Collector Interview: Derek Christensen

I first met Derek Christensen at the West Coast Game Worn Jersey Expo in San Jose.  My first impression of him was “Man, this guy is freaking awesome”… And then he convinced me to wear one of Pete’s Chicago Blackhawks game worn jerseys (after we asked permission of course) to the San Jose Sharks game where we enjoyed being visitor fans.

Since I met Derek, I knew quite a bit about him already prior to the interview, but this is your opportunity to learn about him:

GameWorn: You are a teacher.  Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Derek Christensen: Yes.  I have been teaching for 13 years.  I teach at a suburban Chicago school in Plainfield, which is the same town that I grew up in. I taught at my old school my first year, but the town has really grown and now I teach at Plainfield South, which was the second high school to open.  I teach Geography and AP Human Geography and this year I will be adding a section of Government, a topic that I taught when I first started, but haven’t taught in 6-7 years. I also founded and sponsor the community service club in which we organize events such as blood drives and teddy bear donation drives for the local children’s hospital.  We also do quite a bit for our local humane society, which I’m very partial to.  I do a lot volunteering for a local animal rescue groups in addition to fostering dogs that we bring up from kill shelters in rural areas.

GW: What is your favorite beer?
DC: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.  I went to school at Western Michigan University and lived about three blocks from the brewery so I was introduced to the craft beer scene right away.

GW: Your favorite team is Chicago, right?
DC: Yes, they are my favorite NHL team.  I grew-up going to games at the old Chicago Stadium with my dad, but as much as I love the Hawks I have to put my alma mater, WMU, a very slight notch above.

GW:   Who is your favorite player?
DC:   I don’t really have a favorite player, but I always follow former Broncos that go onto play at the pro level. David Gove is probably my favorite even though he only played in two career NHL games, both with Carolina.  If I had to choose a current NHL player, it would be Danny DeKeyser since he is a WMU guy despite the fact that he plays for the hated Red Wings.

GW: When did you start collecting and how did you get started?
DC: My entry into the game worn jersey hobby started through a series of progressions stemming from my baseball card collecting with my father when I was young in the late 80’s.  We would go to card shops and card shows, and eventually we would see more than just cards starting to appear at the shows.  We started to collect autographs and then I finally got my first piece of game used equipment, which was a Stephane Matteau game used stick from his time with the Blackhawks. Then one day at a show, we came across a guy with had purchased a set of Lake Superior State jerseys from the early to mid-90’s. We were excited to find that he had a Jason Trzcinski jersey because we used to spend our family summers in Traverse City, Michigan and would often go to the pizza restaurant that his family owned. I also attended a hockey camp in Traverse City when I was young and had Jason as an instructor.  I inherited the jersey when my father passed away a few years ago and I never thought that I would get rid of it as it held so many memories, but about this time last year I received a random email from Jason asking me if I would ever consider selling it back to him.  As much as I loved the jersey, I felt that it needed to go back to its rightful home and since I didn’t personally have anything invested in the jersey, I traded it back to him for the photograph of him wearing it that used to hang in the family restaurant, which he signed to me.

GW: What makes up the bulk of your collection.  Guessing WMU jerseys.
DC:  My focus now is really just WMU jerseys and pro jerseys of players that went to WMU, but if I find a jersey I like for a good deal, I’ll pick it up.

GW: What is your favorite jersey that you own?
DC: I have a few I need to include.  I have a Lisa Chesson Ohio State jersey that means the most to me because she is also from Plainfield and I coached her when she played for our high school team. Another is a 92-93 Alaska Anchorage Todd Green.  The pro shop at the rink I grew-up playing at sold random college replicas and my dad bought me a Seawolves jersey for my birthday one year because we both thought it was a cool looking jersey, even though neither of us knew anything about the school. About a year ago, I found a game worn version of the exact jersey and I had to have it. I also have a mid-90’s University of Maine Brad Purdie that I love, not because I have a tie to him, but rather to his coach, the late Shawn Walsh. I had him as an instructor at a hockey camp once and even though I wasn’t a D-1 prospect, he took as much time out for me as anyone else at the camp and truly showed that cared about me as a person.  He really helped me to develop my game and I’m proud to own a jersey of his team during their powerhouse years. Finally, I have a 92-93 Cincinnati Cyclones jersey that is so ugly that I love it.  The Hockey News rated it the worst jersey/logo for something like five straight seasons, but looking back it represents a unique era in jersey history, which is also when I was really getting into hockey, when teams broke from the traditional mold and started using things like dazzle cloth, diagonal stripes and cartoonish logos.10588192_10203775406159685_1163660765_o

GW:  If money was no issue, what is the one jersey you want most in the world?
DC:  Easy.  Lisa Chesson’s 2010 Olympic jersey.  There was an auction for them from Meigray, but I didn’t find out about it until it was too late.  Its a shame was not around back then which helps me stay on top of hobby news because I would probably have been able to get it.

GW: What is the best thing about the hobby?
DC: I love the hunt.  Jerseys are different from cards because they are truly one of a kind.  If I want to buy a Wayne Gretzky rookie card, for example, I could go on eBay right now and there is probably at least twenty for sale. With jerseys it doesn’t always matter how much money you have because you still have to find what you want.  There are a dozen or so low-end jerseys that I would love to own, but have yet to find.

GW: What would you like to see for the future of the hobby?
DC: I think it is in a pretty good state right now.  I would like to see more information about where some teams sell their jerseys.  It can be hard to find how some of the lower level teams sell them, but that is getting better with teams starting to recognize the hobby and tracking the distributors.  I hope that teams don’t take advantage of this and  exploit the collectors in the long run, but it all comes down to the economics of supply and demand.

GW: Do you have any plans to go to any Expos?
DC: The first Expo I went to was the West Coast Game Worn Jersey Expo, but I heard there might be a Detroit Game Worn Jersey Expo, so if that happens I will definitely try to make it.  I had a ton of fun at the Expo in San Jose, so that set the bar pretty high.

GW: Are there any questions I should ask you that I missed?
DC: Don’t you usually ask a question about the first jersey you got?

GW: I can’t believe I missed that one.  Ok, tell me about it.
DC:  I was at a card show in which Milt Byron had a table set-up.  He had a 92-93 Blackhawks Stephane Matteau for $300. I really wanted to have a Hawks gamer and since I already had his stick, I really wanted the jersey, but I was only about 15 at the time and $300 was a lot of money. My dad always encouraged me to earn what I wanted so I decided to sell some of my baseball and hockey cards to raise the money.  I set up my own card shop in the garage and took out a $5 ad in the paper.  I couldn’t believe the number of people that showed up.  This was when cards like Eric Lindros and Sergei Fedorov rookie cards were selling for as high as $20 and I easily sold enough to be able to afford the jersey. I then got a hold of Milt and got my first jersey.  Looking back on it now, it was a steal of a deal.  Those patched Blackhawks jerseys easily go in the $1000 range and I doubt that I could even get $10 today for all those cards that I sold.