Wooden still the head of the class in signing, too

If you ask any autograph collector who the nicest signer of all time would be, you would probably come up with a list of dozens of generous athletes and celebrities who all go out of their way to help collectors.

For every bad signer, there are plenty of great ones out there who continue to make the hobby so much fun. Yet there is still not many, if any, that are any better then the legendary John Wooden. The former UCLA head basketball coach, who is considered to be the greatest college basketball coach of all time, is far and away one of the greatest with the Sharpie, as well. The man has been as kind and gracious with his time toward fans as he has been successful on the court. Wooden guided the Bruins to seven national championships during his tenure and has four undefeated seasons on his resume.

Now 97 years old, Wooden is still as great as can be for collectors, as he remains one of the most reliable mail signers in all of sports. Wooden continues to answer his fan mail in rapid fashion. With his age, Wooden’s family has asked collectors to stop sending to him unless you have not gotten the legend’s signatures previously. He is such a nice guy that he can’t turn anyone down, but with his age getting up there, collectors need to be respectful of him and not abuse his generosity.

Success stories
Another star right up there with Wooden is former Los Angeles Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela. The 1981 National League Rookie of the Year recently signed a magazine for me in care of his home address. As always, Valenzuela gives one of the nicest looking signatures around. Other recent mail successes include: Todd Blackledge, Keith Byers, Ray Childress, Anthony Dilweg, Dick Groat, Chris Hammond, Bert Jones, Ricky Jordan, Greg Landry, Andy North (golf) Tony Rice (former Notre Dame quarterback), Al Rose, Frank Tanana, Everson Walls and Bobby Witt.

Wild about signing
Keeping on the same trend with the nice guy theme, there is not a better team in the NHL in the terms of signing than the Minnesota Wild. Ask any collector across the country, and they would have a hard time ranking another team much higher than the Wild. They are all great, from the top player to the role players on the roster. After a quick exit in the playoffs in 2007, the Wild repeated the same scenario this year.

Their big-name player and all-star, Marian Gaborik, continues to be one of the better signing stars in hockey. Gaborik has always been good about signing, but the only problem is his signature is pretty tough to identify. He has a couple of lines up and down and that’s it. He still is always kind and nice enough to sign when asked.

All season, the Wild have been riding the hot goaltending from Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. The duo has given the Wild a chance every night with their solid play in the net, and both are very solid off the ice, as well. Both guys will never turn down a request when they are asked.

Head Coach Jacques Lemaire has been the man in charge of the Wild since the team came into the league eight years ago, and the Hall of Famer is always very kind with autograph requests. The former Canadians scoring star will never turn down anyone who asks him. The other great signers on the team include Eric Belanger, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brent Burns, Keith Carney, Pavol Demitra, Kurtis Foster, Kim Johnsson, Mikko Koivu, Mark Parrish, Brian Rolston and Nick Schultz.

Dancing with the Ducks
Not quite as nice as the Wild are the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. They are not the best signing team in the league, but should they be since they are the world champs? It would be difficult to label them as tough to get, and that is saying something for a defending champion. Try obtaining signatures from a team that is coming off a championship season in the other three major sports and I guarantee they are tougher to get than the Ducks. Pretty much every player on the team stopped and signed at some point during a recent visit to St. Paul, Minn.

The Ducks are loaded with veteran stars who should be difficult to obtain, but they were still quite impressive here in town. The trip was the first of the season for veteran superstar Teemu Selanne. The future Hall of Famer came out of retirement to re-join his former club after sitting out the first four months of the season. After guiding the Ducks to the title last year, adding him back into the mix surely helps bolster a roster. Selanne has always been a great signer during his days in the league, and this trip to Minnesota was no different. He gladly stopped and signed despite the below-zero temperatures.

Another sought-after signature of a veteran who also came out of retirement during the season was Scott Niedermayer. A winner of four Stanley Cup  championships during his tenure in the league, Niedermayer is still considered one of the game’s top defenseman. Not only is he stellar on the ice, but he is an also still a great signer. The only complaint with him would be his quick signature that turns out looking pretty sloppy.

The other popular autograph on the Ducks was from goalie Jean-Sebastien Gigure. The Ducks were riding his hot hand during their playoff run last season. Gigure was nowhere to be found before a team practice, but he did stop and sign for everyone waiting before the game.

The other good signers with the Ducks included Brandon Bochenski, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Todd Marchant, Brad May, Rob Niedermayer, Sean O’Donnell, Corey Perry, Mathieu Schneider and Doug Weight.

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