I am a huge fan of autographs. I fell in love with autographs because of Jean Beliveau. He is simply the nicest athlete I have ever met. Because of him, I got hooked on collecting autographs from an early age.
My dad would mail all my letters and I would wait patiently for their return. Slowly but surely Wendel Clark and Luke Richardson sent me their autographed post cards. They were similar to glossy photo’s and signed in pen. Those were the early days of the lovable through the mail ‘graphs for moi. Now people are specific about using a special marker or colors etc. It’s rather sickening actually.
At the 2002 NHL entry draft, I decided I would collect all the autographs that I could. Slowly but surely I compiled a masterful list. Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey were the best autographs that I got that day. The more notable autographs that I got beside the two already mentioned were Brad Park,Kevin Lowe, Alain Vignault, Joel Quenneville, Cliff Fletcher, Pat Quinn, Jay Bouwmeester, Petr Taticek and a countless others. I got all these within the confines of the ACC. Uninterrupted, and everyone was immediately accessible and jovial. I remember bumping into Darren Dregger and was surprised how short he is. Sorry Darren, on TV you looked larger than life. (For the record I don’t know Darren, but funny enough anyways)
I decided to try my luck outside the stadium with my binder of plain paper and my lucky pen. What took place outside spoiled my love for getting autographs forever. There were hoards of autograph hounds with several copies of a hockey card, 8×10’s swarming each and every person that walked out the door. At one point, someone got mad because Inge Hammarstrom smudged his photo on a puck. I will never forget the face of that hound.
The second incident was when a hound pushed away a kid and his father from getting an autograph. I believe it was Ron Hextall. Ron obliged my request kindly inside the arena but outside he was a different man. Ron basically let the hound know what he thought and turned him away. That particular hound was also off the Xmas list.
This scenario repeated itself at least 40 to 50 times throughout the next couple of hours. I was ashamed to be in the same company of these folks and I slowly moved away. I decided it was time to go home with my incomplete autograph book in tow. As I was walking away, I saw Charlie Huddy. At first I was not sure what I should do, but he was one of my all time favorite players on the old Oilers teams. He was hanging with Dave Semenko, who is another one of my all time favs. I saw the hounds were going after Scotty Bowman and he was literally running away from them. The hounds continued their chase until Bowman got into his cab. Even then, they still knocked on the windows.
I decided at that moment to just admire the fact that two of my heroes were standing in front of me. That was enough and I continued my journey home. I knew in my heart of hearts I will never stop or ask anyone for their autograph. I was not impressed at the sheer stupidity of this entire experience. These hounds sure have ruined it for everyone else. Perhaps I am one of the only few that doesn’t complain when I open up a box of product and get an autograph or two. I appreciate that this player has taken the time to commit his signature for us to enjoy. Probably in the comfort of his or her own home and away from the craziness of hounds looking to make a quick buck at their expense.
Whether or not this is right or wrong isn’t my call. However perception is reality that everyone is out to make money off you and take from from a player what they need without honor and integrity or value the right of a player’s privacy. I wouldn’t appreciate if someone did that to me, so I wouldn’t do it to someone else. If I feel that someone can get an auto for me and it won’t be insulting to the player, I will do so. But that happens very few and far in between. I don’t know but this is the way I feel. Like I said, it’s is not a question about right or wrong, just my opinion and my feeling towards this as a whole.