The Tuffy Cool Pose

By Richard McAdam aka RGM81

Recently, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price made some headlines for striking a pose after turning aside five consecutive Pittsburgh Penguins shooters in a Canadiens 2-1 shootout victory.

In his post-game interview, Price referred to his friend “Tuffy Cool” and said that it was something that had been in the works for a while. What only very few people know is the true identity of “Tuffy Cool” – while the media went overboard in its dissection of Price’s intentions or motives with the simple pose, it was really little more than an inside joke between two friends. I had the opportunity to speak with “Tuffy Cool,” who is better known as Wessley Perisa of StarSide Signatures.

For those who have not heard, StarSide Signatures has earned a reputation as being the most reliable and trusted source of authentic Montreal Canadiens autographed memorabilia. To commemorate the team’s 100th anniversary, under the Iconic Dreams label, a massive piece of art known as “Centennial” was created. The print features the signatures of 100 of the greatest Canadiens of all time, including a cut signature of Maurice Richard, and is rightfully known as “the Mona Lisa of sports memorabilia.” The majestic piece is limited to 2009 copies.

Centennial - The 'Mona Lisa' of Sports Memorabilia

In addition to the ambitious project that is “Centennial,” StarSide Signatures holds a number of public and private autograph signings each year with members of the Canadiens, often with significant portions of the funds raised going to charities in Montreal.

On a personal level, I’ve had the opportunity to become friends with Wess over the past couple years. We chat every so often on Facebook, and if I ever get to Montreal again for a game I look forward to meeting him. He’s become my go-to guy for all my Carey Price autograph needs, and there are close to a dozen signed photos on my wall bearing the distinctive Price 31 Authentic holofoil logo.

After receiving my latest pieces (a dual signed Carey Price/Patrick Roy memorabilia card and a Price photo featuring the stick that is the centrepiece of my collection) I thought it would be interesting to know more about Wess, how he got into the business of sports memorabilia, and his thoughts when he saw Carey Price break out the “Tuffy Cool” pose.

A StarSide Signatures 1/1

Richard: When did you get into the sports memorabilia industry, and what was it that guided you in this direction?
Wess: I got started in the sports memorabilia industry in 2000, and evolved into sports marketing in 2003. I was always a sports fan in general, and hockey always took centre stage. When I realized it was possible to make a living big or small I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.

Richard: Did you collect hockey cards as a kid? Any memories of certain cards going in bike spokes or lost in games?
Wess: Of course! Doesn’t every Canadian kid? I remember VIVIDLY collecting the O-Pee-Chee from 1982-1987, and had a dozen or more of rookie cards of legends like Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Patrick Roy, and so many more. I had a bunk bed with my older brother, and we would have friends come over and we would play “tops” off the top bunk. The purpose of the game is who ever can drop their card from the top bunk onto the other gets to collect both cards! I was DEADLY!

Richard: When we were kids, the only way you could get a card signed was to actually meet the players – the hobby has definitely changed. Do you still collect cards today? What do you think of some of the advances that have happened with making cards, like the inclusion of pieces of jerseys and autographed cards?
Wess: I do not collect cards anymore. My last year of collecting came during the era in which card companies expanded from good old O-Pee-Chee and Topps to Upper Deck, Score, Pro Set, etc. I enjoyed collecting when I could collect EVERY card to complete EVERY set for an entire year, but that became impossible with so many sets, and then came the sub sets, and refractors and the like. I do feel the card industry SAVED itself when they thought outside the “wax box” and came up with signed cards, and even more creative, the game used cards which borders on GENIUS.

Richard: So if not cards, do you have any special signed photos or other items that you keep for yourself?
Wess: I don’t have nearly as much as I used to have. I have let many items go in charity auctions, gifts, etc. The items I do have though at this point ALL mean something to me. A recent addition is among my favourites; I will talk about it later.

Richard: When building your brand and getting started, how does a new company build a reputation and a clientele? Do you deal directly with the players or do you go through their agents?
Wess: It takes YEARS to build relationships with the players and their agents, and I have to admit I have been pretty blessed to get to work with the many players that I have to date.

Richard: Who are some of the players that you’ve had deals with, and have done signings with over the years? What would be your “dream” signing session?
Wess: Wow, there have been HUNDREDS. Some key legends I have worked with would be Jean Beliveau, Bobby Hull, Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, Mike Bossy…my mind is racing now I gotta stop! As for my “dream” signing session, that’s tough. But if we are sticking with hockey I would have to say my dream signing if I could pick individuals who are no longer with us would be to sign with Maurice Richard and Pelle Lindbergh.

Richard: Do you have a physical store to sell items, or is everything online? You’ve got the official websites (www.starsidesignatures.com and www.iconicdreams.com) – are there other venues that people can find your items?
Wess: I used to own a massive gallery, but closed it down during the lockout. Now I supply stores all across North America, and of course have my two main websites.

