Saturday, June 20, 2015
I will never collect hockey cards with the enthusiasm and conviction of baseball cards. I didn't grow up with the sport and there's little chance of me doing with hockey -- collecting a nonbaseball set for nostalgia reasons only -- as there is with football (1977 Topps, looking squarely at you).
But I like my Sabres and if there is any hockey player whose cards I get a thrill out of owning, it's Dominik Hasek.
For years, this was the only Hasek card I owned. I have no memory of acquiring it -- I must have actually bought a pack of hockey cards in 1996 or 1997 -- but I put it in a single page in a binder devoted to hockey cards. It was one of the special ones, dedicated to players I had interviewed or thought were particularly cool. Hasek was one of the latter.
Hasek, as any hockey fan knows, was the best goalie on the planet for a period -- it's so rare for the Sabres to have anyone who's the best on the planet in anything -- and he was a major figure in Buffalo even long before he led them to the Stanley Cup finals in 1999.
I enjoyed him because he was similar to another favorite American pro sports import in Hideo Nomo. Like Nomo, Hasek was noticeably unorthodox in how he played the game, but you couldn't argue with it because he played as well as anyone. Only Hasek reached a level that not even Nomo could reach.
Buffalo fans are strange in how they show their allegiances, and I remember swelling with pride when Hasek was busted for speeding while blazing down the same Buffalo street that I traveled almost every day on the way to college.
Time moves on and so did Hasek. He ended up with the Red Wings and I won't collect any of his cards with that team (although I don't mind cards from his Blackhawks days).
I've since forgotten some of the friction surrounding Hasek during his playing days and now I'm happy when his Sabres cards find their way into my collection.
These came from Jeff at 2 by 3 Heroes. He was giving away hockey cards by team, I took the Sabres, and I'm lucky there were Haseks in there. I prefer the Sabres in their traditional blue-and-golds, although I harbor no grudge against the red-black-and-silver era. Sure, it was unusual, but it reminds me of the Sabres at their peak.
The Sabres were at their peak in the mid-70s, too, because they had Gil Perreault.
Sabres from the '90s, when I was a bigger fan.
Some more notable Sabres. I remember how much noise Buffalo made over Pierre Turgeon in the late '80s.
Sabres from the "He's Good Let's Trade Him" era.
Look! Players who are actually still on the team!
As you know, the draft is coming up next weekend and the Sabres are picking second, meaning they'll probably take Boston University's Jack Eichel (unless the Oilers decide they don't need Connor McDavid for whatever bizarre reason).
I'm hopeful that new ownership and the draft pick will get the Sabres at least back to a respectable record. I miss watching the team in the playoffs, even if they never seemed to make it past the second round.
But there's nothing like having an all-star goalie to headline your team, and until that happens again in Buffalo, I'll remain dedicated to Hasek cards.
Well, not really dedicated. More like -- "cool, for not being a baseball card."