By TOM TALBOT
Of all the major sports, most collectors agree that hockey and racing stars are the best signers. With the National Hockey League struggling to some degree these days, at least as far as television ratings go, it’s a great time to hit up your favorite player for a signed puck or picture.
Pucks are probably the most meaningful item to get signed and display in your collection. I love collecting pucks—maybe because it’s the only major sport that doesn’t use a ball—and there are a ton of options when it comes to choosing one for a signature. The puck is a hard rubber flat object that almost seems like it was meant to be signed. A silver signature across the face stands out and looks stunning. Baseballs, footballs and basketballs look nice signed, but inking a name on a round ball never seems to turn out as well as on a flat puck. I usually go with an all black practice puck, though some collectors prefer the official game puck.
Who do you get to sign? When you think of the face of the NHL, a few of the legends stand out. Wayne Gretzky is one, but his through-the-mail autographs are known to be autopens. To be fair, though, “99” has been a pretty good signer in person over the years.
laced up his skates in five different decades, which is simply amazing. Hockey is a rough sport, and the fact that “Mr. Hockey” played into his 50s, when most guys are thinking about their golden years, is a tribute to his talent, work ethic and conditioning. Howe had the opportunity to do something most pros can only dream of. He came out of retirement at age 45 to play with his two sons for the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros. Together they won two championships in 1974 and 1975.
When collecting hockey signatures, Howe is a must. Howe won six MVP awards and six scoring championships. Even more shocking than him playing until he was 52 is the fact that Mr. Hockey will still send you an autograph for free—all it takes is a couple stamps and a sincere letter. Granted, he sends out the same postcard to each fan and he does sell lots of other signed items. But his autograph is real. If you send him an item to sign, he will most likely return it with a price list. If you write a request letter, many times you’ll receive the postcard. But don’t worry—there are many Hall of Famers that will return your autograph request for free.
Legends, Active and Retired
Gretzky and Howe may be the names most remember, but there are others who can make your collection one to talk about. There are many retired legends and upcoming stars who are great at signing through the mail, not to mention playing hockey.
has been automatic through the mail, if you don’t mind using a few dollars more on postage to mail an item to and from Canada. Just be sure to have your country’s stamps on the request mailed to Canada, and Canadian stamps for the way back. LaFleur won five NHL championships during his 17-year career.
played for the Quebec Nordiques from 1980 to 1995 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. He once had four goals and four assists in one game on February 22, 1981. It sometimes takes a while to get a response from Stastny, but it’s worth the wait. He added his “HOF 1998” inscription to my card.
Recent newcomer to the Hall of Fame, Al MacInnis grew up firing pucks at a piece of plywood to practice his shot. More than 1,400 NHL games later, MacInnis retired from the NHL and the St. Louis Blues retired his No. 2 to the rafters of the Scottrade Center. MacInnis played for 23 years and played in 12 All Star games. He is a quick signer in care of the Blues.
One of the best goalies of all time, and certainly one of the feistiest, is Patrick Roy. A tough autograph, Roy usually responds to through-the-mail requests with a signed postcard. He won two championships with both teams he played on, the Montreal Canadians and Colorado Avalanche.
There are also many current stars that are receptive to signing. Mike Modano is at the tail end of a very good career. He is a captain for the Dallas Stars and continues to compete in his 23rd year in the NHL. Among American-born players, he is the all time goal scorer and point leader. Mike signs from his home address, and has a very legible signature.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller won college’s Hobey Baker Award at Michigan State in 2001. He went on to star for the Rochester Americans of the AHL and is now the starting goalie for the Buffalo Sabres. Miller’s younger brother Drew Miller plays for the Anaheim Ducks and three of Miller’s cousins have played in the NHL (Kelly, Kevin and Kip). Think it’s in the blood? Miller has always been a great signer and answers his fan mail sent to the Sabres team address.
New Faces of the Future
They may be young to the game, but upcoming stars are champs at signing. With the exception of a few of the premier players that have launched their NHL careers in the past few years, almost all of them will sign. Sidney Crosby is one of the real tough autographs to obtain, and he’s had an exclusive contract since he came to the league. Get your requests out early because hockey collecting will one day turn the way that other sports have, meaning if you don’t get them in the minors or college, you’ll have to pay for their signature when their pro careers take off.
Chicago selected Patrick Kane as the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He had a spectacular first year that earned him the Calder Memorial Trophy, which is given to the league’s top rookie. At 19 years old, he is one of the premier young players in the league. Kane hails from Buffalo, N.Y., and signs from the Blackhawks team address.
Anze Kopitar played his first game in 2006 for the Los Angeles Kings. Last year he led the Kings with 77 points. In October he signed a seven-year extension to his contract for a whopping $47.6 million. Not bad for 21 years old. Kopitar has been signing in care of the Kings, but it takes a while.
On the other side of the puck is steady defenseman Mike Lundin of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He came to the NHL via college hockey with the Maine Black Bears. Lundin, like Kane, also played his first NHL game in 2007 and is someone to keep watching.