Well after a month of nothing, a couple of autographs have made their way back home to me in the first few weeks of 2012. The first one I am going to share with you is from a Toronto Maple Leaf great. Hard to imagine a player with more dedication, drive and desire than Johnny Bower. Johnny was 29 years of age at the end of his rookie season. Despite a decent first season, he was back in the minors that next year and would not remain at the NHL level continuously until he was 34 years old. However, what he accomplished from ages 34 – 45 would be absolutely remarkable.
Wax Stain Wednesday is a regular feature on Dirty Dangle. Our pal Dave at Wax Stain Rookie is an avid autograph and card collector and has some amazing experiences to share with us. WARNING: these posts may make you want to buy a Beckett and get those dusty hockey cards out from under your bed that you hide from your girlfriend like a secret porn collection.
I want to begin by saying, playing in the AHL in the 40’s and 50’s was still a great accomplishment as there were only 6 NHL clubs and the talent level in the AHL was certainly high. Johnny Bower was one of the BEST in the AHL during his many seasons with the Cleveland Barons and a player that good just needed to be patient and wait for their chance to shine in the NHL. Sure enough his chance would eventually come when the Leafs needed a goaltender in 1958 to work with Ed Chadwick. After a loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, Johnny Bower was the Leafs go-to goalie for the next decade. During his time in Toronto, he would win 2 Vezinas, 4 Stanley Cups and earn a resume that would make him a HHOF inductee in 1976. The last Cup in 1967, was won by having both Bower and Sawchuk between the pipes and they would be the last goalies in a Maple Leafs uniform to lift the Stanley Cup. Bower was 42 when he won that Cup and Sawchuk was 38. Kind of makes the Brodeur/Hedberg tandem seem young!
What is truly inspiring is that Bower NEVER gave up on trying to make the NHL and much like Tim Thomas, he was patient and when his time did come, he made the best of it. I can’t help but imagine that Tim was thinking of old Johnny on those cold nights in Finland where the NHL might seem like a million miles away.
Here is a Johnny Bower Rookie Card:
I mailed away one card. The ONLY card of his I owned at the time which was a reprint of his 66-67 Topps card. This card was an insert that came out in the early 2000’s and I was able to buy it for a buck with the hopes of getting Mr. Bower’s auto. What I got back in return was this card as well as a little bonus as you will see.
What surprised me was this second autograph which he gave me a second signed card.
Well that is it for this week; next post is an auto from one of the BEST American NHL players of all-time!