards away from the base set, so I picked up the missing singles on SportLots. I'll show off a few choice cards here:

#3 - Colby Armstrong - Atlanta Thrashers - I chose to feature this card because it illustrates my number one gripe about this set. Nearly all of the player photos are boring, light skating shots like this one, cropped very closely in on the player. They look like they were taken during warmups, and very will might have been. Quality photography is a must for me with modern sets, and Upper Deck flat out missed the boat with this one. I guess they were saving most of their good shots for their flagship base set...

#9 - Tim Thomas - Boston Bruins - Now here is a nice looking card! The yellow last name really goes nicely with Thomas' yellow pads, and even the yellow on the boards behind him. He's got an intense look in his eyes. Plus, I had to include at least one Bruins card in my review for Captain Canuck!

#68 - Martin Biron - Philadelphia Flyers - In case you can't tell, I'm a sucker for horizontal goalie cards. I really like the depth on this one, with the entire goal frame in view and the referee in the background.

#96 - Alexander Ovechkin - Washington Capitals - Alex gets one of the handful of non-goalie cards in the set that actually depicts a bit of action! Had the whole set looked like this I might've actually completed it on purpose.

#121 - Jonathan Toews - Chicago Blackhawks - This is probably my single favorite card from the entire 200 card base set. You can see the determination on Toews' face as he streaks down the ice ahead of his opponents and teammates.

#142 - Mike Modano - Dallas Stars - Another tightly-cropped, boring shot. I'm showing this one for a reason though. The reason is...

#142 - Marian Hossa - Detroit Red Wings - Yes, that's right, Mike Modano is card number 142. Marian Hossa is card number 142. This is incredibly annoying. In fact, there are two different #46's, two different #132's, and two different #142's. Not only that, but there is no card #65, no card #113 and no card #167. It evens out so you still end up with 200 cards in the base set, but Upper Deck loses major points in my book. Fortunately for you if you plan on collecting this set, I've sorted through the mess and populated the Zistle library with the entire correct checklist, including full color scans of all cards.

#168 - Josh Harding - Minnesota Wild - Finally, Josh Harding gets shown because the color of his pads give them a kind of retro feel.

Well, that's pretty much all there is to say about 2008-09 Fleer Ultra. I didn't plan to collect it, but I'm glad to have it nonetheless. Special thanks to Sal for the large stack of cards that made me decide to go for it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thanks to Dan of Saints of the Cheap Seats

I don't do a ton of trading, but nonetheless I always seem to find myself behind in posting about trades. I've come to realize that I will simply never have the time to detail every trade I make (I don't know how some of you do it!), so please don't be offended if you send me cards and I don't mention it specifically in a post. I hope the cards I send you in return are thanks enough! At the same time, I would like to keep up with these as much as possible. So, today I owe a belated thanks to Dan of Saints of the Cheap Seats. We arranged a trade a while back (through Zistle!). I think I sent Dan somewhere around a dozen 2007 Topps Heritage short prints that he needed (gave up on trying to complete that one), and he sent me a great stack of cards in return. In addition to some older miscellaneous cards, he included the very first 2009 Goudey cards in my collection:
#24 - Justin Masterson - I think this guy's got a great career ahead of him. I was somewhat sad to see him go, but after witnessing Victor Martinez's first few weeks on the team, it's hard to argue with the move that was made to bring him to town. I hope Justin has a lot of success in Cleveland as a starter though!
#33 - J.D. Drew - The batting average hasn't been spectacular this year, but when your number 8 hitter has accumulated 16 HR and 50 RBI at this point in the season you know you've got a good lineup.
#30 - Jonathan Papelbon - The Sox closer has been pretty vocal this week about the potential addition of Billy Wagner. I'd like to see the Red Sox grab him, but not if it's going to have too great an impact on team chemistry. The bullpen has been spectacular this year, there's no need to ruffle the feathers too much. Dan also sent some '09 Topps Heritage Sox cards...
#117 - Michael Bowden - This poor guy took one for the team in Friday night's absolute clobbering at the hands of the Yankees. Welcome to the bigs fella!
#153 - Jacoby Ellsbury - These Heritage cards are much appreciated. Although I purchased around 10 hobby packs before deciding the set wasn't for me, I pulled precious few Red Sox. This package really helped improve my collection.
#230 - Mound Magicians - I guess Matsuzaka's magic trick was disappearing from the team...
#280 - Tim Wakefield - Tim got off to one of the best starts to his career this year, but found himself on the DL shortly after his first ever All-Star game appearance. He's already been rehabbing with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox and would be a huge addition to a struggling starting rotation heading down the stretch. And finally, the best card in the package...

