Photos: Tom Coleman
As sports has become arguably one of the biggest sources of entertainment in North America and around the world, memorabilia from games and other collectible items have become more sought-after and coveted by fans and serious collectors. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look at the exquisite collection of longtime Capitals fan Tom Coleman, whose collection some might say, rivals that of a small museum, through his eyes as he takes a tour through his collection.
Hi everyone, I’m Tom Coleman. Nova Caps has asked me if I could share some stories and pictures of my 40 plus years of collecting hockey memorabilia and help promote the upcoming NoVa Game Worn Jersey show on March 16 at the Holiday Inn in Sterling, Virginia.
I’ve been a Caps fan pretty much from the beginning, although I don’t remember much from the first couple of seasons, I was definitely a huge fan by the late ’70’s. Like everyone else I adored Yvon Labre, Mike Gartner, Dennis Maruk and later on Rod Langway, Scott Stevens, and then Olie Kolzig and Peter Bondra. But I really identified with the more obscure players, usually fourth-liners, depth defensemen, and backup goalies. Gary Rissling, Mark Ferner, players like that and in most recent seasons my favorites have included [former Capitals] Jay Beagle and David Steckel.
I started collecting game-worn jerseys in 1990. At the time I split my time going to either Caps or Baltimore Skipjacks [the team’s American Hockey League affiliate at the time] games. There was a really rowdy group of guys I used to sit near that loved chanting and heckling the opposing goalie and players. One particular nut used to wear a different Jersey for each period of the game. Naturally I struck up a conversation with him and before long I was a member of the rowdies and a friend to him. He got me interested in collecting jerseys by showing off some of his more “Hammered ” jerseys. When I say hammered, I’m talking about blood stains, torn fabric, board burn marks, paint transfer and repaired fabric. Instantly I was hooked. I started off collecting Skipjack players and eventually graduated to more expensive ones like Capitals and Baltimore Clippers. I’ve probably owned 150 jerseys in those 30 years, but have only about half that number currently. Mostly Capitals and the various Baltimore teams plus local college teams that play club hockey like Navy, Towson, UMBC and others. Naturally I would love to have Ovechkin, Backstrom and Holtby game-worn jerseys, but I get a bigger kick out of finding obscure players . Anybody who has money to spend can get the big guns, but the fun in trying to find one game only guys, or cup of coffee players is priceless. Find me an Orest Kindrachuk or a Dwayne Zinger (Google them, they both played for the Caps if you don’t believe me).
By the way those rowdies in Baltimore inspired me to begin and lead the “All Your Fault ” chant in 2007 that’s still going strong today. Love it or hate it, you have me to blame.
A season or two after I started collecting jerseys, I began collecting game-used sticks as well. One night after a Skipjacks game I ended up giving a couple of players a ride home after they imbibed in a few too many adult beverages. Mike Richard and Alfie Turcotte gave me their sticks as a thank you gift a couple of nights later. And thus another collection was begun. Right now I’m up to about 150 sticks including two dozen goalie sticks, of which I have multiples of Kolzig, as he’s been very generous over the years. My collection also includes about 40 team-signed sticks from the Capitals, Clippers, Skipjacks and Bandits. Most of the rest are former Capitals, Skipjacks, and Clippers. One of the highlights is an Yvon Labre stick from his one season with the Clippers in 1969-70. Game-used and autographed sticks from Langway, Dino Ciccarelli, ,Michal Pivonka, Dmitri Khristich and Alan May among others make up my collection as well. From the Skipjacks, I have game-used twigs from Steve Carlson of Slapshot fame, Marty McSorley, and AHL Hall of Famer Mitch Lamoureux. Sadly these sticks take up a lot of space , and since my wife and I are downsizing for a move out of the area, the entire collection is available for sale. I’ll have some of the better ones at the upcoming NoVa show.
Like a lot of kids in the 1970’s, I collected baseball cards, and when the seasons changed I collected football, basketball and hockey as well. I own every Capitals base card from Topps, OPC and Upper Deck. I’m not really into the expensive insert cards or the memorabilia cards. My favorite cards are the Capitals team-issued cards and photos from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. Police safety sets and fan appreciation giveaways sponsored by Pizza Hut and Kodak aren’t very easy to find anymore and some sets, namely ones from Baltimore are uncategorized. It’s tough to put a price on a set when you’re the only one who seems to have it. I’m always looking to add to that part of my collection.
Here’s where my collection takes a surreal turn. What else do I collect? Everything and anything hockey-related. And some things not hockey related. Pocket schedules, for example. Most people take one and throw it away at the end of the season. Not me. I take a stack of them and trade them for other teams with people on the internet. I have every Capitals’ schedule known. There were lots of sponsor variations especially back in the 1980 ‘s and 1990’s, and some years there were as many as 15 different ones. I’ve got most Baltimore Clippers’ and Skipjacks schedules, and the Washington Redskins as far back as their first year in 1937. I’ve got the Washington Senators as far back as 1922. I’ve also got many pennants featuring a few dozen different Capitals pennants, including a team-signed first year pennant, and I’ll have lots of pennants at the Expo.
My collection also features team yearbooks and media guides; everything until they stopped printing them. I’ve also got several boxes worth of game programs, with such gems as one from the Capitals’ first home game, an Ovechkin first game program, an Ovechkin “THE GOAL” program from Arizona, and first playoff game and first playoff series win programs as well. Other items include tons of giveaways, posters, growth charts , pins, decals, keychains, and I’ll have lots of that kind of stuff at the show.
If you have something you think I might be Interested in, send me an email at
Or, if you get a chance stop by the Nova game worn Jersey show on March 16. Even If I’m not interested in your items , there will be plenty of other collectors who might be. Look for me, I’ll be the tall guy wearing a “Hammered” Jersey.