Over the years countless people have asked me about my love of sports memorabilia and how I was first introduced to the incredible past time?
As many young Canadians who play hockey, collecting hockey cards went with the territory, but my brother took it to a higher level.
Collecting went hand in hand with our passion for hockey and baseball.
In the early 80’s there was no such thing as specialization, in sport or in collecting for that matter.
If it was hockey season, it was hockey season and when it came to time to get the glove and bat out or the golf clubs that’s what we did.
Collecting cards and eventually signed 8×10’s never had an off season.
My collection may be predominantly hockey now, but my first ever encounter with a professional athlete wasn’t a hockey player, it was a baseball legend and arguably the best hitter that ever lived, Ted Williams.
Growing up in an AHL franchise city you see a lot of professional hockey players and scouts, but a chance meeting with a legend was my first introduction to the sports memorabilia world and showed me how valuable an autograph and a moment in time could be.
I will never forget that experience, especially when he looked down at me with my Oakland A’s gear on and said “Oakland, what’s that”. Ted was very gracious with his time and autographed a few items that remain very important to me and our family.
A autograph captures a moment in time, but in some ways an photograph is timeless.
Every autograph has a story, and meeting the Splendid Sprinter will be one that I will never forget.
It’s unfortunate that some people continue to abuse the sports memorabilia fraternity by forging some of the greatest athletes signatures for personal financial gain.
Authenticity has certainly taken a past time for some and created a massive multi-million dollar industry.
Meeting and obtaining an athlete’s autograph is extremely difficult these days for a number of reasons, which maybe become more difficult coming out of this horrific COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s inevitable that all athletes and sports organizations will drastically reduce their interactions with their fans.
The days of meeting your favourite player after a game or practice might be over.
With many athletes signing endorsement deals with major sports memorabilia corporations, acquiring autographs in person has taken on entirely new complexion over the last decade or so.
There’s no question you can acquire your favourite players autograph, but the question remains how much are you willing to spend.
For a long time, that’s how I in fact acquired most of my collection.
I trusted reputable dealers across Canada and in the New England states when acquiring unique autographs of some of my favourite new players.
Given the current situation I’ve gained a new appreciation for my collection.
Rediscovering the passion and reflecting on the foundation of my collection has been a welcomed distraction in these uncertain times.
When I first started collecting I found myself becoming a student of the game and gained an appreciation for statistical information and the background of the player and their journey in the game.
As I have written in previous articles the young players in this era aren’t necessarily students of the game and perhaps take less interest in the historical side of the game.
There’s no time to collect anything when your past time is spent on social media platforms or watching highlights.
Given the current trend of specialization, young athletes may feel there’s no time for having a hobby especially around the game.
By collecting hockey cards as a kid, I could see how many years it took some players to get into the NHL and how many points they had in the previous seasons. In essence I was more interested in the back of the card than what was on the front. Collecting broadened my knowledge of the game by getting familiar with countless players their style of play, and their value to their team.
The transition into autographed memorabilia only came about years after I stopped playing.
Sure I had met Brad Park when I was playing in the Atlantic Pee Wee AAA Hostess Cup in 1991 and got some autographs, but I was too young to realize that there is a story behind every autograph.
I have only been seriously collecting autographed memorabilia for about nineteen years now.
I went through a transition period after my playing days that I didn’t really follow hockey.
In March of 2008, my collecting quickly took a back seat in my life during that time.
I quickly realized that I had to refine and limit the diversity of the collection.
The transition in my personal life spread into my collection and a desire for quality rather than quantity was priority.
I found myself selling a lot of desired pieces to obtain one or two pieces in return thus drastically reducing the sheer number of items in the collection. I have refined my collection over the years to mostly reflect my beloved Bruins, but there is a method to my madness when it comes to collecting authentic sports memorabilia.
From 2008 to the present I have obtained 90% of new items in person and in essence the value of the items inconsequential.
It meant more to me to meet the player and obtain the autograph rather than searching for the best price on EBay. Nevertheless, my collection has continued to grow during that time, but on my terms and my terms alone.
As I look back on my experience in the memorabilia world, I got caught up in the business side of the pastime rather than hobby side.
My desire to have biggest collection in this region rather than focus on what was important to me at the time.
The pictures that hang on my walls today encompass my love of the game of hockey but they also tell stories. 90% percent of the displayed pictures on my wall have been acquired in person and I am very proud of that.
I am also very proud of that fact that I haven’t abused the privilege of meeting former and current NHLers by asking them to sign multiple items.
For countless people in the business of selling memorabilia the less desired personalized autographed is obsolete and really has lesser value.
When encountering any NHLer during my collecting days I always asked them for a personalized autograph so the player realizes that I’m not worried about profiting off their signature.
My role in the game has drastically changed since I started my journey in memorabilia.
Now a days I never ask for an autograph given my role in the media and writing world.
Ironically the thrill of the interview and getting to talk with future, current and former NHLer’s is even more exciting to me than asking for an autograph.
I’ve come to realize that everyone has a story and that the best stories are often those that are the closest to us.
Passion for the game of hockey can take many different forms.
From the autograph, to the card, to the podcast or interview, hockey continues to have an unique way of connecting us all.
My memorabilia collecting days are all but over.
Rediscovering my love for my former pastime and beloved hobby has been a welcomed distraction and has only strengthened my love for the game during these frightening and unprecedented times.
The autographs, memories and stories seem more vivid than ever before.
Some hockey memories go beyond the ice.