Thursday, January 6, 2011

My 97-98 IceCats Autographed Shirt, AKA the Best Piece of Sports Memorabilia I Own

Every now and then I mention the Worcester IceCats on here, the former AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. Though they were only around as a team for 11 years ('94-'05), the bulk of those years fell during the prime of my childhood, when the IceCats were the closest professional sports team to my house, which meant that I went to a ton of their games. As such I have a lot of autographs from the team, especially autographs from Terry Virtue and Stephane Roy, who were my favorite IceCats at the time.

My real pride and joy, however, is my Worcester Ice Cats t-shirt, which was signed by 18 different IceCats (plus the Mascot) during the 1997-98 season. All autographs came from post game, some from the times 1-2 guys signed, but most from one event where 10-15 guys were signing all at once. I had lost this shirt for a while in my house, but over the holiday I was digging through the attic and found it in a box of old clothes. This is truly my favorite piece of memorabilia that I own, so I'm glad it made its way back into my hands.

And here it is, in all of its glory.


The front only has one autograph on it, and that'd be my favorite player, #3 Terry Virtue. I don't know if I asked him to sign on the front or not, but he did:
I also like that he signed his number with his name, as did most of his teammates as you'll see. I'd recognize his autograph anywhere, but for other guys it helps to be able to attach a number and a roster sheet (example A, example B) to the squiggly cursive of most professional athletes. I ended up being able to identify 20 of 21 names on the shirt, which isn't too shabby for a bunch of minor league hockey players from 13 years ago!

The back is where the real action is, starting with the autograph of the IceCats mascot Scratch. It's above the word "Worcester," and is one of two autographs on the shirt in blue sharpie:

I figure I'll analyze the autos by section to break things down easier. So first we start with the left back of the shirt:
Autos include Terry Virtue again (I did have him sign twice - he's to the left of "Wor."

Below Virtue are Libor Zabransky (5) and Terry Hollinger (4):
Zabransky jumped straight from the Czech League to the NHL in 1996-97 (34 NHL games), before spending 2.5 years in Worcester for seasoning and then returning to the Czech League again. Hollinger played in 7 career NHL games.

Just to the left of Virtue is #19 Lubos Bartecko, one of my other favorite IceCats and one of the more successful guys on this shirt. Bartecko spent 257 games in the NHL between St. Louis and Atlanta with 46 lifetime goals, and he's actually still playing in a league called the SEL.

Right above Bartecko are #'s 8 (Bryce Salvador) and 37 (Reed Low). Salvador led the 97-98 IceCats in +/- and is another one of the most successful guy on this shirt, as he has 9 NHL seasons (610 games) under his belt and is currently on the roster of the New Jersey Devils. Didn't realize he had done that well for himself, but I'm very impressed. Wikipedia says his current 4 year deal is worth over $11 million dollars...not too shabby for a former IceCat! Low had 4 full NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues and another 6 games with the Blackhawks in 06-07.

To the left of Bryce, on the other side of the sleeve stitching, is #37 Jason Zent. Zent's statline confuses me, as he 25 games with the Ottawa Senators over two years, though I didn't think the Senators were connected to the Cats at all. He later played 2 games with the Flyers. He was also third in goals for the 97-98 IceCats.

Above Virtue and to the right of Low is #20 Robert Petrovicky. Petrovicky was 2nd on the IceCats in points in 97-98, so at the time he was one of the best guys to sign my shirt. He's still playing in the KHL, but his NHL career ended after 00-01 and 208 career games with 5 teams, including the now defunct Hartford Whalers.

Last but not least, to the left of Petrovicky are the two goalies, with #30 Frederic Cassivi over the edge of the shoulder and #31 Brent Johnson just under the shoulder stitching. Though they split time in the 97-98 IceCat season (Cassivi 45 games, Johnson 42), their careers split off drastically after that. Cassivi played in 9 NHL games with the Thrashers and Capitals, with a 3-5 record. Johnson is still currently playing in the NHL, and in 11 seasons he has 282 games played and a 121-100 record. I also found an on ticket auto of Johnson's from that same season at my house:
Very cool - I remember thinking I could sell this someday after Johnson was successful for the Blues. He ended up losing some of that early luster but to still be playing today is quite impressive, so I'm happy with both autos.

Now we go to the back right portion of the shirt:
The autos that jump out to me are both immediately right of "Er" - #25 Chris Kenady and #32 Stephane Roy. Both guys were huge favorites of mine, and I have both of their autographs in card form as well (and an additional 3 Roy autos on tickets/index cards). Funny thing is, Kenady only played 7 career NHL games, while Roy actually played 0. Interesting that they ended up being 2 of my favorites along with Virtue (5 NHL games).

Right above Kenady is Derek Diener, #39. He's one of the few guys on the shirt who I don't remember, and given his stats in 97-98 (7 points in 32 games) it's really no surprise. He was actually out of organized hockey 2 years later.

Below Kenady is #28 Justin Hocking, who played for a whopping 14 minor league teams during his hockey career. He also may have the nicest auto on the entire shirt.He only played 1 NHL game, which came in his 4th professional season with the LA Kings.

Rounding out this portion of the shirt were two of the trickiest autos to identify, one which was to the right of Hocking and one which was below Roy. I eventually guessed that they were #9 Erich Goldmann and #23 Mike Prokopec (which was especially tough since he left out the 2 and only signed Mike, but it looks like another auto of his online).Goldmann is another guy I didn't remember who played even fewer games than Diener did in 97-98. Unlike Diener though, he did make it to one career NHL game. Prokopec was more of a fan favorite who got in a lot of fights (in 15 career NHL games he had 11 PIM, which is impressive to me).

The toughest auto was over the sleeve though, one which I don't actually feel comfortable attributing to anyone. It's...scribbly.
I think I see a 7 (Ricard Persson?), or maybe a 17 (Shayne Toporowski?). The last name looks like an M though (Mike Maneluk?). I have no idea - maybe someone better with autos than me could narrow this down a bit more.

Finally we've reached the bottom. Two autographs here, #18 Bob LaChance and #21 Jamal Mayers:
LaChance had a ton of assists for the Cats, but was a minor league lifer who never saw the NHL. He played the 99-00 season with the Orlando Solar Bears, which is an awesome name for a team IMO.

As for Mayers, well...he IS the most successful guy in terms of NHL career on this shirt. While Salvador, Bartecko, Petrovicky, and Johnson all played a lot of NHL games, Mayers has the most (771) and is still actively playing. Mayers started out with 10 seasons with the Blues before moving to Toronto, Calgary, and finally San Jose where he is now. His success is really cool since I liked him a lot too in his IceCat days. Maybe not as much as Virtue, Roy, and Kenady, but I'd give him 4th favorite IceCat status.

So here I am at the end of this post, wondering how many non Worcester County-ites will make it all the way to the end of a post about a shirt with autographs of men that most of you have never heard of and will never heard of again. It was fun for me though, as it was nice to remember some of the names that time had made me forget (Hocking, Prokopec, and Salvador especially) as well as recognizing the successes of a few of these guys (for instance, I knew Johnson and Mayers had decent NHL careers, but I never knew that Bryce Salvador or Robert Petrovicky had done so too). I hope you at least got a little enjoyment out of this walk down memory lane - now I just need to find someplace to put this thing to show it off on a regular basis!

1 comment:

  1. This is some cool stuff! Brent Johnson actually lived pretty close to where I did (Farmington Hills, MI) when I was younger, so I followed him a bit when he came up with the Blues. Team-signed stuff is always awesome.