Hockey collectors are different. Cards just don't really seem to capture the rush that draws a die-hard fan to the ice on a cold winter's night.
The buzzword for great hockey collectibles is "game used," just as it is in several other sports. The difference is that some hockey collectors intentionally hoard the game-worn gear of guys who aren't really stars and don't play much. In fact, the tattered, blood stained jersey of an enforcer like Georges Laraque or Riley Cote may be all the more valuable, thanks to the vicarious adrenaline charge it carries.
The hockey collector website Gameworn.net gives collectors several hints that help tell a fake from the real deal. For one thing, the worse the thing looks, the more likely it is to be authentic.
Scuff marks known as "board burns" result when a player is checked hard—the fabric of the jersey may even melt from the body-on-wall friction of a grinding hit. Gameworn also notes that the interior fabric of a well-worn jersey should be pilled up and matted with sweat, rust, and most likely blood.
In addition to precious bodily fluids, a game-worn hockey shirt will sport rips and tears, both mended and unmended. Many players also request specific personal alterations that suit a specific style of play. Some like a tighter shirt to prevent grabbing, while others keep it loose—the better to shuck and throw down when needed.
Of course, jerseys aren't the only thing going. Gameusedsticks.com is pretty up-front about what they offer, though their selection of jerseys and goalie equipment is top-notch as well. In fact, if you love net-minders like we do, there's a whole collecting sub-culture that finds expression through sites like Goaliegamers.com and the site of the troublingly-named Goaliestalker.
Players come and go, however. For serious hockey collectors, there's only one way to go: Get your own ice resurfacing machine. Better known to most of us as the Zamboni.
Other icy-hot memorabilia for your holiday week:
Vintage Cooper SK2000S Hockey Helmet:
"Minimal Soiling" is really an underused eBay buzzword, don't you think?
1969 O Pee Chee Gordie Howe Card:
We understand the value of a Howe "Mr. Hockey" card. Really, we do. But 89 bucks for a piece of cardboard, during a recession? Ouch.
Original Six Pin:
Funny, we can't find Phoenix in there. Must be an oversight.
Frozen Four Puck—U. of North Dakota:
Any event that can be won by the likes of the University of North Dakota (seven times!) and Rennselaer Polytechnic (twice) is friggin' awesome.
Jarome Iginla's Socks:
We were a little grossed out by this item until we saw that it was the outer sock, and not the sweat-soaked inner.
Gretzky Game-Worn L.A. Kings Jersey:
Vintage "Great One." Not bad, not bad at all.
Zamboni Ride for Charity:
We told you the Zamboni is awesome. This package comes with four 100-level tickets to the January 8th Kings/Ducks game, but only one can ride. 100% of the winning bid goes to the Los Angeles SPCA.
Steve Yzerman Commemorative Stick:
Not game-used, as Stevie Y would have probably balked at hitting a puck with the image of his own face emblazoned on the business end of this bad boy. Takes note of his 800th point. Produced for the '90-'91 season.
Got anything awesome we should see? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.