Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Hockey Life: Not feeling it

Two stacks of autographed cards sit on my desk. Out on the dining room table, more than a dozen signed pucks await cataloging, doing nothing more than collecting dust. A scattered pile of photos, some autographed, some not, cover the top of one display case. I see them every day, knowing they need to be put away.

For some reason, though, they've sat untouched for months. Over the summer, when Colin was home, I could understand it. We'd always have something better to do. And that 16-day road trip, well, that was also far more important. And, now, even as I've gained some free time, I give them nothing more than a passing glance.

It wasn't all that long ago, really, when hounding and adding to our collection was a major part of our hockey life. We wouldn't go to NHL or AHL games just to watch. No, it was all about getting items, from jerseys to pucks to cards, signed. There were even Saturday mornings when I'd made a 166-mile round trip to downtown Boston just to get in 45 minutes of hounding.

That doesn't happen anymore.

Part of the reason, I believe, has to do with Colin's hockey. Trust me, too, that's not a complaint. Funding his dream (hell, who am I kidding, our dream) takes up a good chunk of our spare change. That's why, up until a month ago, I was working 60 to 65 hours a week between the paper and my freelance gigs. Even though that has dried up -- temporarily, I hope -- we're finding a way to continue the journey.

Another reason, and this is likely more prevalent than Colin's hockey, was the investment of time it took to hound. Beyond the actual on-site time, often hours hanging out at some hotel, I tried to be prepared, as in having items ready and being able to identify the players. Because we're building a collection, I spent a considerable amount of time researching a player's team history and Vaults 1 and 2 to avoid duplicating autographed items.

Finally, and I said this last season, we still need the NHL to reload. After nearly 15 years of hounding, there are very few players who haven't signed at least one item for us. Sure, we don't mind getting a few extra here and there, but we don't need 15 autographs each from 98 percent of the players in the league. That's why we were choosy in a far fewer trips last season.

Provided there's a season, and we'll know within a week, I'm not real sure how active we'll be. The possibility of a lockout, too, has contributed to my apathy. During the 2004-05 lockout, our location in New England afforded opportunities to get autographs. This time, though, those conditions don't exist.

Should, however, a season take place, we'll try to get in a few sessions. Saturday mornings, when Colin's hockey schedule allows, will be our primary time. I imagine we'll go out for certain teams, too, namely the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and most, if not all, of the visiting Western Conference teams.

To that end, I've started buying some cards, picking up O-Pee-Chee fat packs so far. We'll be on the lookout, too, for Score's early offerings. Low-end cards fit the budget. Photos, I'm afraid, aren't even on our radar. As for pucks, I'm hoping to clear out our existing supply before placing an order.

Really, we need more puck cases than anything else. You know, just in case I ever want to put those pucks away.

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