Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Lightning and 2016-17 Upper Deck Hockey Series One

Mid-November is a great time for hockey. The season has settled in and we start to find out what teams are good (Rangers) and what teams are bad (Canucks). Statistics start regressing to the norm (Auston Matthews is not scoring 328 goals) and we start knowing which rookies are going to stay (Jakob Chychrun) and which are going back to their junior team (Mathew Barzal).
It also means that Upper Deck is releasing the first series of its flagship base set. Other hockey card sets have already been released, most notable Upper Deck MVP and Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee (a moment to remind everyone that Upper Deck has the exclusive license to produce NHL-branded cards. Other companies can make cards, but can't feature the team names or logos).

read the rest here.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

From the Back of the Closet - a 1993-94 Tampa Bay Lightning Game Program

From time to time I’ll dig into the back of the closet and find some piece of Lightning memorabilia to feature. Today I’ll look at a program from the 1993-94 Tampa Bay Lightning season (the first season to be played in the Thunderdome). Apologies that some of the photos are cut off, the program was a bit awkward to manipulate in the scanner.

Read the rest here......

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Did You Hear? The Cubs Are in The World Series

So what do you do when the Chicago Cubs are on the verge of clinching their first World Series appearance since World War II and you happen to live a short walk away from Wrigley Field? Why you grab a camera, hope you can figure out the lighting and forget that your alarm is set to go off at 5.30AM the next day.

Last Saturday night the Cubs completed their series comeback and eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to the World Series. I, along with apparently 299,999 other people, wandered up to the intersection of Clark and Addison to celebrate the Cubbies first National League Championship since 1945. Here is a bit of what I saw:

The Championship Belt

The games wasn't quite over yet. Sure the Cubs were up 5-0, but nothing is really over until the final out is recorded. Most fans that I ran into seemed nervously confident that the team would hold onto the lead. This guy, outside of the Houndstooth because no one was getting into a bar at this point, was a favorite with the crowd walking by. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was holding it upside down.

The Waiting

Blockades were up at Clark and Sheffield about two blocks south of the ballpark. I'm not sure what the rickshaw guys were waiting for, no one was leaving that place for a couple of more hours.

The Crowd

Despite the blockade on Clark, Sheffield was open all the way up to Addison. As you can see, groups of people were hanging outside the Wrigleyville bars just trying to get a glimpse of the action on TV.

The Crowd Part II

This is the closest I got to Wrigley. The first picture is looking north at the actual field (you cans see the stadium lights) The second is from the same spot looking south down Sheffield. People were packed in and the only way to move was to jostle them out of the way. Luckily everyone was in a pretty good mood and didn't care. I used my normal strategy of finding a guy bigger than me and following him through the wake. It worked pretty well.

The Win

There was a roar from inside the stadium when the final out was recorded. The crowd outside started celebrating about 1.3 seconds after that roar. Cups of beer were thrown in the air, people hugging, several different rounds of “Go Cubs Go” were being sung by the crowd. Happiness was in the air.

And no, I have idea if that pizza ever made it where it was supposed to go.

Poor Fella

There is a fine line between capturing a moment and intruding on it. I tried to get a better photo but I didn't want to be a dick shoving a camera in his face when his favorite team just did something he probably thought would never happen. I don't think he was drunk, just overwhelmed with emotion. He was mixing in a little laughter, a lot of hugs with his friend, and just a few tears.

He was one of three grown men that I personally saw with tears in their eyes.  I guess when you go 108 years without a World Series things can get emotional.

“Hey man is this for the Chicago Trib?”

Apparently, when you walk around with a decent camera and a backpack people assume you work for a newspaper. I didn't lie, but was a little vague with my answer.

One of the most popular questions I've been asked at this week is,  "So what's up with all the "W" flags?"


Lot's and lots and lots of selfies. Although this might be the only one that didn't have a "W" flag in it.

Idiot on the Lamppost

Not as big of an idiot as these guys, but still a bit of an idiot.

This Suit is Everything

Cubs suit and tie - check
Harry Carey glasses - check
Hulk Hogan "let me hear you" gesture - check.

This is by far my favorite photo of the night.

Wait till...this Year?

He wanted me to take his picture, but Photoshop out the “2015” part. He was not sober.

Who Ya Gonna Call

Inflatable Stay Puft monster with a “W” painted on him. Sure why not.