2007 Upper Deck Goudey - Goudey Graphs - Coco Crisp - This was an unexpected throw in that is greatly appreciated. My Red Sox auto collection is terrible, in fact this might be the only certified Red Sox auto I own. I always liked watching Coco patrol center field, even if there were times when it seemed like he was a guaranteed out at the plate.

Dan, thank you so much for the fantastic trade and I'm terribly sorry it took me so long to acknowledge the great cards you sent me way. I appreciate it!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pack Rip - 2009-10 Upper Deck Victory

In case you couldn't tell by my total lack of posting, it's been a busy week. It will all be topped off by a visit to Fenway Park tonight to catch the rubber game between the Sox and the visiting New York Yankees. After each team administered a total clobbering of the other in games 1 and 2, it will be interesting to see how tonight goes with CC and Beckett on the mound. I've got killer seats, just hoping that the weather will hold out.

In the meantime, I finally broke down today and purchased some cards for the first time in over a month. The 2009-10 hockey card releases have officially begun to hit shelves, and the first release is Upper Deck's Victory hockey. This is the cheapest of all Upper Deck hockey releases, and as far as I know the first to hit the shelves each year. The design won't exactly leave you breathless, but at 6 cards for just 99 cents it's a nice little bargain set, sort of like hockey's Opening Day or First Edition. I picked up 8 packs and have only opened 4 so far. Here's the best of the 4:
#67 - Fabian Brunnstrom - Dallas Stars - As you can see, the design is very simple. Mostly white cards with the background mostly washed out of the photo and replaced by the word Victory in a color that matches the team's logo. Brunnstrom had a pretty solid rookie campaign last year with Dallas, scoring 29 points in 55 games. Did you know he became just the 3rd player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his debut game?

#19 - Marc Savard - Boston Bruins - I think the yellow actually makes this card look pretty decent. I'm looking forward to another steady offensive year from one of the Bruins' best playmakers.

#84 - Michael Frolik - Florida Panthers - Frolik is coming off of a pretty solid rookie season as well. He surpassed the 20 goal plateau and notched over 20 assists as well, including 11 on the power play.

#GB50 - Alexander Ovechkin - Washington Capitals - Game Breakers - Each pack contains either a rookie card, or a superstar insert. In the 4 packs I opened I got 2 rookies and two of these Game Breakers cards, which have been standard Victory inserts in the past. Any Ovechkin card that I didn't already have is a good pull in my mind.

#71 - Pavel Datsyuk - Detroit Red Wings

#106 - Robert Lang - Montreal Canadiens - Lang has always been a dependable scorer, but he has bounced around the league quite a bit and as far as I know is still unsigned as the season approaches.

Well, there you have it, 2009-10 Upper Deck Victory hockey. Not the world's flashiest set, but it's cheap enough to collect and if you just want a basic set without short prints, autos or game-used cards then you could do much worse. I don't think I'll be going for the set, but at $1 a pack I'm sure I'll end up ripping a couple more to hold me over until O-Pee-Chee and Upper Deck come out.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pack Rip - 2006-07 In the Game Heroes & Prospects

Even though I'm trying to see just how long I can go without spending money on cards, I still get the urge to rip open a pack every so often. When this happens I rely on the stack of packs that have been sitting on my shelf collecting dust for a while. I usually try to keep 10-20 misc. unopened packs for a rainy day, but the stack is dwindling the longer my card-buying drought continues. Anyway, a recent box break by Captain Canuck got me thinking about the In the Game line of hockey cards. I happened to have an odd pack of 06-07 In the Game Heroes & Prospects lying on the shelf, and figured it was a good time to rip it open. I bought a hobby box of this stuff probably a year or so ago because it was cheap enough at around $30 and I believe it had a guaranteed auto. I opened all the packs except this one at the time. Let's see what we've got...
#106 - Jamie McGinn - I don't usually go for minor league or prospect sets when it comes to baseball cards, but with hockey I don't mind. Jamie was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the 2006 entry draft, and saw his first NHL action last season, appearing in 35 games. I'm not sure if he's going to play a role in the teams 2009-10 season or not...

#136 - Phil Kessel - Here's a name most NHL fans should recognize instantly. Phil led the Bruins in scoring last year, despite being just 21 years old. He is without a doubt the largest looming question mark with respect to the Bruins off-season moves this year. The B's don't seem to have the cap room to sign the young scorer, and I've heard rumors that they're shopping him around to some West coast teams. It would hurt to see Kessel go but I am glad that the Bruins locked up David Krejci first.

