A grail is different for each collector in the hobby. Some people want the rarest jersey, some the most expensive, while others seek out their grail from a personal connection.
James Oppermann writes in a great story about his own personal grail:
Alright. Have the time tonight so I decided to share my Holy Grail Story. Keep in mind, this may take a long time to read, so I will summarize the details of the jersey at the end of this.
First off. Those that know me from the Islanders board, know that my Grail was just sold at an auction. That was my Islanders Grail and a jersey that I always thought would be available. This jersey I thought no longer existed so although the Morrow is near the top; I would never consider trading the jersey here for a Morrow, Bossy and a Trottier. This is truly a family heirloom.
My first memories of hockey was attending Saginaw Gears games at Wendler Arena in the mid 70s. Hockey was a big part of my childhood. Two of my brothers played and we spent a lot of winter nights attending Gears games. Besides hockey, my family was very big into bowling and my mother was a manager and youth coach at a local bowling alley.
In 1979, my oldest brother moved to Tulsa. I was 8 at the time and I knew this was pretty tough on my mother. I know we all love our mothers, but my mom was beyond special; not just to me and my family, but to a ton of youth bowlers in Saginaw.
At some point and time (early 80s) my family became friends with Don Waddell and Claude Larochelle. Both spent time at the bowling alley and even came to the house for dinner. To a preteen, bowling and eating with your idols was a huge deal. It also became apparent that Claude was special to my mom. He looks just like my brother and she commented about it a lot.
Time passes, franchises fold and people grow up. I began collecting hockey jerseys about 15 years ago and have always wanted a Gears jersey. I have seen a total of four. One sold about 8 years ago, one was combined in an auction and two belong to a member of this site. Time passes and unfortunately, people pass away, including my wonder mother. She had a stroke about three years ago and in January of 2012 she finally lost her battle. My brother and I decided we would have replica Gears jerseys made. I knew immediately who I would have made. Claude Larochelle. The replica jersey is the #15 photo, a number he wore during one season as a Gear. My brother decided he’d have a Don Waddell made. They had to be orange. We even wore them in her honor at a Saginaw Spirit game last season.
June 24th was my mom’s birthday. If you’re friends with me on facebook, you may have seen my comment about wishing I could talk to her just one last time.
Move ahead to yesterday. I get up each morning to make my wife her coffee. I always hop onto ebay and check out the latest jerseys. There, just seven hours old is a Game worn, Claude Larochelle jersey, opening bid $50. I bid, $300. I begin thinking what can I sell? Everything I own. This jersey is going to be mine. I do something I have never done. I email the seller, I tell her why this jersey is so important to me and tell her about my mother. I text my brother and begin telling him whats going on. He’s excited as I am. During our conversation, I get the message that I’ve won the jersey. The seller sold it to me for my opening bid.
I’m on cloud 9. Cannot believe I now own what I consider to be the most important hockey jersey ever made. I call my dad, text another of my brothers, talked to another.
Turns out, the seller was coached by my mother as a youth bowler and worked with her behind the counter. Her parents rented a house to Waddell and Larochelle and Claude gave the jersey to her mother as a gift. Both her and her mom are ecstatic the jersey is coming to our home.
The first two pictures are from the ebay auction. The two little sticks are my “Tuffy Muffler” sticks, both signed by Claude and the last pic is the replica.
Summary – My Holy Grail is a Orange Game Worn Claude Larochelle Saginaw Gears jersey.