Friday, February 5, 2010

The Mona Lisa of Montreal Canadiens Memorabilia

Centennial  Ice It Authentic How often can you get the signatures of over 100 Montreal Canadiens players, past and present, in one location at the same time to sign one huge print?

Well you can’t. It takes months of scheduling, preparation and travel to track down all these players, sometimes one at a time.

Wessley Perisa did just that. Mr. Perisa is well-known, in the sports marketing and memorabilia business, as the president of, a social networking and memorabilia site for hockey fans.

In September of 2009, Perisa envisioned something big for the Canadiens Centennial. He created the branch company Ice It Authentic and set out on his project.

“I wanted to capture the historic 100th. anniversary by creating a piece unlike any the sports collecting world had ever seen,” Perisa said.

Working with a team of sports marketing and media professionals, he began the painstaking, yet rewarding process of tracking down and scheduling 100 Canadiens players for signing his new project. It became known as “the countdown” on his Facebook page.

But what would he have the Habs legends and other players sign? Perisa took on a nation-wide search and interview process for the right artist, with the right vision for his project.

Perisa found that in renowned artist Denis Refiange, who came up with a Centennial print design that envelopes the traditional colours of the Montreal Canadiens with a scroll across the bottom to encase the signatures.

You will note that the print does not include the Canadiens team name or logo.

“We wished to create a print that didn’t infringe on the Canadiens intellectual properties,” Perisa said. “The players have been supportive, from day one, and recently we gained support of the team.”

The print is massive, measuring 56” x 38” and will be limited to 1909 pieces, as well as versions signed in gold and platinum paint marker that are limited to 100 editions each.


Georges Laraque, Carey Price and Kirk Muller at Ice It’s Canadiens Centennial dinner – Chateau Champlain Montreal November 2009

With prints in hand, Perisa made numerous trips to Montreal, from his home base in Pickering, to acquire the signatures.

The great Jean Beliveau was the first to put his signature on the prints, followed by Yvan Cournoyer, but the Hall of Fame duo was just the tip of the iceberg of a who’s who of past Habs greats and former players.

image9 image11 Hall of Fame Canadiens Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer were the frist of 100 past and present players to sign “Centennial”.

Backstrom, Bouchard, Carbonneau, Koivu, Lach, Lafleur, Mahovlich, Moore, Naslund, Nilan, Olmstead, Richard, Roy, Savard, Shutt, Vachon…dozens of signatures of Habs past.

Perisa was delighted with the professionalism and courtesy of the players involved in his project.

“All the players have been great to work with, but a few names stand out. As always Mr.Beliveau is always a real pleasure to work with,” he said.

“I had a great time with Charlie Hodge, Bobby Smith, Kirk Muller, Carey Price, Georges Laraque.. I gotta stop, or I will name everyone! All the boys were great. The class with which the majority of Canadiens players conduct themselves is second to none.”

“The support from the players has been huge, and only continued to fuel my desire and passion to see this historic production through to it's completion.”

Slowly but surely, the signatures amassed, sometimes individually, and others in groups.

Perisa even hosted a Centennial dinner at his base of operations in Montreal, the Chateau Champlain hotel, where he managed to sign on most of the players who are on, or have been on, the 2009-10 Canadiens roster. Even new addition Benoit Pouliot made the list.


Members of the current Canadiens roster ad their signatures

“Many of the signings were right in our suite. That was a gong show,” Perisa joked. “During one session, we had something like 23 or 24 of the current guys show up, all at the same time of course.”

“Having that many guys in the same room at the same time keeps things busy, but also loose, as the players were throwing jabs at each other, making fun of each others signatures, etc. It was entertaining to say the least.”

The full roster of signatures can be found here.

image10 Former Canadiens captain, and assistant coach Kirk Muller signs his name. Don’t spill the coffee, Capt. Kirk!

Of course, Perisa couldn’t get everybody on his wish list involved.

“There were a few players, who I really wanted to have participate in this momentous project, that simply refused to participate,” he said.

“While I would have been proud to have them on this special piece, I am even more proud to have the players who truly wanted to be a part of something special, and having them thank me for including them is something I will never get used to.”

By mid-January, the remaining signatures were acquired or scheduled for the last private signings, with Emile “Butch” Bouchard being one of the final players to be adding his signature.

“There have been moments of frustration to be sure. In a project this large, things tend to get pushed to the limit. Patience, finances, everything,” Perisa concluded.

“There have been many moments that have been rewarding to me personally on this journey too. One of the most rewarding is always the look on the faces of those who view ‘Centennial, for the first time.”


Former Canadiens captain Vincent Damphousse

This may sound like a line from a TV commercial for a music compilation, but one cannot fathom an individual acquiring all these signatures on their own in a lifetime, without the proper resources.

“Centennial” is a fantastic piece for any memorabilia collector. Even “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky owns print #99 and several of the signing participants are registered owners with print numbers matching their jerseys.

All prints come framed (the premium versions with a gold or platinum theme) and are hand numbered with an authentication package package that includes a certificate of authenticity, photo package and letter of provenance.

In addition, a 20x24 print with facsimile autographs is also available.

Those interested in purchasing any of these fine collectibles, or seeking more information, can visit the Ice It Authentic site by clicking here, or via email

Photos: provided by Ice It Authentic, and used by permission


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