I did bail out before things got too crazy (again 5:30AM alarm). If winning the NLCS drew a spontaneous crowd of 300,000 people I can only imagine whats going to happen if the impossible does happen.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Zistle Trade 92- Picked up Some O's

I fear this is turning into a “Look at Justin's trades” blog. Well, so be it. There will be more content in the future (promises, promises). For now, enjoy my quest to 100 (trades, don't thing I'm going to live that long). Here is trade number 92. Yup, skipped one, don't worry about it, we'll get there at some point.

Once again we go to Zistle. I reached out to user bdlehman18 for a quick PWE trade. For those who don't trade cards on the internet with strangers PWE stands for Plain White Envelope. When you're only trading a small amount of cards (usually 6 and under) it doesn't make sense to put them in a padded envelope and waste a bunch of money on shipping. Instead you use a regular envelope, some creative protection (usually cardboard) and hope for the best.

PWE can be frowned upon if you don't let the other guy know ahead of time. Or if you're shipping expensive cards. Luckily I don't any of those and Brian was ok with it. I dropped him a few extras I had (including a Goodwin Champions from a box that I had no valid reason for buying).

In return he sent the following:

2013 Topps Trevor Bauer

When you are putting a set together, not every card is going to be sexy. Sometimes you have to grind out the collecting and pick up cards that elicit exactly zero emotional response. Thus you end up trading for Trevor Bauer base cards.

2010 Topps Nolan Reimold

A double needed card! An Oriole card I didn't have and a card I need for the world's most annoying set – 2010 Topps. This is also, without a doubt, the most tentative fist bump of all time. Anything harder than a gentle whisper of a touch would land Reimold on the DL with a broken wrist.

1994 Topps Cal Ripken

I'm sure I have multiple copies of this card in the Florida vault (i.e. my in-laws house) but I do enjoy this piece of junk era cardboard. It's the perfect use of horizontal framing as it captures Ripken's follow through completely without cutting off an arm or a bat. Well done Topps.

1997 Collectors Choice The BIG Show Eddie Murray

God bless you mid-to-late 90s cards. Foil – check. Random use of sports celebrities to drive an unnecessary insert – check. Random multicolor text on the back of the card – check. Really, look at the back of this thing:

 It took me a few seconds to realize that Upper Deck had mashed two different thoughts together and alternated lines. Why? Why would you do this Upper Deck?

Also, if you look you see that Eddie Murray is rocking the top hand batting glove in this photo. I'm sure this is only interesting to me, but it is the first thing I check out on any Murray card I add to my collection. I am so intrigued I think I'm ready to write him a fan-boy (well fan-middle aged man) letter asking him why the hell he would do that.

I've developed my first theory. Murray was one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. You could argue that Mickey Mantle is the only one that was better. Even though he was dangerous from both sides it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for a manager to call a reliever in to switch him from left to right or right to left. So if Murray went to hit right-handed he only brought a batting glove for his left hand (most hitters if they wear only one batting glove wear it on their bottom “power”hand). If a manager called a right-handed reliever in to switch Murray around, maybe the slugger didn't like going back to switch batting gloves so he just rolled with it.

Seriously, I thought about this for about five minutes straight. I might have even ignored some things my wife told me while I thought about this. Women, this is why you should never ask us what we're thinking about. This is what we think about.

2015 Topps Stadium Club Bo Jackson

Aww yeah. Bo knows Stadium Club. Not the most action-packed shot, but it did make me wonder – Is this the same fence from Bo's slightly more famous 1987 Topps card? 

I will argue that Jackson's rookie card is one of the ten best cards from the mid-to-late 80s. Not quite the Griffey 1989 Upper Deck, but close. Damn close.

That wraps up another trade, just a few more to get to that magical 100 mark.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

We're Back With A Trade Post

Alright, time to dust off this piece of the internet with a trade post.  As you, my faithful readers, might remember I gave myself a half-ass goal of getting to 100 Zistle trades by the end of the year.  I knocked out about 3 trades and then stopped.  There was no good reason to stopping other than laziness.  God knows it’s not like I’m buying more cards (because JustinG. Is extra broke now. If you’re interested in a nice two-bedroom condo in lovely Florida drop me a line).

But now, like Slim Shady and the Terminator, I’m back and ready to hit that goal.  Last week I completed a small trade a gentleman who goes by the name halos17, a Marty St. Louis fan living in Indiana of all places.  There aren’t many Lightning collectors circulating on the web so it’s always nice to unload some doubles on a fellow fan.

