Sunday, January 24, 2010


This past week, Jean Beliveau was admitted to hospital after suffering a mild stroke. He is recovering and hopefully, in time, will be back to 100%. Get well soon!

Beliveau is known throughout the league as the "classiest" player ever to play the game. He was a very tough player to beat on the ice, but that competitive exterior was immediately shed one he stepped off the playing surface.

Beliveau has always had time for his fans. Signing autographs for one and all. A smile and at times a story will always follow.

I was thinking of a way to incorporate Mr. Beliveau into my blog this week and after looking through some of his cards, the idea snapped into my head.

This man's penmanship is flawless!

Without question, Jean Beliveau's autograph goes down as one of the nicest in NHL history. Smooth, legible and written with patience and purpose.

I started comparing his autograph to other players from his era, and found quite a few examples of quality penmanship.

Maurice Richard holds a close second in my eyes for nicest autograph. He's another who always took his time to sign his name. Take a second to appreciate it - it's a gorgeous sig.

Bobby Orr was quick on the ice, and his signature has a bit of "extra flow" to it, but as you can see, his name is still quite legible.

"The Big M" has a real nice autograph. Those longer last names just really shine when written out nicely. Must have taken a bit to pump those out for the fans, but well worth the wait.

Case in point. Perreault has an equally eye-catching signature. Purposeful and precise.

These were just a few examples that I found (and it didn't take me long to dig them up). Please note, not all the cards are mine. I did snag a few pics off the internet for example purposes only. I apologize if I borrowed someones photo without permission. I did not do it with bad intentions.

I wanted to compare the autographs of past players with the signatures of today's NHLers. The results were like night and day.

This card is the perfect example of two parallel universes colliding. The grace and structure of Mr. Hockey vs. the speed, flow and confusion of Henrik Zetterberg.

What was "Hank" thinking when he signed this card? Did he not see the gorgeous Howe autograph above? And what's with that squiggle at the end? Is that a pig's tail or what?

Oh wait.....there's more.

I think this card goes down as having the worst signature. He should be immediately suspended from any and all autograph signing. What's the point of putting pen to paper when that's the best you can come up with.

Another winner. I can't think that O'Sullivan is being bombarded with autograph requests (after all, he's a second line player for the Oilers). Terrible.

Even the superstars aren't immune to the crappy signatures. Alexander the Great looks rather bleak when critiquing his autograph. That said, I can only immagine how many times he's got to squiggle that one out in a day, a month or a season.

For a guy with fast hands, his autograph certainly matches. Back when he was a rookie, he had a more drawn out and legible signature. Not anymore. Too bad, I like him as a goalie....but not a signer.

Ugh. An "S", maybe an "s". That's all I can kind of make out in this one. These guys must get together and give each other lessons or something.

Another one where I don't really see any letters, just a bunch of scribbles. I've seen kindergarden kids with more legible handles.

I don't even know where to start with this one. What is it? A couple wavy lines and some divots in between. Nice. Worst thing is - he planned it that way. Brutal.

What has happened over the past 30-40 years to turn our hockey idols into a bunch of scribbly scraps? Is it a generational thing? Are they just short for time? A.D.D. or something? Maybe they just didn't learn how to write their name when they were growing up?

I hope that players (and people in general) rediscover the importance of this lost art.

Maybe I should be looking at it from the other side of the fence. The older guys were probably taught and re-taught the importance of penmanship. They probably wrote a lot more letters than the stars of today (after all, e-mail and texting is the preferred method of "written" communication these days).

It's sad though. The grace and flow of a gorgeous signature is becoming a rare breed, soon to be extinct.

Thankfully there are still examples of an era gone by.
Good on ya' Jack Johnson!


  1. First off, I didn't know Beliveau had suffered a stroke and I wish him a full recovery. As a Bruins fan, I have been raised to loathe the Canadiens, but its hard to truly despise an organization that has Beliveau actively involved.

    Secondly, this is a GREAT post and one I was thinking of writing down the road. I mentioned it in my Clint Smith post, but I'll repeat myself. The old timers (and this goes for the other sports to) took pride in their signatures. 9 times out of 10, you can read each and every letter. Check out Elmer Lach's autograph sometime; it rivals Beliveau.

    I get frustrated when I see autos like Samsonov and Luongo. They are just scribbles. At least with Laraque and Hossa, it looks a little artistic.

    I remember when I was growing up (I'm only 32) practicing my signature in school when bored, writing it over and over and over again, looking for a perfect, legible, and cool signature in case I became famous. Do current players not do that?

  2. And to think that these examples you've shown from most of today's players are ones that they were paid to provide. Good stuff.

  3. Thanks guys. It was amazing seeing the stark contrast between the players of today vs. those in the 60's and 70's.

    Dare I say, the worst autograph from back then would rival the best from today. :)

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. I've been told Samsonov's actually says "Sergei" in Cyrillic. I'm not certain though, as I can't read hand-written Cyrillic, only printed.

  5. Interesting Drew. That's something I did not know.

    I always wonder how their signatures start off when they are younger and how they "evolve" through their playing days.

  6. I think the Laraque one is signed upside down.

  7. That would explain a lot of things....but I don't know.

    The only discernible part of that sig is the number 27. (it is 27 - right?)

  8. Something to consider is that unlike the 'boys of old', today's players probably sign THOUSANDS of cards a year. I would want a quick and easy signature, too. ...i'm just sayin'.

  9. Agreed. But there's a difference between quick and sloppy.

    Look at Gretzky, Howe, even Beliveau. They are in just as many products as the current NHLers, yet they have a great looking signature.

  10. true, they are probably in just as many products now, but back when they developed their signature as teenagers, their autograph was probably not as sought after as the players of today. gretzky may be the exception here, but his father probably would have demanded he do a somewhat legible signature! :-). i'm sure there are plenty of other exceptions, too, but with the amount of autograph hunters today combined with the products with signatures (for even junior players that will never go anywhere!), a quick and easy signature is almost a requirement if you want to get everything signed and have time for a life. just my humble opinion. not that i don't like the 'old time' legible autos more (i especially like gilles gilbert's could put a ruler under that and it'd be a perfect line!), i just understand today's autograph penmanship.

  11. Solid insight Dave.

    I agree that the players of today probably have more on their plate than players of an era gone by.

    I do think though that it is a conscious decision made by the player.

    Thanks for the opinion!

  12. This was an excellent article... I just looked for several of those players autographs on eBay and COMC... hopefully I can pick up a few of them for my PC.

  13. Thanks Fuji!

    It was a lot of fun finding examples of great autographs. There were so many eye-catching sigs (both good and bad).

    Thanks for the comment.