At the All-Star Game in Montreal this year, I toured the memorabilia displays in an adjacent building one afternoon, bouncing from the McFarlane toy display to a dozen hockey card stands to the wisenheimer that had a "No. 4 Lecavalier" Montreal Canadiens jersey hanging above his table.
Tucked in the back corner of the room, away from the flashy new products, was a table of dusty relics that inspired a groundswell of geek nostalgia as soon as my eyes locked onto it. These were antiquities of hockey's bygone eras: Tarnished old buttons and pins from defunct teams tacked onto a corkboard; and several NHL patches that each told their own story.
Patches. We need more stinking patches. They're so fleeting that they become collectable curiosities in the span of a single season. UniWatch pointed to a Web site called NHL Patches last week, and we were hooked; honestly, where are you going to see a Detroit Red Wings patch asking fans to buy war bonds to support our troops in World War II?
Along with the classic patches up top, some other hits from the NHL Patches site:
• The Nordiques wore this 'Rendez-Vous´87' patch on the sleeve of their jerseys in commemoration of the all-star series against the Russians.
• Speaking of international flavor, this needs to be a T-shirt in the NHL store, with a sumo breaking a hockey stick on the back.
Coming up, we meet Klaus, the man behind NHL Patches, who chats about his passion for patches. What's your favorite patch in the NHL or for your franchise of choice?
Klaus Stadler is a 38 year old from Austria. If we had you guess what the guy behind NHLPatches.info does for a living, how many would you have needed before getting to "employee of the Austrian Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying"?
His first site was about his NHL authentic jersey collection, which he started around 2002. NHL Patches has been online since Fall 2007, and continues to grow.
Here's Klaus ...
Q. What was the inspiration behind creating the site?
KLAUS: I´m a great fan of the New Jersey Devils and had about 20 Authentic on Ice jerseys. In 2005, when the Devils wore the 'JM' patch, I started to "adorn" my jerseys with related patches: Devils 10th Anniversary for my Daneyko Christmas jersey, Stanley Cup 1995 Patch for my MacLean Ultrafil jersey, Hall of Fame 2001 Patch for my Gomez jersey and so on. And so my interest in NHL patches was born.
Q. What are some of your favorite patches in the collection?
KLAUS: I love a lot of them but my Top 5 are --
2. New Jersey Devils - 10th Anniversary 91/92
3. NHL - Game ONe 2000 Japan
4. Chicago Blackhawks - All-Star Game 1991
(They are all Originals and some of them are really hard to find!)
(Cause it looks great!)
Q. What are some of the patches you're dying to get your hands on?
KLAUS: The next Top 5 --
1. New Jersey Devils - Prudential Center Inaugural Game
2. Los Angeles Kings - 30th Anniversary
3. Detroit Red Wings - 50th Anniversary
Q. Finally, does the NHL currently do enough with patches? Seems like the only time they have them is to honor someone who died or a team anniversary. Should there be more?
KLAUS: Oh, that's OK. It wouldn't be fine if all teams have a patch on their uniforms each second game. Patches should be something special. Some teams are very restricted in using patches (Flyers, Devils, Stars).
I'm always happy to see a new patch during a game, but 10-15 patches a year is fine.
• • •
Eh, maybe Klaus has a point. Teams could go overboard with the patches thing pretty quickly. Which would make them as pedestrian as Bobbleheads one day.
If you've got a lead on a patch Klaus needs, hit him on email here.