Mitch Beck, 61, sat on a chair in the finished basement of his Monroe home with his dog Ranger at his side, Friday afternoon, while surrounded by a vast collection that transformed the room to a shrine for the New York Rangers and the legendary 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, whose amateur athletes upset a Russian team packed with professionals in a game dubbed, “The Miracle on Ice.”
Beck has a collection of pucks signed by every player and coach of the gold medal winning hockey team, as well as pucks signed by every member, the coach and general manager of the 1994 New York Rangers team that won the Stanley Cup.
One wall is covered by framed, eight-by-ten autographed photos of every member of the 1994 Rangers.
Beck’s diverse collection includes hockey cards dating back to the 1970s, signed pucks of Rangers’ Hall of Famers, goalies helmets signed by the entire 1994 Rangers and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams, a glass case of collectibles, and photos of every Rangers’ goalie along the wall leading upstairs.
He has emotional attachments to the collection and stories behind each piece. Beck had hoped to leave it all to his two sons as part of their inheritances, but sadly must part with all of it now.
Beck said he was forced to close his consulting business, which he had owned for 24 years, after the COVID-19 pandemic, so he is selling his collection of Rangers memorabilia to tackle his growing six-figure debt.
“If I sold everything piecemeal online, I could probably get $100,000, but it would kill me,” Beck said. “I would rather just pull the Band-Aid off, rather than die a death of a thousand cuts. I’m asking for $30,000 for everything.”
Beck was interviewed about his collection for a story in the Wall Street Journal and it was featured in a segment on Fox News Business.
‘A beautiful goal’
Beck was not a hockey fan 23 years ago, when he watched a U.S. Olympic hockey game, while trying to bond with his future brother-in-law.
“I saw a guy take the puck from end-to-end, go through five guys, fake the goalie out of his pants and score a beautiful goal,” Beck recalled. “It was art. I was hooked. That player was Brian Leetch. He’s from Cheshire.”
After the game, Beck called his brother-in-law at work to gush about Leetch, a defenseman for the Rangers.
“He was teaching class. He was too busy to talk,” Beck recalled. “He said, ‘start learning.’ I studied endlessly and relentlessly, learning about the game.”
Within six months of watching Leetch score, Beck became editor and chief of the New York Rangers Fan Club Newsletter and of the Hartford Wolf Pack Fan Club Newsletter.
“I was doing both at the same time,” he said. “I started writing articles for major hockey magazines.”
When his two sons, Ross and Tory, were old enough to play, Beck coached the Mites, a youth hockey team for five- and six-year-olds.
He went on to coach club hockey teams at Central Connecticut State and Sacred Heart universities.
“At the same time, I started collecting stuff, because I was meeting guys and it got to the point where my wife said we need a receiving clerk, because there was so much coming from the connections I had,” Beck said. “It is such a diverse collection. I would get a kick on something and then I had to have it all. I can’t just have one.”
Among the hundreds of autographs Beck collected over the years are the signatures of hockey greats Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito and the late Alf Pike, who at the time was the last surviving member of the 1926 Rangers team, the first year of the franchise.
“I met him at a restaurant and his wife happened to have his picture, and he signed it,” Beck said of Pike. “Everything has a story.”
Jaromir Jagr scored a record-setting 54 goals in a season for the Rangers in 2005-06 and a limited edition of 54 bobblehead dolls were produced and sold at Madison Square Garden to celebrate the milestone. Beck owns bobblehead No. 1, which is displayed inside his glass case.
Beck has a tribute to his favorite players, former Ranger goalie Mike Richter, Leetch and Chris Drury, who grew up in Trumbull and was the star pitcher for his hometown, leading Trumbull to the Little League World Series title in 1989.
Beck owns a mini air hockey table, which he had on him when he ran into Drury at his restaurant, Colony Grill in Fairfield.
“I had nothing signed by him, so I got him to sign my air hockey table,” Beck said with a chuckle.
When his family fell on hard financial times, Beck said his sons told him his health and well-being were more important to them than memorabilia. Each took something they wanted and Beck would sell the rest.
Throughout the ordeal, Beck said he has been touched by the “incredible generosity” of his Monroe neighbors who helped his family.
“I was totally blown away,” he said. “It’s been very rough. I’m trying to pay all my debts and get on better financial footing.”
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