NHL legend Lemieux featured at memorabilia show

A star-studded cast of sport celebrities including hockey legend Mario Lemieux will be available to offer autographs at this weekend’s Sport Card & Memorabilia Expo in Mississauga.

The twice-yearly show at the International Centre in Malton brings together collectors and dealers from across North America in what is billed as the largest gathering of sport memorabilia enthusiasts in the country.

Heavy on hockey, the show features both old and new collectibles, but the autograph guests are a main attraction especially with the addition of Lemieux, the Pittsburgh Penguin hall-of-famer who rarely makes such appearances.

“Having Lemieux here is really a big deal,” says long-time show attendee Robert Luosa who drove in from Oshawa for the event. “He’s a tough autograph to get, but he is a legend after all.”

Having the legend’s signature does come at a cost, however. The lowest price for his signature is $225 but can run as high as $475 depending on the item you want autographed. His appearance is scheduled for Sunday.

That price tag doesn’t bother some collectors who believe it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to grab the signature.

“You know what you are getting for that price,” explains Luosa. “In this format you don’t get a hurried scribble from an athlete under siege outside of an arena. You get somebody who will take their time and sign your item nicely. It is worth it for me.”

Jeremy Renaud, operations, sponsorship and program manager of the Expo agrees, indicating the setting provides a unique experience for a fan.

“The opportunity is there to meet the athlete, share a few words, and really enjoy the moment,” says Renaud. “That can’t really happen in other settings, especially with Mario Lemieux who does not frequent a lot of events.”

If, however, the price tag for Lemieux is a little rich for you, there are plenty of other guests available at lower rates. Former Toronto Maple Leaf stars Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour and Darryl Sittler will be on hand as well as veterans of the Montreal Canadians such as Bobby Rousseau, Claude Larose and Phil Goyette who will be signing, among other hockey players. Soccer stars Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore are also scheduled autograph guests.

Still, it is the collectibles that inspire much of the awe as vintage equipment, photographs and cards have kept the crowds coming for more than 25 years, making it one of the longest continuous operating shows of its kind on the continent.

Renaud says 400 exhibitors will be on hand this time and they will have items that are rare and unique and in limited supply.

“If you are a sports fan, it can really be a thrill to see a jersey that was used 70 years ago,” Renaud says. And while acknowledging the sport card craze has subsided since its peak in the 1990s, collectors in pursuit of filling their “want lists” of cards can always be seen roaming the aisles in search of an elusive card to complete a set. “This is the place for them to come to do that”

The show runs today through Sunday at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd.

Complete schedule of autograph guests and all prices can be found at sportcardexpo.com

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