By Matthew Schultz aka MattDMC

As many of you may have noticed by the banner in my signature and many of my posts, I’ve made it fairly obvious that I collect Sergei Bobrovsky and that he is my favorite goalie in the league. With that said here’s the story of how he became my favorite and how the collection began.

Now, I will admit I haven’t been a hockey fan for long and haven’t followed the game as long as most of the members on the site but when I finally did get into it, I was hooked. When I was a kid growing up in the 90s I wasn’t really interested in hockey I would rather watch football or nascar. The only time I remember watching hockey growing up was when my parents would jump on the bandwagon when the home team made the playoffs, which being in Detroit was every season so I do have some early hockey memories of the likes of Yzerman, Shanahan, Fedorov and co.

The first time I finally started watching and fully getting interested in hockey was the 07-08 Season and I was instantly hooked. I found myself watching every Wings and Flyers game that I could since I found watching and cheering for those two clubs very enjoyable. For me, that season was perfect as both of my teams respectively made their Conference Finals with the Wings ultimately winning it all. The next couple of seasons were just as great with the Wings making the Finals to play Pittsburgh again and then a year later it was the Flyers turn in the Finals to take on Chicago but both sadly fell short. During those 3 seasons while I was watching hockey I also saw myself slowly breaking into the collecting world by picking up singles and autos of the two teams but what would happen the next season would change my collecting for ever.

The 10-11 season started out for me exactlly like the last couple had, with me sitting in my room watching the Flyers via Center Ice on my laptop. The start of the season was an interesting one as Michael Leighton was injured for the Flyers and that meant they had to use somebody else, that somebody else would be Sergei Bobrovsky. An undrafted kid out of Russia, Bob (Bobrovsky) would get the start against Pittsburgh and I remember saying to myself as he came onto the ice “Who the heck is this kid?”. He would go on to win the game and become the youngest Philly goaltender to win a season opener. After the opener, he went on to go 11-3-1 in his first 15 starts highlighted by a 10 game streak with no regulation loses, needless to say I was impressed and had found my player.

Watching his rookie season with every game that went by, I found myself liking Bob more and more with each start, his flexibility and mobility in the crease made him a great show to watch. I liked watching and cheering for Bob so much that I had bought myself a jersey of his for Christmas and wore it for every Flyers game the next two years. Other than the jersey, I also found myself buying a couple of cards of his, nothing fancy just a Young Guns and Pinnacle rookie which were my first two cards of his but little did I know at the time, that those would certainly not be the last 2 cards I’d get.

My decision to fully partake into a complete player collection would come nearly a year later in late 2011 early 2012. Earlier in April (2011) In The Game released its annual Between the Pipes set which was great as it featured a plethora of Bobrovskys which gave me a chance to pick up a couple here and there but one of them would lead to the start of my addiction… the Masked Men III Emerald. I had originally picked one up and thought nothing of it other than it’s a nice looking insert and put it into my Flyers binder but shortly after, I would find out a little more about it. It seemed that ITG had made a printing error on the card and that to make up for it, they were having a redemption program to set things right, all you had to do was send in 17 cards. Originally I was on the fence about it going back and fourth for a couple of months if I wanted to do it or not and originally told myself I wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be until December 12th, 2011 when I saw RGM81 post his Carey Price redemption he had just gotten that I decided to follow suit and do the redemption myself. I just fell in love with the card and knew I had to get the Bobrovsky one. After a couple of months of frantically checking eBay and posting new threads on the forum, I had finally found my 17 Masked Men. I definitely overpaid on most of them but I was hooked and I wanted it bad. That mini addiction to the Masked Men Emerald would start to fuel an even larger addiction to collecting Bobrovsky because at that time, I only had 13 cards including the Masked Men, today I’m at 102 with no end in sight.

With the collecting aspect now out of the way lets get back to the hockey focus. The 10-11 Playoffs weren’t very friendly to the rookie called Bob with a second round elimination but things were looking great heading for next season as it would appear Philly had a new starting goalie in Bob… or at least they did until they announced the massive signing of Ilya Bryzgalov. With the amount of money they were paying for Bryzs’ contract you knew they weren’t going to have him play backup which could only mean Bryz would be getting the starting job off Bob. As a fan coming off a big rookie year, it really hurt to see Bob’s days numbered. Luckily for Bob though, Bryzs start of the 11-12 season was a bit streaky both good and bad which gave Bob plenty of chances to start and play including the Winter Classic in which Bob looked great in the net but the Rangers were just slightly better. The season would be capped off with a second round run in the Playoffs and unfortunately both Bobrovsky and Bryzgalov were torn apart in the net. After the Playoffs, I found myself in an even bigger mess as Bobrovsky was traded to the Blue Jackets. I was a Philly fan so it was easy to cheer for Bob when he played in Philly, I had no idea if I would still be able to cheer for him playing for another team, I was caught at a crossroads.

Unfortunately Columbus would have to wait as the NHL went into another Lockout which for me was actually a blessing in disguise. With no NHL to watch I wasn’t sure what to do so I started watching live streams of some KHL games online. Naturally, I found myself pulling for SKA St. Petersburg as that is where Bobrovsky signed during the lockout. It was funny to see Bob no longer wearing the Orange and Black of a Flyers sweater but it was great to be able to see a hockey game again. Bobrovsky was playing phenomenally for SKA and was just amazing in the net racking up win after win. It was then that I realized it didn’t matter which team Bob played for, I was a fan no matter what. Bob and SKA made my Columbus crossroads issue disappear completely.

 Now we are back at current time with the 12-13 Season just getting under way and Bob is at a new home in Columbus. Man how I had waited to see Bob back on NHL ice and the season opener for Columbus couldn’t have been better, Bob looked stellar in the net all night long and would ultimately go on to win the game in a shootout. Watching and cheering Bob in the Columbus game reassured me that my fascination with him was alive and well again. With the season underway, I now find myself sitting with a pair of tickets for the Columbus vs. Detroit game in Columbus next month as I have planned a road trip to hopefully watch Bob live in person for the first time, now i just have to hope he gets the start.

Thats the story of how I found my favorite player and how he has helped me find an even greater passion in the world of collecting. It may not be the greatest or most interesting Hockey story ever told but it will always be my favorite story. LETS GO BOB!!!!!