[A periodic feature here at Dark Blue Jacket Plus, "Pucks 'n' Stuff" serves to highlight the stuff that's sitting on our shelves, in our shoeboxes and on our walls. It's the quirky history of the Columbus Blue Jackets brought to life. If you have CBJ-signed memorabilia or other unique Blue Jackets merchandise, email photos to me at darkbluejacket [at] sbcglobal [dot] net, and I’ll post ‘em for you. If you happen to have a story about how you got the puck, or a favorite recollection of the ex-Blue Jacket whose memorabilia that you’re sending, feel free to share it as well!]
Like Major League Baseball – but somewhat unique in comparison to professional football or basketball – the National Hockey League is unique in that it has a meaningful minor league system. The minor leagues – and by this, I mean the American Hockey League – are places for young players to gestate after finishing their major junior or college careers, for injured NHLers to recover from injury or find their games all over again, for sub-NHL talent who still want to make a living playing hockey and for once-NHLers to make a last shot at returning to the show. This mixture makes for some fascinating stories, as movies like Slap Shot and Goon have shown.
In the case of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the minor league team in question is the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. The Falcons – affiliated with teams as diverse as Hartford, Winnipeg/Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Edmonton over the years – have partnered with the CBJ for the past two seasons and enjoy their own legions of fans in New England (especially Western Massachusetts) that span the years. Minor league teams are like that, with their own diehards. Speaking of, I’ve been following one of their uber-fans, Twitter’s KatyLovesHockey (who is a fantastic Twitter follow if you’re interested in how things are going down on the farm). She linked me up with a friend of hers, Jerod Yelinek, who…well, has a healthy dose of Camsanity. By that, I mean he has a LOT of Cam Atkinson cards (as both a Falcon and Blue Jacket) and pucks, many of which are signed. The incredible thing is, Atkinson has only played one full season of professional hockey! This demanded further investigation, so I asked Jerod to share his Atkinson fascination:
The beginning of my collection started out with a few autographed hockey pucks at the end of the 2010-2011 season. Cam had just finished up at Boston College and was starting his pro career in Springfield. I was able to catch him outside the Mass Mutual Center with everyone crowding around him, as we all could see we had lightning in a bottle.
The 2011-2012 season started, yet we didn’t have Cam. By early November, we had our perennial all-star forward back. I started to look around eBay to see if there were any cards out, but the only ones available were the Upper Deck Young Guns and Black Diamond cards. I started out by grabbing a few of each on eBay, and then I noticed The UD Exclusives and Ruby Rookies starting to pop up. I then started getting a few of each of those, as more and more cards started to appear. The more different cards that started to appear, the larger my collection started to grow; it started to become a competitive obsession. Now the challenge was to see how many of the different cards I could get signed. The collection today keeps growing, the more rare the cards, the better the challenge.
What are we talking about? Check out this montage of his collection:
As you can see from the photos, there are a lot of the limited print cards that are signed already, including the “No Numbered” Score Hot Rookies. Some people think that getting cards autographed takes away from the card, I think the opposite, and I think it gives your collection more character. I am hoping that I won’t be able to get the rest of what I have autographed, as he definitely deserved a spot on the Columbus Blue Jacket roster. Maybe we will get a new young exciting player, and this will have to start all over again.
I can’t wait to see which of the many promising young Jackets get the Jerod treatment next! Thanks for sharing, Jerod!