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One Time Only - Autograph

It's a something they will only achieve once in their career and something they'll never forget.

Tuesday, 28.12.2010 / 2:40 PM / Features
Vancouver Canucks
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One Time Only - Autograph

It's a milestone they will only achieve once in their career and something they'll never forget.

In hockey, like in everything else, there's a first time for everything and players remember some of those like it was yesterday.

While they'll all remember scoring their first goal, everyone's experience is different. Four players remember the first time they were asked for an autograph.

MANNY MALHOTRA

Centre, 12 NHL seasons

SIGNS WITH: Right hand

After 12 years in the NHL, Manny Malhotra's autograph is probably quite widespread with numerous fans seeking out the centre's signature. While he may be used to it now, it wasn't always that way.

A 13 year-old Malhotra visiting Montreal to participate in the annual peewee tournament, he got his first taste of fame from some fans not too much younger than he was at the time. And like any first, giving out his first autograph was to talk about too.

"I thought it was the coolest thing to have the little French kids asking for autographs after the game."

"It felt pretty sweet – I’m not going to lie.

But the more important question is... what did it look like?

"Absolute chicken scratch. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember seeing autographs from players and I remember just kind of scribbling and thought I was cool."

Since then, a bit of thought and some time travelling on buses helped him find the perfect scribble.

"I think every kid goes through that, just practicing autographs and seeing what it looks like."

"It’s a lot better now. I learned that there’s no point in writing it if you can’t read it."

What does your autograph say about you? I’m particular.

KEVIN BIEKSA

Defence, 6 NHL seasons

SIGNS WITH: Right hand

For Kevin Bieksa, his memories of the first time he signed an autograph are hazy but he remembers how it developed.

"I don’t know if a lot of people are like this but I looked at my dad’s when I was younger and tried to mimic his and I still think they’re pretty close. He obviously still gives me a little flack when he sees my autograph but that’s the way it is dad."

While Malhotra practiced on the bus, Bieksa wasn't one for practicing his signature. He was a pro at his first and last name but that dreaded middle name got a lot of wear in his notebooks.

"I don’t know if I used to practice my autograph a lot but I used to practice my name a lot. My middle name is a tough one so I used to write it all the time."

The troubling middle name? Francesco.

Bieksa just wasn't an autograph guy growing up but he did manage to wrangle a few from Wendel Clark, Cam Neely, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman.

"I wrote away to 2-3 NHL players when I was a kid. I wasn’t one of the kids that hung around and wanted autographs. I didn’t put a lot of stock into them."

What does your autograph say about you? It says that I take a lot of pride in what I do.

ROBERTO LUONGO

Goalie, 11 NHL seasons

SIGNS WITH: Right hand

Every year, the Canucks hold "signing days", where all the players come in and help sign merchandise that are used for donations and prizing and Roberto Luongo's table is undoubtedly the one in with the highest demand.

This year, Luongo inked over 900 of items and by now, he's got a technique perfected, while others have some room for improvement.

"The good thing about it is that my autograph is short so it doesn’t take much time so I get through signing day pretty fast. Some guys who are there look like they’re painting a painting with their autograph but mine is short and sweet."

As he recalls, that wasn't always the case.

"It’s changed a million times. Back then I wrote out my whole name and now it’s maybe four letters total."

"I did practice but I wasn’t really coming along great but as years went by, I was signing more and more autographs so it got shorter and shorter to the point of where it is today."

But before he got here with his hoards of admirers, he was just 16 playing for the Val-d'Or Foreurs of the QMJHL, trying to make his mark in hockey.

"I was probably shocked and surprised and at the same time flattered that someone would have that recognition for me."

Now he's got it down to an art and since his first autograph and as a 16-year-old, he's signed enough than some have in a lifetime.

What does your autograph say about you? Just a simple guy and straightforward.

JEFF TAMBELLINI

Left wing, 6 NHL goals

SIGNS WITH: Right hand

Growing up as the son of Steve Tambellini, Jeff was familiar with the autograph signing - even though it wasn't him. He knew how it worked and the protocol so it would seem a natural fit once Jeff had to start signing away his name to fans.

"I just walked out and somebody handed me something to sign – maybe a hat or something."

"It was kind of cool. I was kind taken back and I was like, ‘Oh, sure okay’. I didn’t know any better so it was kind of a neat experience."

The 15-year-old Port Coquitlam Buckeroo took the experience and made adjustments following.

"It’s developed over the years. The J usually changes – it depends on the year. I look back and it was terrible and now it’s getting a little better."

And in an effort to help the environment - or maybe not - Tambellini made some alterations to his writing to do his part to be green.

"I learned to write extremely small so I could fit in on one piece of paper. I didn’t have to carry a lot of paper in school."

What does your autograph say about you? Not a lot. I just try to make it look halfway decent so that you can kind of read it and recognize it.