Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pucks galore

One of my faults, and I do have many, is that I get bored very easily. Way too easily. Doing the same thing over and over and over again, up to and including even the most complex of tasks, is a sure-fire recipe for mischief, tomfoolery and catnaps. While I've learned to tolerate most things (being a daddy has helped with that), I just can't stand mind-numbing boredom.

The same thing, I believe, can be said for my hobby. After a while, I realized that most of the pucks, even if they are official game pucks, were looking the same -- usually a silver scribble over a team logo inside a white circle. Very seldom was a player gracious enough to sign the black ring of rubber surrounding the logo.

That's why, as my collection has grown to more than 600, I've found myself using as many different pucks as I can. Not only does this variety let me build impressive collections of certain players without the scourge of duplicates, but it also staves off the boredom brought by using the same style of puck for every player and team I hound.

Having said that, though, these pucks do serve a useful purpose. If you're just getting into the hobby, or making the step up to pucks from cards, tracking down a dozen or so basic autographs pucks will serve you well. Chances are, too, they'll be cheaper and easier to find.

As I've built my collection, I've turned to a variety of pucks out of sheer necessity. Rather than getting a player three or four times on the same puck, I do a little research (check out and learn about the minor, junior or college teams in his career. Even specialty pucks, which commemorate a team's anniversary, accomplishment or a special event, can be used.

Mostly, though, I use the different pucks to make hounding interesting. Different pucks add color. They add texture. They add balance. And they add life.

I'm not saying everyone should have as diverse a collection as mine. In fact, I hope I'm the exception (or obsession, as my wife believes) rather the norm.

Pucks shown above, from left:

Florida Panthers: Jay Bouwmeester, San Antonio Rampage, Feb. 13, 2005, Manchester, N.H.
New York Rangers: Marcel Dionne, Hall of Famer, Feb. 13, 2005, Manchester, N.H.
Atlanta Thrashers: Kari Lehtonen, Chicago Wolves, Feb. 13, 2005, Manchester, N.H.

These three pucks were among the 100-plus I collected during the 2005 American Hockey League All-Star Classic on Feb. 13-14, 2005, in Manchester, N.H.

Specialty pucks

Of all the pucks I've had signed, these specialty items are the most fun. It's not because they're lighter than others. And they're certainly not any cheaper. What makes them fun is that they're an easy way to increase your collection of an individual player without ending up with duplicates.

As far as I'm concerned, and I believe there are others who might share in my belief, the only reason to have star players or prospects stop signing pucks is when you run out of new, relevant ones.

Following that philosophy, I've built pretty nice collections of Boston's Patrice Bergeron, Carolina's Eric Staal, Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Washington's Steve Eminger.

A couple of caveats, though. These hard can be hard to find, and could be a little more expensive. You'll have your best luck with team stores and puck distributors.

Pucks shown above, from left:

2005 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs Division Semifinals (Providence Bruins vs. Manchester Monarchs): Patrice Bergeron, Providence Bruins, May 25, 2005, Providence, R.I.
New York Rangers 75th Anniversary: Brian Leetch, Boston Bruins, Aug. 25, 2005, Boston
2005 AHL All-Star Classic: Ryan Miller, Rochester Americans, Feb. 13, 2005, Manchester, N.H.

The Bergeron puck is the 600th of my collection.

Minor league pucks

Thanks to the NHL lockout last year, plenty of NHL-caliber players and prospects played for American Hockey League teams. Talk about your target-rich environment. Recognizing the opportunity, I used pucks from these minor league teams, primarily the AHL, to quickly add to my collections of individual players.

Just like the basic autograph and specialty models, these pucks can be purchased from the AHL, teams or puck distributors. River City Sports is a primary source for East Coast Hockey League pucks.

Pucks shown above, from left:

Philadelphia Phantoms: Antero Niittymaki, March 9, 2005, Lowell, Mass.
Lowell Lock Monsters: Eric Staal, March 19, 2005, Lowell, Mass.
Providence Bruins: Hannu Toivonen, May 6, 2005, Lowell, Mass.

Junior pucks

Using pucks from a player's junior team(s) usually brings a favorable response. Some have asked where I've found the pucks. Others appreciate the homework I've done to find out a little bit about their careers. To date, no player had refused to sign a junior puck.

Try calling U.S.-based junior teams, such as the QJMHL's Lewiston Maineiacs (207.783.2009) and the OHL's Saginaw Spirit (989.497.7747), as well as the WHL's Red Deer Rebels (403.341.6000), early in the season to get your supply. I placed my OHL puck order yesterday.

Pucks pictured above, from left:

Soo Greyhounds: Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Phantoms, May 25, 2005, in Providence, R.I.
London Knights: Brendan Shanahan, Detroit Red Wings, Aug. 25, 2005, in Boston
Belleville Bulls: Jason Spezza, Binghamton Senators, Feb. 13, 2005, Manchester, N.H.

The Spezza-signed puck is the 500th of my collection.

College pucks

Pucks showing college logos are excellent for building personal collections for mainly U.S.-born players. I try to limit the use, though, to some significance -- winning the Hobey Baker Award -- or as a future lesson to my son. In some cases, too, they can be used for multiples.

Of all the pucks, these can be the hardest to find and, unfortunately, rather expensive. I've found most of mine at college bookstores, paying at least $4 to $5 a puck (My usual price for NHL, specialty or AHL pucks, when I buy in bulk, is less than $1.75 each).

Pucks shown above, from left:

Boston University: Chris Bourque (son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque), Portland Pirates, April 16, 2005, Lowell, Mass.
University of New Hampshire: Ty Conklin, Edmonton Oilers, and Jayme Filipowicz, Providence Bruins, May 25, 2005, Providence, R.I.
Boston College: Mike Mottau (2000 Hobey Baker Award winner), Worcester IceCats, Feb. 19, 2005, Lowell, Mass.