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Legend of Taro Tsujimoto

Posted on 2nd July 2011 by hockeymedia in Cards,Rookies,The Want List,Tribute | Tags:

Panini America has paid tribute to the first great “draft gem” unearthed by the Buffalo Sabres. The prospect’s name was Taro Tsujimoto, a centre from the Tokyo Katanas drafted by the Sabres in the 11th round of the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft.

The prospect, however, never existed: his profile was made up by Sabres’ general manager Punch Imlach.

In the most recent release of 2010-11 Score Rookie & Traded, Panini America has inserted the Tsujimoto “rookie card” (card #569) one per every 20th set box.

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“The creative team was looking to come up with something special, something really unique, for this program,” said Al Muir, Panini’s Hockey Brand Manager. “The legend of Tsujimoto is one of those great hockey stories that has been perpetuated not just in Buffalo, but around the game. It’s one that gets told to this day in dressing rooms and on bar stools, and that’s what made him a natural for this project.”

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed. Although both organizations employ strict rules when it comes to who is allowed to appear on a licensed trading card, they each were quick to jump on board with this idea.

“We got approval from the league in less than 10 minutes,” Muir said. “They loved it immediately. The PA took a little longer, but then they got behind it in a big way. It was actually a PA staffer who helped us acquire the period-appropriate photo used on the card. Without that, we simply couldn’t have executed the concept this well.”

That leaves one question: Since it isn’t actually Tsujimoto pictured on the trading card . . . who is?

“That’s a mystery for another day,” Muir said

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