In the four years that I attended the University of Minnesota, I made it to the WCHA Final Five all four seasons. The Final Five is the season ending WCHA conference tournament. In the several years that I attended, this Spring weekend event has been held in St. Paul, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Now, I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I am not from Minnesota. I knew the tradition and importance of Gopher Hockey in the state, but when I was a Freshman at the U, I had never been to a Gopher Hockey game. I went to a handful of games with friends, but what really opened my eyes was the Final Five.
This was where I first caught a glimpse at the jersey that I had to have. It was the home jersey that the Gophers wore in the 1993-94 season. When the Gophers opened up the new Mariucci Arena on campus in the fall of 1993 they wore a “throwback jersey”, much like the jersey that John Mariucci wore as a player at Minnesota. It was a maroon, gold and white barber pole styled beauty. Did I mention that I had to have one?
I was a Freshman in the Fall of 1996. This was three whole seasons after this style had been re-retired. For the next four years, I looked everywhere in the Twin Cities for one for myself. Occasionally, one would pop up at a regular season game, but for some reason, the Gopher fans seemed to bring them out more often during tournament time.
It wasn’t until April 2001 that I found gameworn.net. At that time, I didn’t know that there was such as thing as a “game worn jersey.” I had been scouring eBay for Gopher replicas. At that time, I was doing pretty well putting together a collection of different styles. One weekend, around tournament time, I started searching for “Gopher throwback” and “Gopher Barberpole” jerseys. One search result brought me into a whole new world. The result was a “For sale” posting on gameworn.net. The seller had listed a #8 Brett Abrahamson 93-94 game worn jersey. I immediately sent the seller an e-mail. As luck would have it, the thing had sold about six hours before I sent the e-mail. (To this day, I’ve never seen or heard of the Abrahamson jersey again.)
Since I had the time, I started reading posts on gameworn.net, trying to get a feel for collecting something that I didn’t know existed just days before. I really enjoyed reading about different collectors views and opinions on the hobby as a whole. From what I could find, college jerseys were rarer than NHL jerseys and Gopher jerseys just weren’t out there.
My big break came when I saw a post from a college collector who had a bunch of different NCAA jerseys for sale, but no Gophers. Most of his stuff was from the East Coast schools. I shot him an e-mail and after some back and forth conversation, we negotiated a deal for a couple of shirts. A few days later, I got a call. I assumed the other collector was just letting me know that my check had made it to him. Instead, he had some good news for me. He had just picked up a road #13 Brandon Steege Gopher jersey and wanted to know if I was interested in it. When it arrived in the mail later that week, I looked it over like it was made of spun gold. I had never really noticed “wear” on a jersey until I actually had a gamer in my hands.
Since then, I’ve had many good experiences with other collectors. I’ve tried to keep in touch with the other guys, whether we are trading jerseys or stories. Personally, the stories are worth more to me than the jerseys.
If anyone reads this and would like to add a story about how they got started collecting, please leave a note in the comments section. I’ll be happy to post it for you.
One more thing...I know that there are other Gopher Hockey collectors out there who don’t post pictures of their jerseys online. This may be because you don’t want to be pestered to sell them or maybe you don’t want to take the time to set up your own website. If you would like to post the pictures anonymously, to share with other collectors, please send me a message. I will be happy to host pictures for you at no charge.
This week’s feature jerseys are two of my first Gopher gamers. On the left is the Brandon Steege road and on the right is a #6 Charlie Wasley barberpole. It was the first of four “Barberpole” style jerseys that I have been fortunate enough to have in my collection.