30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Players I Hate to Love #3: Paul Kariya

I love the
San Jose Sharks.

They've been my team since they entered the league twenty-one years ago. And over the years, I've grown to really dislike certain teams: the Detroit Red Wings, the Dallas Stars, and the Anaheim Ducks.

I can't stand the Red Wings, because it feels like they win the Stanley Cup every other year... and since the Sharks have yet to reach the Stanley Cup Finals... a piece of me dies everytime they win another championship.

My hatred for the Stars revolves around one player: Ed Belfour. Thanks for everything you gave to the organization, Mr. Eagle.

And then there's the Ducks. There are so many things I can't stand about the Ducks. Annoying mascot. Division rivals. Two Stanley Cup Finals appearances. Teemu Selanne. Their 2008-09 Quarter-Finals victory over the Sharks in the season they brought home the Presidents' Trophy.

So what I'm about to tell you... is pretty hard to admit. But today is his birthday... and he officially retired in June, so he can no longer hurt the Sharks. You might want to sit down for this. Are you ready? Okay, here it is...

I'm a closet Paul Kariya fan.

I've collected his cards since the mid 90's when the hobby was booming and he was a budding superstar.

1991-92 Upper Deck Czech World Juniors #50

Remember when this card was on fire? It's one of his first officially licensed cards and were originally distributed in Eastern Europe.

But I didn't actually start liking the guy until I attended one of the Ducks Casino Nights in the late 90's. Why was I attending a Anaheim Ducks event? Well... my buddy sent me to collect autographs for him. The deal was... he paid for the trip and got to keep most of the autographs... while I had the opportunity to walk around, meet NHL players (who were the dealers at the event), and collect signatures. Oh... he also let me keep a few of the autographs I acquired... including this 8x10 photo with Guy Hebert & Teemu Selanne:

Anyways... it was a pretty cool experience. Most of the players were really nice. But the Kariya experience stood out because he was a superstar. He must have signed five to seven photos/pucks for my friend that night... and each time he did it with a smile.

Later in his career, I discovered that he's part Japanese... which meant that he'd fit nicely into my Japanese athlete PC.

But the thing I like about Kariya the most isn't his heritage or the autographs he signed... it's the way he played the game. He won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy twice in his career for exhibiting good sportsmanship. He was amazing to watch on the ice and has always been known for his work ethic and humility.

It's a shame that he never wore a San Jose Sharks jersey... because there's no doubt in my mind that the city would have embraced him. Happy Birthday Paul!

Here is today's question:

Who are some of your favorite athletes that are known for demonstrating "good sportsmanship"?

Alright... it's time to get ready for some football. Less than ten minutes to get my game face on. The Seahawks are on a bye... so I'll only be cheering on the Packers this week. Sayonara!

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