While the recent Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo in Toronto was a hockey autograph collector’s paradise, there was one guest in particular whose popularity has proven how far the hobby has come in the last generation.
Kim St-Pierre, considered by many to be the greatest female goaltender of all time, was a fan favorite at the show.
The Fall Expo coincides with the Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend each year. There are celebrations and events around the weekend, and then on Monday night, the induction ceremony takes place. Appearances as autograph guests at the Expo have been part of the Hall of Fame induction weekend for many guests over the years.
While Hall of Fame inductee Marian Hossa headlined the long list of guests, St-Pierre may have been viewed as under the radar. By the end of the Hall of Fame celebrations, the charismatic female goalie had stolen the show.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm for Kim St-Pierre leading up to the show,” said Expo promotor Steve Menzie. “Because of her success for Team Canada on the international stage, she is extremely popular.”
Best Female Goalie Ever
While Hayley Wickenheiser is considered by many to be the greatest female hockey player of all time, St-Pierre would be on the Mount Rushmore of women’s hockey right beside her. Their international careers took off at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the first that featured women’s hockey.
Up until the 1998 Olympics, Canada had won every women’s world championship ever played. The United States was competitive with Canada by 1998, and knocked off Canada for the first Olympic gold medal.
Women’s hockey almost did not make it into the Olympics. Japan was awarded the games several years earlier, but in order for the International Olympic Committee to allow women’s hockey into the event, the host country had to field a competitive team. The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association agreed to send a team of coaches into Japan to help develop a women’s hockey program that could be competitive by February, 1998. The tournament featured Canada and the United States, along with Finland, Sweden, China and Japan.
In 1998, St-Pierre was getting ready to play collegiate hockey for McGill University in Montreal. She was the Canadian university hockey rookie of the year with McGill in 1998-99. By the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake, St-Pierre was the Team Canada goalie. She would backstop Canada to gold in the next three Winter Olympics (2006, 2010 and 2014), as well as winning five gold medals and four silvers at the IIHF World Championships.
By the time she retired from international play, St-Pierre had established herself as the greatest female goalie in hockey history. She holds the international women’s records for most wins (24), most shutouts (15) and best goals against average (0.84).
On The Golf Course
When St-Pierre received the call from Lanny McDonald last year that she was going to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of fame, it came as a surprise. She was on the golf course with her husband and two children, when her cell phone rang. It was a call that changed her life, as from that moment on she was a Hall of Famer.
When St-Pierre and Wickenheiser took part in the 1998 Olympics, there had not been many women on sports cards. Upper Deck had made various USA Olympic sets that included women. In the summer of 1997, Pinnacle Inside WNBA was the first full trading card set featuring a professional women’s league.
Women’s hockey, as well as women’s soccer, were in their infancy as far as mainstream acceptance was concerned. Within just a few years, everything changed, and women’s sports was becoming big. Games and events were televised, and soccer players like Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm, as well as hockey players like St-Pierre, Wickenheiser and American Cami Granato were becoming household names.
Within the last decade, collectors have been more open to placing high values and high demand on cards, relics and autographs of the best women hockey players. St-Pierre has had a number of cards produced through the Upper Deck Team Canada products over the years. She has also been featured in a number of In The Game and Leaf products. Most remain affordable to just about everyone.
St-Pierre rode the wave of women’s hockey growth from being a fringe sport that was considered by many to be an obligatory Olympic sport to what it is now – a sport that sells out big arenas and whose athletes are bona fide, collectible stars.