Taro Tsujimoto 2010-11 Rookie Card…Funny Story

So I was always wondering about a card that is a short print in the 2010-11 Score Rookies and Traded set.  It is card #659 and the player’s name is Taro Tsujimoto and I was informed that there is more to the card than originally thought, here is the wikipedia entry for this player.

Taro Tsujimoto is an imaginary ice hockey player who was legally drafted by the National Hockey League‘s Buffalo Sabres 183rd overall in the 11th round of the 1974 NHL Entry Draft.

The Sabres’ general manager at the time, Punch Imlach, was reportedly fed up with the slow drafting process via the telephone, a process intended to keep draft picks secret from the rival World Hockey Association. Imlach decided to have some fun at the expense of the league and president of 28 years, Clarence Campbell, and found a common Japanese name in a Buffalo-area phone book. Thus, when the 11th round surfaced, Imlach chose to select star center Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League‘s Tokyo Katanas, with “Katanas” being an approximation for “Sabres” in the Japanese language, both referring to types of swords. (The JHL, although it was a real entity, had no team representing Tokyo at the time; Kokudo would not relocate to the city until 1984.) The NHL made the pick official, and so it was reported by all major media outlets including The Hockey News.

Tsujimoto’s pick came at a time when the NHL was only beginning to expand its reach for players outside Canada and the United States; Scandinavian players were beginning to be drafted into, and enter, the league at around the same time. Although the players of the Soviet Union, at the time an international powerhouse, were effectively off-limits, it would have not been out of the ordinary to be scouting for new hockey talent in unusual places, which is part of the reason there were no major objections to the legitimacy of Imlach’s draft pick.

Imlach did not acknowledge the fake draft pick until just before the start of training camp that year. The NHL would eventually change the pick to an “invalid claim” for its official record-keeping purposes. Campbell did not find the hoax draft pick nearly as funny as Imlach, but this was after Tsujimoto’s name had appeared in several NHL publications. Tsujimoto is still listed among Sabres’ draft picks in the Sabres media guide.

Taro quickly became an inside joke for Sabres’ fans and staffers. For years after the pick, fans would chant “We Want Taro” when games at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium became one-sided. In addition, for many years, banners would be hung from the balcony rail stating “Taro Says…” followed by a witty comment against an opponent or player for the opponent.

In the summer of 2011, Panini America, a company that makes trading cards, added Tsujimoto to its 2010-11 Score Rookies & Traded box set. The card used a picture of an unidentified Asian man playing hockey for a team wearing similar blue-and-gold colors to the Sabres.

Now to find myself a Taro Card…….



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