I didn't feel like going to the game since I already have gone for the Mariners eleventy billion times this year. I'll save my money, time, and effort for the Astros this week and the Twins in two weeks.
Anyway, I was looking through my external hard drive at the autograph site I used to have ages ago (2003-2010 or so) and remembered I still have all my old hounding reports from that time. So, I figure I'll post a few excerpts from them.
Such as, my first ever attempt...
Monday, January 20, 2003
Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
My first day! I went out at 8:45 am. Players began arriving around 10. Very cold (25, but VERY cold with wind chill below 10). Due to the weather, few players stopped to sign. The crowd at its largest point was about six of us. Steve Shields walked by with no one recognizing him until it was too late. Hal Gill walked to the arena, stopping to sign for everyone on the way. Glen Murray came out to sign, but only for 2 or 3 people (I was not one of them). I didn't bother to stick around to get the Caps. Totals: One Autograph.
I didn't know that opposing players weren't accessible at all at the Garden (or FleetCenter as it was called then). Or that pregame wasn't worth trying 99 times out of 100. You live and learn, I guess. I sure did. A week later, I found myself astonished that Martin Lapointe signed three cards for me in one fell swoop. Needless to say, three is now average for me. The truly awe-inspiring ones are those who sign 8 or more for me.
It took almost two weeks before I got the hotels figured out, and I was off an rolling. My first time out was against Montreal...
Thursday, February 6, 2003
Montreal Canadians vs. Boston Bruins
This time, I went out to the Marriott Copley at 8 am, hoping to catch the Habs nice and early. However, I didn't know until after I arrived that they weren't leaving to skate until around 10. So, after a Burger King breakfast and a quick read of the Boston Globe, I went over to the hotel. As usual, the guys I see at Fleet Center were there with a few cronies. We all waited around, and the first to come was Niklas Sundstrom. He signed a 3x5 card for me (I would have had him sign my card if I could have seen who the hell he was). Soon after came Jose Theodore and Mike Ribeiro. I got Theo to sign my card, as Ribeiro snuck his way on to the bus. Next to come was Saku Koivu-- the big one I wanted to get!! I even wore my Finland hockey hat and everything. Everyone else got in quickly, and he signed for all of them, while I got nothing. Not long after Koivu came Andrei Markov, who signed my card very neatly in Cyrillic (much like Nikolai Khabibulin). After him, I got Joe Juneau (he only signs JJ, but it looks cool) on a card. Igor Ulanov completely blew us all off. Randy McKay stopped and signed two for me. To finish it all off, Stephane Quintal signed a 3x5 for me (see Niklas Sundstrom). So, despite knowing who very few were, I think I did all right. Totals: Seven autographs.
Whenever I hear about how tough the hotels are here in Dallas, it definitely makes me wish for the easy days of going to the Marriott in Boston. Connected to a mall, security was relatively lax, it made for many easy experiences...
Friday, February 28, 2003
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins
Day was warmer (but that's not saying much), but with light snow. I went down to the Copley Marriott just before 3 pm. For the first time, I was approached by security, asking what I was doing there. Fortunately, we all were permitted to stay. The bus came in not long after 4 pm, and the players all went for their bags, and ran for the door. Todd Warriner signed a 3x5 card for me on his way in. Jeremy Roenick signed for everyone, signing two cards for me. I followed the other autograph seekers into Copley Place to wait for more players. There we got Eric Weinrich, who signed 4 cards for me, and Eric Desjardins, who signed one per person. Soon after, Marty Murray, Guillaume Lefebvre, Dan Seidenberg, and Eric Chouinard came up the stairs together. Each (except Chouinard, whom I somehow missed) signed a 3x5 for me. Following them were Kim Johnsson and Marcus Ragnarsson. Ragnarsson signed a card for me, and Johnsson signed a 3x5 (would have had him sign my card had I known it was him). Donald Brashear was the next to come up the stairs, refusing to sign for anyone. He said "Later" to at least one person. True to his word, he came down and signed for a few of us about 20 minutes later. He signed my Hockey Fighting Department shirt. Next, I went downstairs to Starbucks and got Ken Hitchcock to sign my Flyers team card. I continued outside, where a couple of us saw Craig Hartsburg and Wayne Fleming. We followed them inside, and each signed a 3x5 for me. Finally, I got a picture taken with Brashear, and got Gary Dornhoefer to sign my HFD shirt. Totals: Eighteen autographs.
Granted, security wasn't as awesome everywhere. Over at the Copley they were more strict about kicking people out even if all we were doing was trying to get out of the cold and the rain with the team having not arrived yet.