Richard: Your biggest project to date is of course “Centennial.” How did you come up with the concept, and can you describe the process of how something like that eventually ends up in final form?
Wess: To be brief, the idea came from wanting to do something special to celebrate the Canadiens’ 100th Anniversary in 2009. At first the idea was to have 6 legends and 6 current players sign a special print. It then grew to 12 legends and 12 current players, and from there the idea to have 100 players sign as a truly historic tribute to 100 years came together. As for how a project like Centennial ends up in final form, that is a story worth telling, but you will have to wait for the book.

Patrick Roy Signing "Centennial"

Richard: With “Centennial,” was there official participation with the Canadiens organization to bring some of the players on board? Were they able to help you to get a couple guys you really wanted to be included?
Wess: The only participation I received from the Montreal Canadiens was a legal notice demanding I stop production of Centennial. I altered the print to alleviate their concerns, and that’s the extent of their participation.

Richard: Having to get 100 guys on board on your own must have been a challenge, but on the upside you got to spend some time with a lot of the all-time greats to wear the bleu, blanc, rouge – that must have been a great experience to hear the stories of some of these players.
Wess: That was one of the most enjoyable things about the project. Getting to listen to the stories, and even better, listen to the players talking to one another and sharing laughs together. Some had not seen each other for DECADES! It was a pleasure to work with almost all the players, but I shared some great conversations with Jean Beliveau, Charlie Hodge, Bobby Smith, Ralph Backstrom, and again my mind starts racing, as most of the players are as classy as they come!

Richard: Of all the guys that you’ve worked with, Carey Price is probably the hottest current star. How did that relationship come about, and what has it been like to work with him over the course of his career?
Wess: I had my eye on him during his run at the World Juniors [in 2007], and then again during his AHL playoff run. A good friend of mine put me in touch with his agent that summer, and I signed him to a multi-year deal before he played one single NHL game. I just had a feeling. I am proud to call Carey a friend, and see BIG things in his future.

Richard: Price is usually described as a pretty calm and collected player on the ice, that doesn’t let much get to him. Is he pretty much the same away from the rink?
Wess: He is much calmer off the ice if you can believe it.

Richard: You organized a huge public signing involving Price, Josh Gorges, and Maxim Lapierre last December. There was a lot of hype on Facebook and elsewhere – how many ended up turning out, and how much money was raised for the Children’s Hospital?
Wess: We had about 1400 people attend. Not the biggest ever, but a great turnout. We raised over $11,000.00 for charity!

Click here to see highlights of the autograph signing.

Richard: That’s an amazing figure! It’s got to be a very warming feeling to see the posts on Facebook and everywhere else and know that everybody comes away so happy from an event like that – what’s it like to see a young child just beaming because they get to meet their heroes?
Wess: Everything happens pretty quick during an event, as it seems everyone and their uncle has a question for me during the event, so I don’t get to enjoy things during the event as much as I would like to. But reading all the positive comments and feedbacks post-event make it all worth while.

Richard: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about the Tuffy Cool pose after the shootout win against Pittsburgh. How did that come about, and how long was it in the works?

The Usain Bolt Pose

Wess: LOL…Saw this coming. I was with Carey the weekend he did the Usain Bolt pose after he beat Tampa in a shootout a couple years ago.

I told him I think it would be sick to hit up the “B-Boy” or “Tuffy Cool” pose. Then the night before the [Pittsburgh] game I was talking with Carey and his girlfriend about the Tuffy Cool pose, and we all shared a laugh. Little did we know…

Richard: Which part of it surprised you more: seeing him actually do it, the acknowledgment of your role in it during his post-game interview, or the presentation of the stick?
Wess: What can I say, EVERYTHING surprised me! It’s a moment I will cherish forever, and having Carey give me the stick when I went to his house just shows what a good friend he is.

The Tuffy Cool Stick given to Wess by Carey Price

Richard: When the media started talking about the pose, calling it cocky and even arrogant, what did you think seeing an inside joke between friends suddenly become a media kerfuffle and supposed extra motivation for the Penguins?
Wess: It was amusing to see how much heat it generated in the media. It seemed to take on a life of it’s own for a few days.

Richard: Have you suggested to Carey that he and Fleury should do a tandem pose at the All-Star Game?
Wess: Nope. Personally I think it would have been cooler if Fleury came up with his own material. [Note: This interview was done the week before the All Star Game. During an in-game interview with CBC, Carey Price did mention that he and Fleury had talked about the pose and were thinking of doing it during the Elimination Shootout, but it never did come to pass]

Richard: One last question, what’s the best thing about being in the sports memorabilia business?
Wess: Every once and a while I get to make the dreams of others become reality. That really is…PRICELESS.

Richard: Thanks very much for your time, Wess. It’s been a pleasure!

For more information about StarSide Signatures, Iconic Dreams, and “Centennial” please click the following buttons.