#4 - Peter Stastny - Here's one of the "Heroes" cards. I always think of Peter as a Quebec Nordique, but this card is cool nonetheless.

#CC-01 - Frederic Cassivi - Calder Cup Champions - I don't remember pulling any of these inserts when I opened my wax box, but then again that was a while ago. I like the design of the base cards much better. It looks like Frederic made a few scattered appearances in the NHL, but was mostly a career AHL player.

WHL Filler Card - One thing I appreciated about this set is that the cardboard filler cards were actually fun to collect, as each one depicts a league or team logo. This one's for the Western Hockey League, which I have to admit I'd never heard of before pulling this card.

#16 - Tim Thomas - Great finish to the pack, your 2008-09 Vezina Trophy Winner! Two current Bruins in a five card pack, couldn't ask for much more than that.
All in all this is a great looking set at a reasonable price. I'm going to have to find the rest of the cards from my box break and see just how far off I am from completing this one...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A More Positive Baseball Card Post

So my last couple of baseball posts have been of a pretty negative nature. I figured it would be a good time to be a bit more positive and show off one of my favorite additions to my collection from 2009. When Topps Heritage came out earlier this year I thought the cards were great, no big surprise there. I made the decision right away that I wouldn't chase the set though, I don't need another 75 short prints to spend months going after and likely give up on in the end. I've got more than enough half-completed-but-given-up-on sets as it is.

So, I decided to spend the money I would've dropped on a hobby box of '09 Heritage on actual 1960 Topps cards instead, since my collection was pretty bare from that year. I spent more than half of the budget on a single card, this PSA-graded Stan Musial:

Graded cards were what got me back into collecting initially, and while I've really cooled off on them, have sold a good chunk of them off, and now generally prefer non-graded cards, I will still occasionally pick them up when it comes to vintage cards of star players. I've always wanted a 1960 Topps card of a Hall-of-Famer, and this Musial fits the bill perfectly. This is my first real Musial card from his actual playing days, and will be a prized part of my collection for many years to come.

Best of all, I nabbed it cheap enough that I still had about $25 left from what I would've spent on my hobby box, and was able to add a couple of dozen commons in pretty decent condition as well. I may have missed out on Topps Heritage, but I feel pretty good about getting a start on a vintage set that would be a lifelong goal to complete.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Card of the Month - August 2009

1993-94 High Liner Greatest Goalies - #8 of 15 - Tony Esposito

I've said this before, but probably the single greatest thing to come out of writing a blog about sports cards has been all of the friendly and generous fellow collectors that I've had a chance to meet. This month's Card of the Month illustrates that point. Sal, who is an avid Chicago Blackhawks fan and runs the great blog Puck Junk, has become a great trading partner and friend, and we've helped each other get a whole lot closer to completing some of our hockey sets. When he attended the Blackhawks Convention recently (if you missed his write-up of the event on Puck Junk you really owe it to yourself to check it out!) he emailed me letting me know that he had found a great odd-ball card he thought I'd like and was sending it my way. A couple of weeks later I got a package in the mail and in it was this Tony Esposito card, the likes of which I'd never seen.

A quick search on the internet revealed that this was a 1993-94 High Liner Greatest Goalies card. Apparently High Liner is a company from Nova Scotia who markets frozen seafoods and pasta. They must've included these cards with some of their products back in the early 90's. The picture above is actually of just the card itself, however the example Sal sent along still has the perforated game piece that came with each card attached. Here's a full scan of the entire card:

As you can see, attached to each card is a Shoot & Score Contest game piece. As tempting as it is to scratch these I don't think High Liner would redeem a prize at this point, so I'm going to leave the card as is, mint and unscratched. Would this have won someone a Chevy Astro van or a Super Nintento (ha!) back in the day? I'll never know. The card has a nice clean, simple design. Here's the back:
The back features a black and white mug shot along with a brief paragraph explaining why Tony was chosen as one of the "greatest goalies". Career stats are also listed and broken down by regular season and playoffs.

I kept thinking when I first saw the card that the photo looked very familiar, and sure enough, I believe it's the same photo that the artist who painted Esposito's Upper Deck Masterpieces card used for reference:
Thanks so much Sal for thinking of me when you were at the Convention and for contributing such a cool odd-ball card to my up and coming Tony Esposito collection! I'll be showcasing another great card from Sal on Shoebox Legends very soon!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Goalie Masks

Last week I linked to a Sports Illustrated gallery where they displayed the top 10 masks of the first expansion era. When I saw a new gallery today for top 10 masks of the 90's I just had to link to it. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Must Win

3 straight losses to the division leading New York Yankees. With the exception of Beckett and Lester, the starters are hurting. The Red Sox haven't scored a run since Thursday night, and now sit 5 1/2 back of New York, with only a 1/2 game lead for the wild card. With Lester on the mound, if this isn't a must win I don't know what is...