Friday, April 4, 2003
Buffalo Sabres vs. Boston Bruins
I arrived at the Westin at 2:30 pm. The largest crowd we had at any point was 5. At 7:15, I was promptly kicked out of the atrium of Copley Place. By 7:30, only two of us remained. The bus finally arrived at 7:45. Miroslav Satan signed one card for me, followed by two cards signed by Martin Biron, and four from Daniel Briere. In the mall, Ales Kotalik signed a card I had just traded for. TOTALS: Eight autographs from 4 players.
I ended up with 342 items signed that season, which wasn't too bad considering I didn't do anything from October through mid-January and usually only tried to get one card signed by each player when I first started out.
Due to heavy schoolwork and other issues, I didn't write as much in the first part of the 2003-04 season, then following a hard drive crash in August, I lost all my info from March and onward. But there was at least a little info.
2003 was the worst year of my life, bar none. It seemed things like this (and most of the time worse) happened on a monthly basis...
New Jersey Devils, 10/8/03
7 pm game
Great weather, average sized crowd night before and at game time. The team was pretty good about signing all around. Had my bag stolen at some point, losing some cards, a puck or two, and my multi-player signed Hockey Fighting Department T-shirt. Never found it. Dammit. The crappy luck of 2003 continued.
Getting back to graphing was a nice bright spot though. Got to hang out with friends, add to the collection, and just get my mind off things. And of course, it's cool to meet the players when they're nice, like Ryan Walter.
Vancouver Canucks, 11/15/03
7 pm game
One of the best groups of signers out there. Naslund, Morrison, both Sedins, Sopel, Linden, Salo, Cooke, Jovanovski, Chubarov, Malik, Keane, May, Allen, Cloutier, Hedberg, Crawford, McIlhargey, and Ryan Walter all signed. Walter signed my only card of him (from 1990-91) and said "What, you got some old cards for me there? Hey, a 1964 one, alright!" Only rough spot on the team was Bertuzzi.
One of the things I've discovered is that the hounds in every city are exactly the same. I can describe a guy in Boston and find a relatively good comparison to him in Dallas. I can describe these guys to someone in San Jose, and they can put a name on them all. The faces and names change, but the characters are the same.
Take Ace, for example. For the life of me I can't remember his name. But you may know someone like him. Ace is a blocker. He'll get in his spot and not move from it at all. And he's not exactly a small guy either-- not huge, but enough to screen you nicely. Most of the time, I get a guy and get out of the way, then most collectors have the courtesy to let me back in my spot. I try to do the same for them. Ace was a pillar: not moving. He drove around a van loaded with giant Rubbermaid containers full of stuff to get signed. Pucks, balls, cards, photos, books, calendars, posters... and from every team too. I can understand it if you want to get your 2003 Bruins calendar signed by everyone in it. But a Phoenix Coyotes one, along with a New York Rangers one and a Vancouver Canucks one? How many calendars can you display at once?
Sadly, I got stuck behind Ace once...
N.Y. Rangers, 1/19/04
1pm Game on Monday the 19th
I went to the Ritz-Carlton at 9 am. First I was able to get Brian Mullen returning from getting coffee at Starbucks. He signed all 8 cards I had for him. Coming to the bus, I was stuck behind Ace, so I got almost no one (this was due to my attempt at getting John Davidson to sign-- in related news, he won't sign his Fleer Greats of the Game card). Darius Kasparaitis signed one after running for coffee. Vladmir Malakhov also signed one. Joel Bouchard signed both my cards, and Jamie Lundmark signed one on his way to a cab (just before the bus arrived). Total: 13 autographs from 5 players.
I try to help out friends whenever I can. Russ got some items signed for me when I was out on Christmas and/or Spring breaks, so I helped him out with a few on the Sabres, and still massively racked. This also shows the importance of doing one's homework, as I missed out on some easy graphing early in the day.
Buffalo Sabres, 1/21-22/04
Game 7 pm Thursday the 22nd
I went to the Westin at 4 pm. It turns out, the Sabres had arrived at 2 am and had a practice at the Fleet Center. I just missed the first bus coming back. Alexei Zhitnik signed 3 cards for me out of a taxi. Riding in the same cab was Jochen Hecht, who signed two. The second bus arrived, and I get Scott Arniel to sign 6 cards. Also off the bus, Jason Botterill signed 2. Moving up to the mall, Dimitri Kalinen signed one for me. Daniel Briere signed two, and Taylor Pyatt signed one. Not long after that was announcer Rick Jeanneret, who signed my team logo card, and James Patrick who signed two cards. The coaches came by again, and I had Lindy Ruff sign my other team logo card. To finish it off, Andrew Peters signed my card of him.
I returned to the Westin on Thursday at 9 am. The players came out at around 10. Unfortunately, they paraded. I was able to key in on Brian Campbell and he signed 5 for me (3 of mine and two of Russ' cards). Next was Henrik Tallinder, who signed the only card I had of him. Alexei Zhitnik signed 3 more for me, and Eric Boulton signed my photo and Russ' card.
After this, I went to Fleet Center to get the Bruins. Unfortunately, we weren't ready and missed Samsonov, O'Donnell, Rolston, and Donato. Finally, our slump ended with Mike Knuble, who signed 3 for me. Rob Zamuner walked out and signed 3, then driving by was P.J. Axelsson, who signed two. Not long after Axey was the trio of Martin Lapointe, Dan McGillis, and Patrice Bergeron. While everyone racked on Bergeron, I got one from Lapointe, and two from McGillis. Following them were Glen Murray and Nick Boynton. Each signed one for me. Felix Potvin came out about 10 minutes later, and signed two for me. Recent call-up Shaone Morrisonn walked out with new teammate Jiri Slegr, and signed the only card I had of him. Finishing it off was announcer and former player Bob Beers, who signed the last two cards I have of him. Totals: 51 autographs from 24 players.
My lone experience with Bobby Orr has soured me on the man forever. I have sigs from Gretzky, Howe, and Lemieux. I just need Orr to complete the Big Four. What happened when I tried? This...
Florida Panthers, 1/24-25/04
Game 7 pm
Lanny called me at 8 am. WE HAVE A BOBBY ORR SIGHTING!!! I quickly got dressed, packed my stuff, and ran for the Marriott. After waiting for an hour or so, Orr finally emerged from Gourmeli's, and Lanny and I went for it. We asked for a picture, and Orr responded with "I didn't think your type were allowed in here." He stopped for a photo with Lanny, and turned and left before I could get a picture with him. I called out "Mr. Orr, could I get a picture with you?" He kept walking toward the escalator and down. "Mr. Orr, can I get a picture with you down there?" Orr shouted back "You can't come down here!" What an ass!
Fortunately the Panthers were pretty good about signing after Orr steamrolled me. Even in a surprise opportunity the next day!
It turned out, the Panthers were set to stay over one more night, so I went back to the Marriott once more at 9 am on Sunday. Juraj Kolnik walked by us inside, and Russ asked him when they were practicing. He said the bus leaves at 12:30. Se we waited around, and went outside at around 11:45. First we spotted Steve Shields, who signed 3 cards for each of us as he flagged down a cab. Next to come by was Kristian Huselius, who signed one for each of us. Next to come by was Matt Cullen, who signed one for each os us. Roberto Luongo came next, signing two for each of us, and Viktor Kozlov, who signed one. Kozlov even asked if I had anything I wanted him to sign before I got him! Donald Audette came out next with three others. He said "Aw shit, get out of here you guys!" then laughed and signed one for each of us. Last to come was Valeri Bure. He signed 3 for each of us before getting on the bus.
Remember back when the Penguins sucked? As a fan of theirs, I do. Believe me, I do. They were better signers by then, but some were still sticklers about it. Like Bob Errey...
Pittsburgh Penguins, 2/1/04
Game 1 pm
I went to the Lenox at 6 pm. The team came in at 7. There was a small crowd of us, only five total-- me, Marty, Russ, Tino, and Tino's dad. I got Rico Fata immediately off the bus. He signed 3 cards for me. I also got Sebastian Caron to sign my only card of him. We then moved up to wait by the street when announcer Bob Errey came out. He signed 3 of my 8 cards. (Drew's note: Russ was the one who recognized Errey but wasn't certain it was him, asking "Bob? Bob Errey?" Ever since then, I referred to him as "Bob? Bob Errey?" whenever Russ mentioned him.) After him was Brian Holzinger, graduate of Padua High School in Parma, OH. He signed my Brooklyn arena puck, and we talked about Cleveland-area hockey a bit. He said he and his family gave some consideration to US (my old high school) before going to Padua. Next to come was a crowd of several players. I got Kelly Buchberger as he crossed Boylston Street. He signed the 3 cards I had with me. Also there was Steve McKenna, who also signed all 3 cards I had of him. I waited around for another hour in case any players returned, then left at about 8:30.
