Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Honoring A Celebrity Coach

Imagine you're a prepubescent kid of the 1990s. Ok, some of us were actually prepubescent, but that matters none at this point. Imagine, if you will, taking your hard-earned paper route money or allowance down to the local sports card shop to buy a package of hockey cards. You look through the various options, and decided on a package of Pro Set Platinum cards. You exchange your money for the package of cards and race outside to see which star player you've obtained for your collection. With the excitement building, you pull open the cellophane packaging to find...

... Fred Rogers' face staring back at you? You check the packaging, ensuring you actually were sold hockey cards and not some sort of PBS celebrity collectible package of cards. Indeed, you bought the right package, so what gives? Why is Mr. Rogers mixed in with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, and Ray Bourque?

Pro Set decided to include some celebrities in their 1991-92 premium card set as a bit of a subset to the players' cards. Other celebrity coaches included Buffalo's Jim Kelly, Washington's Larry King, and Chicago's Jim Belushi. Now I'm not saying that any of the above people even attended games for those teams, but I'd suspect both Kelly and Belushi went to at least one game. The partial list, as far as I can find, includes:
  • Buffalo's Jim Kelly - former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.
  • Chicago's Jim Belushi - comedian and actor.
  • Hartford's Susan Saint James - actress and activist.
  • Minnesota's David Wheaton - former pro tennis player.
  • NY Islanders' Ralph Macchio - actor.
  • NY Rangers' Marv Albert - sportscaster.
  • Pittsburgh's Fred Rogers - TV personality.
  • Quebec's Gaetan Boucher - Olympic speed-skater.
  • Vancouver's Rick Hansen - paralympian and activist.
  • Washington's Larry King - former TV and radio host.
  • Winnipeg's Burton Cummings - musician.
Pro Set reportedly produced the subset as part of the 75th Anniversary of the NHL's founding, but I'm not sure that this subset was needed to be produced. I'm talking about it today because, had stomach cancer not stolen him from us, Fred Rogers would have been 84 years-old today. I wasn't overly fond of his television program as a child, but you always knew that Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood would feature him wearing a sweater that his mom had knitted for him, the overview fly-by of his miniturized neighborhood, and his melodious singing of his theme song "Won't You Be My Neighbor?".

Rest in peace, Mr. Rogers. For 35 years, you taught the children of North America about respect, integrity, and being a good person - lessons of which a lot of the world could certainly use more today. More importantly, you were a Penguins fan, and that makes you a great guy in my books.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: