The Detroit Red Wings can be grouped into an elite class with teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. All are very successful franchises that have had their fair share of wins, but what puts them into the same class is for the headaches they can bring collectors.
For the past decade, these teams have consistently been extremely difficult to obtain signatures from for collectors across the country. In Minnesota, we experienced that with the toughest team in the NHL to chase, the Detroit Red Wings. We walked away with some of the stars, but it still took many tries to collect what we did.
Two signatures never obtained were no surprise, since Chris Chelios and Henrik Zetterberg are two of the worst signers in the NHL. The 46-year-old Chelios, who is completing his 22nd season in the league, has been a nearly impossible autograph to snag for many years.
Zetterberg has only been in the NHL for four seasons, but since day one, he has been a brutal autograph signer. He did not sign again this time through St. Paul. There are collectors who are having successes with him through the mail when writing in care of his agent, but one would have to be a bit skeptical about the authenticity of those autographs since Henrik is such a bad signer in person.
On the positive side, the normally good signer Nicklas Lidstrom was his usual friendly self and signed for collectors waiting at the team hotel. He has been a bright spot with the normally bad-signing Red Wings for many years, which is impressive with all of his success he has had on the ice.
Lidstrom has won the Norris Trophy five of the past six seasons, played in nine All-Star games, and has won three Stanley Cup Championships during his 15-year career. He is fairly consistent with collectors in that he will not sign every single time he is asked, but he will usually sign at least one time during every trip into a city.
Another future Hall-of-Famer with the Red Wings who did pick up the pen and sign was Dominik Hasek. The six-time winner of the Vezina Trophy, Hasek is not the easiest signature to obtain, but at least recently he has been signing at one point or another on each trip.
Also stopping to sign after practice was the team’s leading scorer, Pavel Datysuk, who has become a pretty good signer with the Red Wings. The other good signers with Detroit included the following players: Aaron Downey, Dallas Drake, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Jiri Hudler, Niklas Kronwall, Kirk Maltby, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski.
Top club full of top signers, too
A team not quite as difficult to obtain, the Vancouver Canucks also came to Minnesota during the regular season. The Canucks were one of the better teams in the Western Conference, but that success has not brought out any poor signing habits.
The most sought-after signature with Vancouver was All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo. Now with his third team in his career, Luongo seems to have found a home and has proven to be one of the game’s best goalies. He did stop and sign after a morning practice. The only problem with him is that his signature is barely legible; it’s just a quick little scribble.
The twin brother tandem of Daniel and Henrik Sedin were also both willing signers during their time in town. The brother duo has been the two top scorers for the Canucks this season. The only problem is they frequently leave the hotel and arena together, so picking out who is who is a difficult task.
Veteran and team leader Trevor Linden continues to be force on the ice, even as he finishes up his 19th season in the NHL. Linden is even better off the ice, as he has always been very gracious and a willing signer for collectors during his entire career.
The other good signers included the following players: Luc Bourdon, Alexandre Burrows, Jeff Cowan, Ryan Kesler, Aaron Miller, Willie Mitchell, Markus Naslund, Mattias Ohlund, Byron Richtie and Sami Salo.
Mailing it in
With the baseball season in full gear, most collectors are thinking about which current players they will send off mail requests to. However, as always, there are endless opportunities to obtain former players through the mail.
There are many ex-players who are great signers through the mail, and one of the best is former Pittsburgh Pirates star Dick Groat. A star in the ’50s and ’60s, Groat is still great about signing even after all of these years, and he does so with his nice looking signature. Groat was the MVP in 1960 and would be a great signature to add to any collection.
Another former Pirates star who is one of the best when it comes to answering his fan mail is Steve Blass. Blass put together a few impressive seasons with the Pirates in the ’70s, and he will answer mail requests in extremely fast fashion.
A couple of former pitchers who were tough on hitters during their time in the league were Jeff Reardon and Mark Gubicza. Reardon is about as much as a sure thing as you can get in the mail autograph world. Gubicza is also a signing star, as the former Kansas City Royals ace who won 20 games in 1988 is a fantastic signer through the mail.
Other former baseball players who have been signing recently include Jim Bibby, Ty Cline, Al Downing, Moose Haas, Vern Law, Sam Mele, Zane Smith, Tom Underwood, Jack Voigt and Todd Zeile.