I returned to the Lenox the next morning, at 9 am. There was a bigger crowd this time-- about 12 or so of us. First out was Tom Kotsopoulos, but I had nothing for him. Next was Drake Berehowsky, who hurried to a cab, but still signed one for everyone. The bus arrived, and Randy Hillier was the first to board, signing a card for each of us. Marc Bergevin was next, signing all 3 of my cards of him. Kelly Buchberger once again signed 3 cards for me. Milan Kraft and Brian Holzinger came out together, and each signed 2 for me. Hall of Famer and assistant coach Joe Mullen came out next, and signed one for everyone. Notice to all out there, he insists on personalizing pucks. Mike Eastwood was next, signing 2 of my 3 cards. Head coach Ed Olczyk was next, signing one for some, then getting on the bus. I was lucky enough to get one from him. Next came Bob Errey. He was a real asshole today. While signing, he asked "What do you guys do with these things?" One answered simply "We collect them." Errey then went on a long rant on how if you don't sell them, then you can just send to the team for autographs. He still signed one for everyone. He signed the wrong one for me, so I got Tino to get Errey to sign the right one. So he did 2 for me overall. Aleksey Morozov was the next one out with Dick Tarnstrom. I had nothing for Tarnstrom, but got Morozov to sign a card. One more time, Rico Fata signed 3 cards for me, as did goalie Jean-Sebastian Aubin. Last to come was Hall of Fame General Manager Craig Patrick, who signed one for everyone, as well as stopping for pictures. TOTALS: 40 autographs from 17 players.
RIP Brad McCrimmon. I haven't used the term "jerseys" since you corrected me.
Atlanta Thrashers, 2/3/04
Game 7 pm
I went to the Marriott on Monday at 4 pm. The team, it turns out, arrived the night before and practiced at Northeastern. A few of them walked the mall. First to be spotted were Frederic Cassivi and Francis Lessard. Lessard signed my photo of the 02-03 Chicago Wolves, and Cassivi a card. Next was Zdenek Blatny, who signed a photo. We followed Byron Dafoe toward the Prudential Center mall, and he signed a card for each of us. Next was assistant coach Brad McCrimmon. A great guy, he signed 9 cards for me. He pointed out his 90-91 Score and 91-92 Pro Set cards as his favorites, the Pro Set because of the old jerseys the players were in. Or, "sweaters," as he corrected me. We waited downstairs, and I missed Ivan Majesky and Ronald Petrovicky as I tripped and fell on my way out to get them. Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov requested extra security guards so they didn't have to sign for us. I missed Marc Savard on his way into the mall, but got him to sign a card upon returning. Frantisek Kaberle signed my only card of him, and Patrik Stefan signed 3 outside while waiting for a cab. Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre signed my only card of him on his way out to a cab, as did Tomas Kloucek.
I returned at 9 am. The players paraded, unfortunately. I was able to get Shawn McEachern to sign 3 cards, and Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre to do one. Finally, we got Kovalchuk to sign as he came out at the back of the pack. However, I got stiffed by Dany Heatley, the last to leave. TOTALS: 25 autographs from 12 players.
Boston: colder than Sweden.
Florida Panthers, 2/22/04
Game 7 pm
I went to the Marriott on Sunday at around 2:30 pm. The small media bus was first to arrive (around 3:30) , and I was able to get Denis Potvin coming off it. He signed 2 cards for me. I got Nathan Horton off the bus to sign a puck for me. First to come inside the mall were Vaclav Nedorost, Lukas Krajicek, and Juraj Kolnik. Each signed my only card of them. Next came Matt Cullen, Branislav Mezei, and Steve Shields. Cullen signed one, Mezei two, and unfortunately, my paint pen was giving me grief, so I missed Shields. Next up was All-Star Olli Jokinen. He signed a card for each of us. Security kicked us out, and we moved downstairs, then outside. Out there, I was able to get Byron Ritchie on two cards, and Marcus Nilson on one. Marcus, hailing from Sweden, tried to claim "It's cold out" in order not to sign (Nilson was shipped off to Calgary a few weeks later. Cold enough for ya now Marcus?). Last to come was Valeri Bure, who signed a puck for me.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of things. Also, I love Burke's comment.
Philadelphia Flyers, 2/27-28/04
I swear, I'm never going to class on a day a visiting team is practicing. In addition, I'm not scheduling a band practice EVER when a team is coming in. Because of these, I missed half the team. Friday, I missed the Flyers practice (several people got sticks from players and tons of autographs from everyone), and missed them coming back by a matter of minutes. I arrived at the Ritz at around 4 pm. I was able to get Joni Pitkanen to sign 2 pucks. After him, Alexei Zhamnov signed 2 cards, and Radovan Somik signed 1. Craig Hartsburg signed all 8 cards I had for him. Sean Burke was next out. He did 2 cards for me, and a puck I had my friend Nick get him on. After a long wait, John LeClair came out, signing 2 pucks for me. Last for the day was Claude Lapointe, who signed my 3 cards.
