There are times when pieces of memorabilia are shoved so far back into the closet that you actually forget you own them. After almost a decade spent living in one-bedroom or studio apartments, my wife and I have finally moved into a place with a spare bedroom/office. That means I get to hang up and display some items that have been in boxes since we left Florida. Most of the stuff is small: autographed 8x10’s, bobbleheads, pucks, that type of stuff.
Other items are not:
Yup, that is a lifesize poster of Victor Hedman - and it’s going on our wall (my wife may not know that yet, so if we can keep that between us, I’d appreciate it). So, what exactly is it? It is a Grow Financial Victor Hedman Growth Chart. With the borders and advertisement at the bottom I’m guessing this is a solid 7 foot tall poster, the perfect wall covering for any Lightning-themed guest room.
Also, kudos to Growth Financial for the idea in the first place. Hedman was the tallest regular player on the team (actually, he tied with Matt Smaby at 6’6”). Unlike Smaby, he was a rookie, first-round draft pick that fans were hoping would be part of the core that would turn the Lightning around. Tampa Bay was a middling team (they were 28-31-12 when the poster was given away) coming off some bad seasons.
With most of the items I have laying around stuffed in boxes, I know exactly when and where I acquired them. Whether it was from an arena giveaway, fan fest, yard sale, or online purchase, I can pretty much remember the provenance. In this case, and possibly due to old age, I couldn’t place exactly where I got the poster.
One thing I was pretty certain of, it was an arena giveaway. I just didn’t know when. My best guess was that it would have been during his rookie season of 2009-10. The biggest clue (other than the fact that Hedman looks 12-years-old) was the uniform. The OK Hockey uniform redesign took place in 2007 and lasted through the 2010-11 season. With Hedman joining the team prior to the 2009-10 season, that gave me a two-season window. It’s unlikely they would have given it away after the uniform switch, and, by the start of 2011 season, I had moved away from the area and wasn’t attending games.
So I took to the internet to see if I could lock down when it was actually given away. What I found? Apparently this item does not exist on the world wide web. There was no record of it anywhere. No photos, no articles, no references, nothing.
There are no listings for this item on eBay (if a team gives something away and it’s not posted on eBay, does it even exist?) or even on Pinterest, and I did a lot of scrolling on Pinterest. I was starting to doubt where I procured the item from. I even fired off an email to the Lightning, because I’m sure that’s how someone in their marketing department wants to spend their off-season, digging through records for a giveaway.
The earliest records I can find of a list of arena giveaways by the Lightning is from the 2010-11 season (which does feature a Martin St. Louis Grow Financial Growth chart), but nothing from before that. “Hedman growth chart”, “Hedman poster”, “Lightning growth chart” - all of those searches yielded interesting results, but not what I was looking for.
Finally, I went to the one source I had been avoiding - Twitter. A couple of months ago, I had it with Twitter and deleted my account. Since then I’ve lurked (through the Raw Charge account), but pretty much avoided it so I didn’t even think of it as a research tool. Which just proves I’m an idiot. I typed “Lightning” “Hedman” “Growth Chart” into the search box and in five seconds I think I found my answer. According to this Tweet:
Giveaway at Lightning game tonight = Victor Hedman growth chart! Why didn't I borrow a kid so I could get one?!?!— ⚡️ Brandi ⚡️ (@southernmojo) March 21, 2010
The growth chart was apparently given away on March 20th, 2010 in a game against the Washington Capitals. According to a post on my now defunct personal blog, I did indeed attend that game! As for the game itself, Hedman played 18:34, had one shot and finished a -1. He was fourth among defenseman in ice time, following Andrej Meszaros (23:08), Mike Lundin (22:10) and Kurtis Foster (20:25). Why yes it was a rough year for the Lightning, why do you ask?
As for the logistics of giving away a seven foot poster, if I’m not mistaken, they did not hand them out when the fans entered the building. Rather, they gave them out as the alleged 19,000+ fans left the arena. That would have been a godsend as there are few things more difficult in the world than keeping a poster in any type of decent shape while attending a sporting event. Even things like calendars or 8x10 team photos are awkward to handle unless you go to the gift shop and pick up a bag of some sort. Based on the Tweet, it seems the giveaway was intended for fans 15 and under, but in all likelihood they just handed them out to everyone.
From the game, I most likely rolled it up, stuck it in the poster tube and threw it in a closet where it would remain for the next nine plus years. It would then find a spot in closets from Largo to Chicago to Pittsburgh and finally to Salt Lake City where I unrolled it a couple of weeks ago while looking for some other prints we were getting framed.
The edges are a little rough and there is a giant crease in the middle where it was folded over (at the 3 foot mark), but I’m betting once it’s done getting framed it’s going to look just fine hanging on a wall. When we move again, and we will move again, it’s going to be a bit more difficult to fit in a box. In the meantime, he’ll be keeping an eye on anyone crashing at our apartment.