Doug Grant never thought much about getting carded in his younger years, but he certainly appreciates the experience now.
Hockey carded, that is.
Grant’s road to the National Hockey League is unique, and likely a path that will never be travelled again.
“That’s probably true,” said the 70-year-old. “Now they go to major junior. There’s a routine everybody follows.”
For those not familiar with the tale, Grant graduated high school in Corner Brook in the late 1960s, found a job at the paper mill, and tended goal for the Royals. As a Newfoundlander wanting to play competitive hockey, it didn’t get much better than that.
He wasn’t particularly fond of the shift work required at the mill, so he wound up receiving a Hockey Canada scholarship and attended Memorial University in St. John’s, donning the pads for the varsity hockey team.
After a game in Halifax, N.S., an executive with the Detroit Red Wings who happened to be in attendance liked what he saw and offered Grant a spot between the pipes in the Motor City.
“It’s funny how it goes,” Grant said. “I wasn’t looking to play (in the NHL.)
“As a kid, growing up, when you’re playing on Daddy Dawe’s rink in Curling, or Burnt Pond, or down the bay, everyone fashions themselves as an NHL hockey player. But a bunch of years later, it happened.”
Ken Reid is probably most familiar as a co-anchor on the sports highlight television show Sportsnet Central.
The now 44-year-old was an avid collector of hockey cards as a kid, but like most, cooled on the hobby in his 20s and 30s.
His vast collection was left at his father’s house as he travelled the country to begin his broadcasting career.
Still, whenever he went home, he found himself examining his old cards, but began to view them in another light.
“They appeared different than they did when I was 10 years old,” he said.
He’d notice things like an obviously airbrushed uniform, or the player’s name listed not being the guy pictured. Innocent errors of a simpler time.
“I started thinking, ‘I wonder what the guys on the cards think about their old cards,’” he said. “It’s kind of like the whole world has your high school graduation photo to look at.”
That thought led to a blog on the Sportsnet website, which then became a full-fledged book idea. “Hockey Card Stories” was published in 2014 and became a hit.
The success surprised him.
“I thought it was kind of my little, nerdy thing,” he said. “But I guess there are a lot of hockey card folks out there.”
The players he approached for his first book had no issue discussing the cards, often chuckling at the request.
“I’m sure it’s not something they get asked about,” Reid said.
What Reid found, however, was the discussion of the card itself would open up a whole new window into another conversation about their own experience within the sport, which became the crux of the book.
The popularity of the first book has led to “Hockey Card Stories 2,” released in October.
In thumbing through more cards for the sequel, Reid came across Grant’s rookie card with the Wings.
“What stood out to me was it was very innocent,” said Reid. “He’s posing … just leaning over. But when you start talking to the guy on that card, you realize it was such a unique journey he took to get to the NHL.
“How many guys get to the NHL playing senior hockey, university hockey, and then the NHL?”
Grant recalls when the photo for his rookie card was taken.
After practice one day, he noticed teammates paying a little more attention to their appearance than usual.
“The boys were all getting their hair all flicked back and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “I was just coming off the ice, my hair was just soaked.
“I guess (being one of the) rookies, they don’t tell you anything,” he continued. “So, the rest of the guys are there with their hair dolled up or whatever they had done with it, and I just went back on the ice and that was it.”
It was years, he said, before he ever even saw the card.
After he retired, his oldest son came home one day and informed him he had purchased the card at a card fair in St. John’s for $10.
“I said it was $9.75 too much,” Grant said.
Incredibly, Grant said he still gets mail to this day that includes that card, an autograph request, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. He received four such inquiries last week, and they’ve come from places as far away as the Czech Republic or even Japan.
Hockey Day chat
During Hockey Day in Canada last January, for which both Reid and Grant were in Corner Brook, Reid tracked down the former goaltender and asked to do lunch, so he could pick his brain.
Grant had no problem with that and the two discussed the card, and inevitably, how a small-town senior/varsity hockey goalie found himself in the NHL.
“I was psyched to get Doug in there,” Reid said. “The card is really innocent and, in a way, it represents him.
“He didn’t figure he’d wind up in the NHL. He’s just a guy that liked to play hockey and happened to be really good at it.”
Ironically, after having a little fun with some old hockey card errors, Reid made one himself in the first edition of his new book, when he says Grant went on to have one more NHL card.
“But he had two more cards,” Reid said. “So, if you get the first edition of the book, it’s the ‘error card’ edition.”
The oversight will be corrected for the second printing.
“Hockey Card Stories 2” is available at Coles in the Corner Brook Plaza, as well as online on Amazon.ca.