I went to my first ever NHL game (and first hockey game period) in St. Louis on December 30, 1986. The Blues were playing the Bruins, and they won (4-3, if I remember right).
After the game, as my parents and I were leaving, I spotted a souvenir stand where they were selling sticks used by Blues players. For $10! Imagine that in this day and age. These sticks were obviously intended to more for kids to buy and use than to be collectors items. They didn’t come with any certificate of authenticity, and no word on whether they were actually game-used or just practise-used.
My indulgent parents gave me the okay to purchase a stick as a souvenir, so I made my way up to the stand. There were lots of people around shouting out which stick they wanted and it was a little overwhelming. I was still a pretty novice hockey fan at the time, but every time the Blues had been on ESPN in the past couple of seasons, the announcers had pointed out how much more tape than usual Mark Hunter used on his sticks. I spotted a big tape knob there in the pile of sticks, and proud of my obvious hockey knowledge, told the clerk that I would take the Hunter stick, right there with the big tape knob. And thus it became mine.
From that day forward, I’ve suffered some buyer’s regret about my Mark Hunter stick. After all, Bernie Federko was my favorite player at the time, but since I’d been able to instantly ID the Hunter stick, I hadn’t even taken the time to see if they had any of Federko’s Titans. But I’d honestly rather have a Federko stick. And hell, Federko is in the HHOF, while Mark Hunter is pretty much forgotten as a player, although he did have that one big year when he scored 44 goals. If not for Mark Hunter’s big tape knob, maybe I would have a Bernie Federko stick right now…