By Hank Davis
Hockey was already at a fever pitch in Toronto, owing to a landmark season by the Toronto Maple Leafs and dreams of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. That excitement was evident at the fall edition of the Toronto Sport Card & Memorabilia Expo held Nov. 9-11.
The show’s highlights included a reunion of sorts by eight players – Bob Pulford, Bobby Baun, Mike Walton, Eddie Shack, Brian Conacher, Larry Hillman, Red Kelly, and Larry Jeffrey – from the 1967 Leafs championship team. Four players from the Montreal Canadiens – Pete Mahovlich, Pierre Turgeon, Jacques Laperriere, and Serge Savard –were also on hand for signings.
On Saturday afternoon, Jeremy Roenick faced an enthusiastic audience for a Q&A session, during which he shared unguarded opinions and anecdotes. Martin Brodeu, a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, was also on hand.
Toronto Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo Operations Manager Jeremy Renaud shared the enthusiasm.
“We couldn’t be happier with the smiles on attendees’ faces,” Renaud said. “The turnout is great and everything is running smoothly. What more can you ask for?”
The excitement wasn’t lost on attendees.
“I think this show has saved my marriage,” one attendee said with a laugh. “Every six months like clockwork my buddy George and I drive down from Detroit and spend the weekend here. I’ve got a whole room full of stuff I got here – cards and autographs. I even got a jersey last time.”
He said while he is at the show, his wife spends time with her girlfriends.
“Been doing this for almost twenty years,” the attendee continued. “At first it was a bit of a battle to come here. Now, I swear my wife looks forward to it. ‘Is this the weekend of your show?’ she asks me.”
Through all this his buddy nodded enthusiastically. As would dozens of other men in the crowd. But there were also plenty of women at the show. And kids.
Highlights for attendees included: Card collectors, card graders, and autograph seekers eager for their three minutes alone with Bobby Hull; bargain hunters and price-is-no-object shoppers. They all rubbed shoulders at the Expo for three days. Some drove in from the United States, some from the suburbs of Toronto, others came west from Quebec, and some flew in from Europe.
Although cancellations by Steve Carlton, Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith cut a deep swath in the Expo’s baseball coverage, Andre Dawson and Frank Thomas were present to mingle with fans and sign autographs.
Thomas, a behemoth of a man, provided a clinic in how autograph guests should comport themselves while interacting with fans. His cordiality and friendliness left fans smiling as they walked away from their all-too-brief moment with a celebrity. And speaking of friendliness, Bobby Hull was there to provide the same qualities to long-time hockey fans.
Corporate presence included Beckett Media, who provided on-site card grading, and Upper Deck, who marked the release of their 2018-19 NHL® Upper Deck Series One and new Young Guns rookie cards the day before the Expo began.
Hank Davis is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest and is the author of Small-Town Heroes: Images of Minor League Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.