In return he dropped off a handful of cards that I was looking for.

2010 Topps - John Smoltz and Tim Hudson.

Both pitchers in uniforms that they normally aren’t associated with.  Hudson had a pretty good run with his hometown Braves winning 113 games for Atlanta before injuries set him back. Smoltz - not so much in St. Louis. The Hall of Famer signed with the Cardinals after being released by the Red Sox in 2009. At 42 he didn’t have much left in the tank as he went 1-3 in his 7 starts.

It’s just really, really weird seeing him in a St. Louis uniform.  Like Frank Thomas as an Athletic weird.  Or Andy Van Slyke as an Oriole weird. Stadium Club should show their retired stars in oddball uniforms next year.  I wouldn’t mind pulling a Sammy Sosa as a Ranger or Gary Sheffield as a Met card.

Two cards closer to completing that set (only a couple hundred more to go). I really don’t know why I picked this set to complete.  I’m not really a fan of the design and didn’t collect it when it came out (I was in the process of moving to Chicago).  I guess it doesn’t really matter because I’ve started down the road.

1989 Upper Deck - Team Card and Larry Sheets

Speaking of Orioles uniforms, two cards from Upper Deck’s inaugural set. One of these days I’m going to put this whole thing together, I’ve cobbled probably a third of it through random means.  Of course, that Griffey rookie got a little more expensive with his induction.

Did you know that Larry Sheets hit 31 home runs in 1987? That’s more than Eddie Murray (30) and Cal Ripken, Jr (27). He also only walked 31 times in 508 plate appearances, which may be more impressive than the home runs.

2015 Stadium Club - 8 cards

Once I’m financially solvent again (no really, if you want to move to Florida, Largo is a great place to live) I’m buying another box.  This really is my favorite product from the last two years. I thought I was a lot closer to completing it then I actually am (just over 50%), but it’s fun chasing down the missing cards because they all look so good.

Thank you Rob, and here’s to getting 10 more trades done over the next couple of months.

Also, I’ll get this site up and running again. There won’t be much in the way of Lightning content as you can see everything I write over at Raw Charge so expect more card stuff, some baseball (I swear I have thoughts about this O’s team) and some Chicago stuff.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Press Release Concerning The Editor of this Blog


July 29, 2016

Contact:    Francisco Churruca (555.867.5309,
Raw Charge Signs JustinG. to an open-ended contract

The Internet – Raw Charge has signed free agent blogger JustinG. to an open-ended contract to provide original Tampa Bay Lightning content for the leading hockey website. Terms were not disclosed.

JustinG., aged but still hearty, penned 54 posts for The Hopeful Chase as a free agent writer in 2015. While the majority revolved around the Lightning he has been known to branch out to cover boxing, trading cards and, every once in awhile, baseball. The Harrogate, England native set career highs in 2011 and 2012 when he posted 111 and 75 time respectively.  He was wildly unemployed at the time. The Hopeful Chase was the second blog he started, the first being Is This a Wasteland, a chronicle of life as a sports fan living in Tampa. Dozens of people besides his parents enjoyed his writing.
His only “journalism” background came in college where he wrote for the school paper.  His college roommate was named athlete of the month by the paper multiple times because JustinG was too lazy to interview anyone else. He also wrote about squirrels taking over the campus. He has never won an award for his writing.

Talent scout, Arriaga II, was quoted as saying, “We really think JustinG. will put the ‘Raw’ in Raw Charge. With his spelling errors, hazy memories and almost criminal disregard for even the basic fundamentals of grammar it will be a challenge editing his posts, but hopefully he watches a YouTube video or something and improves. He wrote for a college newspaper? Unbelievable. At least he works cheap.”

JustinG. was never drafted by a professional team. He tried out for the Minnesota Twins in high school.  Not only did he not make it past the first cut, he also managed to lose a glove.
While his Lightning writing will migrate to the Raw Charge, his other rambling and barely coherent thoughts will continue to be published here.  We apologize for that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Welcome Back Yanni and Who is Going to Be on a Hockey Card?

There was a blip of news in the Lightning world today as the club announced they were signing forward Yanni Gourde to a one-year, two-way deal. It's not quite the same as if, say Nikita Kucherov signed a deal, but it's still something. Mr. Yzerman brought back a player who was familiar with the system and should have a nice role in Syracuse with the occasional call up to Tampa Bay.

