Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Hockey Card Finds: Undrafted Gem

In 2005, I started to get the collecting itch again after purging most of my collection in 2002 to assist with the purchase of my first house. With $10 burning a hole in my pocket at a flea market in Ohio, I purchased a lot of 50 hockey rookie cards from an older lady selling mostly knitted dolls.  She wouldn't let me look inside the small box, but she said her son had collected up until a few years ago and these were his "leftovers." I figured most of the cards were commons and I remember when I got back to my house, I had heard of a few of the guys, but some of the cards were from players in the 1970's. Not all are in the best shape, but for $10, what do you want? After a while, I decided just to put the box in the corner of my closet and I simply forgot about it. So, 14 years later, I decided I would take out a card from the box at random and write a small post about the player. I have been counting down from 50. Here goes:

48. 1982/83 OPC J-F Sauve Rookie Card #33

I am seeing a trend while going through this box of rookies. Most of them had very impressive junior careers. J-F Sauve is no different. Sauve was born in Sainte-Genevieve, Quebec on January 23, 1960. Before making the NHL, however, Sauve would play in the QMJHL for the Trois Riveres Draveurs. This is where J-F would make his mark. Standing at only 5'6", Sauve would use his speed to his advantage. In his first QMJHL action during the 1977-78 season, J-F suited up for 6 games and almost averaged a point per game scoring 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). He also played in the playoffs and performed admirably averaging a point per game (13GP, 13 points). The Draveurs even captured the President's Cup that year. The next season in 1978-79, Sauve took junior hockey by storm. In the 72 games played in regular season, he put up 176 points! This would earn him the Jean Beliveau trophy as the leagues leading scorer. The Draveurs eventually won the President's Cup yet again and Sauve led the way scoring 19 goals and 19 assists (38 points) in only 13 games! J-F was named the Guy Lafleur Trophy winner (Playoff MVP) due to his strong playoff play. This wouldn't be the only hardware he took home in that season as he also won the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy as the most Sportsmanlike Player, an award he would eventually win the next season as well (1979-80). His final junior season, Sauve continued to light up the Q, and surpassed his point total from the previous season and scored 187 points! This would help him take home another Jean Beliveau trophy as leagues leading scorer. After the Draveurs were eliminated from playoffs, Sauve would set his sights on the NHL.

After the 1979 entry draft concluded, J-F did not receive a phone call, meaning he would go undrafted. The Buffalo Sabres eventually would reach out and ask him to attend training camp as an undrafted free agent. The Sabres ended up sending Sauve down to the AHL to play for the Rochester Americans. In one and a half seasons, (59 games played), Sauve continued his scoring success and potted 30 goals to go along with 55 assists for 85 points. This would lead to his eventual call-up to the NHL during the 1980-81 season. In his first 20 games, he would put up 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists). From what I can gather, Sauve would be up and down in the NHL and AHL although still racking up points at both levels. For whatever reason (possibly his small frame) it does not appear that the Sabres had Sauve in their future plans because during the 1983 season, Sauve, along with Tony McKegney and Andre Savard were packaged in a deal for Real Cloutier and a 1st Round Draft Pick. Playing with the Nordiques, Sauve would eventually put up his most points in a season in the 1985-86 campaign with 56 (16 goals and 40 assists). In 1986-87, J-F would get the injury bug and sit out most of the season, playing in only 14 games. Sadly, this would be his last NHL season. His NHL numbers are very impressive though for an undrafted 5'6" Center with 65 goals, 138 assists for 203 points in 290 NHL games. 

In 1987, J-F signed in the Swiss-A league to suit up for Fribourg-Gotteron HC. In 1988, he tried to crack the Detroit Red Wings squad in camp, but didn't make the cut and was sent down to the AHL to play for the Adirondack Red Wings. After 16 games, scoring 26 points and not receiving a call-up to the NHL, Sauve decided to go back to the Swiss-A league and play for Fribourg-Gotteron HC again. After that season concluded, he would then play in France for 2 seasons and light it up with 155 points in 55 games before retiring from the game of hockey at the age of 31 after having his son, Max. 

Sauve has great bloodlines. His brother Bob Sauve was a goaltender who was selected in the 1st Round by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1975 Draft that played 14 seasons in the NHL with Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago and New Jersey. J-F is also the uncle of Phillippe Sauve, a goaltender who was selected in the 2nd round in the 1998 NHL Draft that played for Colorado, Calgary, Phoenix and Boston in the NHL. He's also the dad of Maxime Sauve who was born during his time in France. Max was drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2008 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins. He would go on to suit up for 1 game with them during the 2011-12 season. 

It seems that J-F played in the wrong era. He was a great junior player that probably would be a superstar in today's NHL. It seems just like Jacques Locas from my previous post found here that Sauve's height probably made him an afterthought to most NHL GM's or he would have been elite. It was a tougher game back then and a lot of players had to fight to survive on the ice. Either way, I am proud to own this rookie card of a great hockey player, Jean-Francois Sauve. 


Thanks for reading.

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