UPDATE: Crap. On the plus side, the Sox finally plated a couple of runs thanks to a 2 run shot from recent acquisition Victor Martinez. Jon Lester also threw an impressive game. On the negative side, pretty much everything else...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Collecting Whalers - 1979 O-Pee-Chee Mike Rogers

The card I'm featuring for my latest installment of Collecting Whalers came to me recently in a trade package from Brian, aka Captain Canuck, all the way from Canada! Brian, along with Sal from Puck Junk, has quickly become one of my favorite trade partners. The fact that he's into hockey cards is cool enough, but he always includes a couple of junk wax packs in his packages. The 2 packs of 1991-92 Score in this last package were much appreciated believe it or not!

This Mike Rogers card was one of two 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Whalers that Brian threw in this time. I wasn't alive in 1979 so my hockey card collection is pretty bare from that year, and I'm almost ashamed to admit that although I have a handful of Topps cards, these are my very first 79-80 O-Pee-Chee's!

What's great about the 1979-80 Whalers cards is that the Whalers were just integrating into the NHL from the WHA that year, so all the pictures are from the year prior and feature the WHA New England Whalers jerseys. Rogers absolutely lit it up during his two years in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers, but in typical Whaler-like fashion, the team dealt him in search of defensive help despite back-to-back 105 point campaigns.

Thanks for another great package Brian, looking forward to trading again!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I'm sure this isn't the first place you're reading this, but what a disappointment in my opinion...

Competition is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. The only positive I can find, and it's really a stretch, is that Upper Deck can focus more on their hockey releases. Ugh...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Revising My Stance...At Least a Bit...

Last Thursday, when I found out that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were on "the list" from 2003, I was pretty upset. Perhaps I over-reacted a bit in the moment when I declared that I hated the sport of baseball (or the state of baseball, which is what I really meant). A couple of reader comments have made me rethink things and I do feel a bit differently. Dinged Corners had a great comment, correctly predicting that inevitably we'll all get over it. I agree with this completely, in fact with all the excitement regarding the Red Sox acquiring Victor Martinez from Cleveland at the trade deadline, that has already started to happen for me to some extent. Comments from other players in the media like Bronson Arroyo and Nomar Garciaparra have also made me realize just how widespread this was, and I finally do see that the entire era has to be viewed differently in light of how much this culture penetrated locker rooms across the Majors.

Pricelesspursuit left a comment that got me thinking even more. His argument was that although he is disappointed whenever a story like this comes to light, baseball is ultimately an entertainment business more than anything else, and if you can come to grips with that then it's easier to still enjoy watching despite what's happened to the game. While this is a valid point, and it did calm me a bit, it only made me a little less angry. Here's why...

I completely understand that in the end, Major League Baseball is a business, and I will even go so far as to agree that it is an entertainment business. Ultimately the business is driven by the fans, who purchase tickets, jerseys, and even baseball cards and expect to be entertained as a result. Where my opinion differs lies in what I find entertaining about the sport. If I just wanted to be entertained I would watch a movie or become a pro wrestling fan. With baseball, I'm paying to be entertained by a sport, a competition. The entertainment value of that sport goes down dramatically when certain players or teams have an unfair advantage. Would you be entertained by a baseball game if the visiting team only got two outs per at bat while the home team got 3? How about if the tag up rule only applied to certain players in the lineup? What if one team could field 3 outfielders but the other team only 2? With some players taking PEDs and others relying on their natural talent, I feel like the entire balance of the game I've come to know and love is lost. I won't even get into the impact on the history of a game that is so largely based on statistics and records.

I'm already tired of hearing about it, and this will probably be my last post on the issue. I wish the entire list would just be released as opposed to a few names here and there, dragging on and disappointing fans over the years to come. I know I'll get over it and I'll be back. In fact, I'm sure I'll be watching every minute of the Red Sox/Yankees series later this week...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Goalie Mask Photos

Just got back from a couple of days and nights roughing it in a tent on Cape Cod, so I have no energy or motivation for a post right now. I've mentioned before that one of my favorite things about vintage hockey cards are the great goalie masks. When I ran across this gallery of the top 10 goalie masks from the first expansion era, I just had to link to it.

Check it out for yourself!
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