Gourde did pick up two games of NHL experience along with an assist last season when the Lightning forwards were ravaged by injury. He caught a bit of the bug as well as he suffered an injury to his finger during his two game stint with the club before being sent back to Syracuse.

He had a solid year in the AHL racking up 44 points, but not good enough to make the Black Aces Squad for the post-season. The Lightning did tender him an offer to retain his rights earlier this off-season and wrapped it up with the contract on Monday. He has an uphill battle to make the Lightning in training camp, but he will be a leader in what will hopefully a competitive Crunch squad.

That's nice and everything, but if Gourde is playing significant minutes for the Lightning, something has gone wrong. However, I did think that it solved something that has been bothering me all summer. Who would be the Lightning's representative in Upper Deck's Young Guns collection this year.

For those of you who may not be aware, every year Upper Deck releases their flagship product in two series. Series one usually rolls out in November and features six or seven veteran players from each team. The final 50 cards (well 49 and a checklist) are all rookies and have the Young Guns logo splashed across the card. As these are usually seeded about one in every four pack they aren't the easiest cards to obatin, thus they are usually one of the more sought cards for highend players.

For instance Connor McDavid's version from last year is selling for between $130 and $150 on eBay right now. Steven Stamkos is closing between $45-$60 at the moment. Those numbers will go up as the season begins, especially if McDavid continues to play well.

Last year Slater Koekkoek and Joel Vermin represented the blue and white for the Bolts, this year, well I'm not quite sure. Every team usually has at least one player with a couple getting two. The Lightning have been well represented the last couple of years. Koekkoek and Vermin last year, Vlad Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Cedric Paquette the year before and Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson in 2013-14. That's a pretty solid release.

While you think, “Hey why not just throw Brett Howden on a card, case closed.” Unfortunately the NHL and the NHLPA have some guidelines for who gets to appear on licensed cards. The number one rule is be a part of the union I'm sure, but the most important is that the player has to participate in an official game. So that eliminates Mr. Howdon.

But McDavid made it into last year's set! Yes, and there is a good chance Auston Matthews will be in this years. Upper Deck usually gambles that the top pick will make it onto the ice before their product drops in November (also one of the reasons that the flagship product releases a month after the season starts). Sets that are released earlier in the year like MVP or Artifacts include rookie redemption cards. Cards are inserted into a pack with a code. You go to the website and enter the code. Months (hopefully only months) later the card ships. That way they can wait until the player skates in the game before releasing the card.

So now that you know a little more about hockey rookie cards, let's look at who the Lightning might have represented in this year's set.

Yanni Gourde – Did he participate in a NHL game? Yes! Twice! Has he had a card released in Upper Deck's base set, yet? No? Awesome! However (there is always a however) he did appear in the “Update” set of Young Guns that was released in Upper Deck SPA. So he's out.

Mike Blundin – He got into 20 games for the Lightning. Wait he's 29? And been in the league since 2006-07? I did not know that. But he's never played more than 40 games for a team so maybe he doesn't have a card. He does? And it's a Young Guns card? Wow.

Matt Taormina – Yeah, he's old like Blundin, but he's been buried in the minors forever! There can be no way he has a card. He does? From 2010-11? The Lighting really are in between prospect classes right now.

Nikita Nesterov – Nope. He was in the 2014-15 SPA update series. Stupid updates.

Tanner Richard – While he did not actually get into a game last year he was called up for the December 20th match against Ottawa. Depending on if being a healthy scratch counts as participating in an official game he might get the call.

Kristers Gudlevskis – He officially deputed in 2013-14 and added another game in 2015-16. He's actually been in sets before, most notably the 2014-15 O-Pee-Chee set and Upper Deck Black Diamond. However, he has never made the base set. His lack of experience might hinder him a bit. Playing time doesn't really matter as the checklists of previous Young Guns set are littered with “Who are these guys?” players, but they do want to produce cards that people want (it kind of helps sells) and despite being blocked by Ben Bishop and Vasilevskiy he might sneak his way in.

Luke Witkowski – He's a strong maybe. Much like Gudlevskis he has appeared in other sets like MVP and O-Pee-Chee. He would be the safe play for Upper Deck. It would by them some time until Series 2 is released at which time maybe one of the Syracuse players (cough, Adam Erne, cough) gets a call up. Not exactly a household name, he does have a chance to make the team as an extra defensemen.

I'm hoping it's Richard. I have a feeling he's going to find himself contributing to the big club sooner rather than later.