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Random Sunday Morning Lightning Hockey Card

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It’s the offseason, let’s talk about a hockey card.

Top Three Picks Photo by Brian Winkler/Getty Images

It’s Sunday. It’s the offseason. What are you doing reading a blog about hockey? Go read a book or something. Well, if you are going to stick around and read something, I’ll be darned if it’s going to be something worthwhile. So welcome to a new, random series here at Raw Charge: The Sunday Morning Card of the Week.

I promised y’all there would be hockey cards, didn’t I? It’s not my fault you forgot. So, during the next few weeks, as we wait for the season to ramp back up, I’ll be digging into the piles of cards sitting in my closet and pulling out one per week to talk about.

Up first, why not a little trip down memory lane, when the Tampa Bay Lightning had a choice to make. With the number one pick in the 1998 NHL Draft the Lightning had a choice between two centers - the highly talented Vincent Lecavalier, referred to at the time as the best player to come out of the QMJHL since Mario Lemiuex or, David Legwand, a highly-regarded, if not as flashy center from Michigan who had put up 105 points (54 goals, 51 assists) in 59 games with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.

The choice between the two playmakers was immortalized in a 2011-12 set from Panini.

2021 Panini Rookie Anthology Draft Year Lecavalier/Legwand (front)
JustinG. personal collection

2021 Panini Rookie Anthology Draft Year Lecavalier/Legwand (back)
JustinG. personal collection

Our first card in the series is the 2011-12 Panini Rookie Anthology Draft Year Combos card.

It is a part of a 40-card insert set included within the Rookie Anthology product, a mishmash of designs that featured a lot of, you guessed it, rookie cards. It wasn’t a great rookie class (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the highlight at the time) and the base set was only 165 cards. Rookie Anthology usually came out later in the year, allowing Panini to include some rookies and players that weren’t in their earlier releases.

Along with the base set, Panini based some of the inserts on old, classic designs that you might recognize if you collected cards back in the late 1990s like Crown Royale, Limited, and Pinnacle. While it’s a fun set to break because of all of the designs and the relatively high amount of autographs and relic cards, it was annoyingly difficult to finish off the set (especially since the rookie cards are all short-printed) and log them.

For instance, it took me a good five minutes to remember and find the exact set that this was a part of when I began this post. If you picked up one of these cards in the wild (i.e. not right out of a pack) it takes some time chasing down which year and which product it actually belonged to.

That’s part of the joy of collecting I suppose. I’m pretty sure I picked this card up off eBay after having ripped open a box of these cards and pulling a different card out of the set. I can’t remember exactly which one it was, for some reason the Devin Setogouchi/ Marc-Edouard Vlasic combo looks familiar. I figured they’d have a Vinny card in it so I looked up the checklist and low and behold there was one. (There is also a Steven Stamkos/ Drew Doughty card, but that may be a post for a later date).

It’s always nice when a franchise-altering moment is captured on cardboard and the drafting of Vincent Lecavalier was certainly that. There wasn’t really much debate as to who the Lightning would select. Sure, they made overtures about considering Legwand with the pick, and there was even a rumor that General Manager Phil Esposito considered trading the pick to Colorado Avalanche^:

“Esposito said the Lightning has fielded a few trade offers. Colorado continues to have interest in acquiring Lecavaler, but is unwilling to meet demands for center Peter Forsberg, defenseman Adam Foote, and a first-round pick”.

With a lot of trade rumors from the Esposito Era, even if the names came out of Phil’s mouth they have to be taken with a grain of salt. The boisterous general manager has been known to embellish a tale or two in his time.

That trade would have been something, eh? For the record, Colorado had four picks in the first round and were rumored to have offered all four to the Lightning in exchange for the first over all.

While in hindsight drafting Lecavalier seems like a no-brainer, there would have been some desire on Esposito’s part to move the pick for some veteran players that could help the Lightning immediately. When Art Williams purchased the team the previous spring, he had given Esposito and his management team a year to turn things around or else suffer the consequences (i.e. getting fired). So, turning the first overall pick into players that could immediately help the team would have been an ideal way to keep his job.

Instead he stuck with Lecavalier, who might not have become the Michael Jordan of hockey, but he did lead them to a Stanley Cup and had his number retired by the organization. Legwand went on to have a pretty solid career of his own, appearing in 1136 NHL games, mostly with Nashville, and putting up 618 points (228 goals, 390 assists).

^St. Petersburg Times, June 27th, 1998 “Lightning is eager for draft” Tim Buckley, retrieved 8/14/21