The next day, I returned at 8:45 am. First out was Brian Propp, who signed all 9 cards I had of him. Bobby Clarke was next, signing a puck. Not long after him was assistant coach Terry Murray, who signed my 2 cards. The bus arrived, and all 17 of us went over. I got in a poor position, unfortunately. I was able to get Robert Esche on 3 cards, then Alexei Zhamnov on 2 pucks. Sean Burke signed my Florida Panthers puck ("I forgot I played there," he said, laughing) and Simon Gagne signed a puck as well. Last was Marcus Ragnarsson on a card. I missed out on everyone else, thanks to my crappy positioning (at a crappy hotel).
You have to love when players have good attitudes about signing. Take Peter Bondra, for instance...
Ottawa Senators, 3/23/04
7 pm game
Not as good as last trip. Most of the team signed, but the crowd was bigger and players had a team dinner. New addition of Bondra is good (He had a phone call and stopped to say "Hey let me call you back, I'm busy signing;" he also accidentally started signing the wrong card-- one of Todd White-- stopped, apologized profusely, and signed another card. I was able to remove the autograph and later get it signed by White.) but otherwise, the team wasn't as good as on previous trips. Managed to get Rob Ray on a puck, which is a victory in and of itself. When I asked him, he said Joe Kocur is, by far, the hardest puncher he's ever fought, even moreso than Tony Twist who broke his orbital bone.
Tie Domi. If you rearrange the letters in his name, you get "me idiot."
Toronto Maple Leafs, 3/25/04
7 pm game
Again, blown off by most of the team, but I did finally get Tie Domi. While I was standing with another collector, Domi came out and the guy called out to him saying "Please, Tie, I've never gotten you before!" He stopped at the door to the bus and said "Never? You've never gotten me? Alright, but don't ever ask me again." Domi signed one per for everyone and went back to the bus. At the door he turned back again and said-- "Remember, don't ever ask again" and got on. Whatever, I'll take it. And I'll certainly ask again. Back to back minor victories in getting some of my all-time favorite fighters.
I did some baseball hounding too, but didn't write about individual outings. I did at least do a half-assed rating.
2004, The good (consistent signers), the bad (never sign), and the ugly (VERY hard to get):
GOOD: Tom Foley (Tampa Bay coach and former MLB infielder), Sean Burroughs (San Diego 3B), Barry Zito (Oakland pitcher), Dan Gladden (Former MLB outfielder, Twins announcer), Danys Baez (Tampa Bay pitcher), Milt Thompson (Former MLB outfielder and Phillies coach), most of the New York Yankees (Joe Torre, Jon Lieber, Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, Miguel Cairo, Tony Clark, Ruben Sierra, John Flaherty, Bubba Crosby, Dioner Navarro, Tanyon Sturtze, Orlando Hernandez, and Mel Stottlemyer all signed a ball for me), Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek.
BAD: Lou Piniella, Mike Lieberthal, most of the Phillies, the rest of the Yankees, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez.
UGLY: Gary Sheffield, Bruce Bochy, Larry Bowa, Mariano Rivera, Hideki Matsui, most of the Red Sox.
2005, Same deal:
GOOD: Casey Blake, Grady Sizemore, Don Mattingly, Jamey Wright, Johnny Damon, Lynn Jones, Aaron Boone, C.C. Sabathia, Kevin Millwood, Josh Bard, Jason Stanford, Robby Thompson, Jeff Datz, Dan Williams, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Scott Elarton, Bob Hoery, David Riske, Fernando Cabrera, Matt Miller, Steve Karsay.
BAD: Jhonny Peralta, Jose Hernandez, Alex Cora, Jody Gerut, Buddy Bell, Joel Skinner, Eddie Murray, Rafael Betancourt, Arthur Rhodes, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Scioscia, Bengie Molina, all of the Yankees, all of the Red Sox not named Johnny Damon.
UGLY: Alex Rodriguez, Victor Martinez, Ben Broussard, Eric Wedge, Ron Belliard, Coco Crisp, Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook, Jason Dubois.
That's enough for now. I'll post more from the old days in Boston and Cleveland later. Maybe even some from my few Texas outings before TCG came into existence.