Keeping it Personal

Boyd Jeffery’s memorabilia collection is more about memories than objects
by Randy Angel
Published September 17, 2009

It had been 16 years since Boyd E. Jeffery played goalie in a hockey game, but there he stood, anxiously in front of the net in full pads, slowly shuffling from side to side on the ice. Peering through his Plexiglas facemask, Jeffery focused intently at the oncoming skater preparing to rifle a breakaway slap shot.

Despite many years of hockey growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Jeffery knew the next moment could be one of the most memorable of his athletic career. The puck was a blur as it approached Jeffery, who crouched and put his body in front of the frozen disc of rubber, preventing it from entering the goal.

Jeffery rejoiced. Not only had he faced his boyhood idol, he had stopped the greatest player in the history of hockey — Wayne Gretzky.

“You can’t imagine as a kid growing up playing hockey, the thrill of having Gretzky shooting on you,” Jeffery said. “It’s obviously one of the highlights of my life. My dad, who passed away in 1999, would be proud. We went to all the Oilers games as a kid during the Oilers’ dynasty years and it was a great bonding experience. I hired the goalie coach from the Long Beach Ice Dogs, bought all new goalie equipment and prepared mentally for the once-in-a-lifetime moment. And I stopped him, twice. My team won the gold medal game and I won the shoot-out competition. I was on cloud nine. My wife was there to see it, take pictures, and be my witness to those who wanted to challenge my claim that I faced Wayne Gretzky one on one.”

Jeffery’s achievement also marked the beginning of a unique sports memorabilia collection that has grown to more than 300 items – including 170 jerseys — much of which is showcased in the office-turned-museum of the 39-year-old’s Manhattan Beach home.

The thrill of attending Gretzky’s first Fantasy Camp in 2004 inspired Jeffery to attend 11 more camps. He has played with hockey great Mark Messier and scored a goal in Madison Square Garden. Last year he pitched in a game at Yankee Stadium. Jeffery’s latest venture was taking batting practice at the new Yankee Stadium.

“I hit four balls to the warning track,” Jeffery said. “Glenn Anderson, a Hall of Fame hockey player who has become a good friend from hockey camps, was playing the outfield and caught a blast and gave me the souvenir ball. I was outfitted in full Yankees uniform and got my name and picture wearing the Yankees uniform on the huge Yankee scoreboard. The players and coaches were sure I was going to hit one out but I just missed by a few feet.”

Jeffery is fulfilling the dreams of many ex-athletes but warns that it comes with a hefty price tag. He said the average cost for a four-day camp can run thousands of dollars. But he hasn’t let that, or injuries, including a surgically repaired ankle, keep him off the ice or the playing field.

When a number of ex-Oilers were reuniting to play a game in Edmonton, Jeffery was invited to participate. Playing forward during the warm-up game, he was hit as he turned into the boards.
“My feet went straight into the boards,” Jeffery explained. “I was lying there with my ankle literally hanging at a 90 degree angle. It happened to be the only time I ever left my wife at home to play hockey at a camp. I called her from the ambulance and she arrived early the next morning.”

The operation included the insertion of eight large screws and two metal plates to secure the ankle from three breaks on all sides. “He (the doctor) was a casual hockey player and was supposed to use three plates but that would have made the ankle completely inflexible and hockey would have been almost impossible.”

After spending six months on crutches and enduring a five-month rehabilitation with Dr. Dom DiDomenicantonio, Jeffery was ready to get back on the ice.

“It took many months to actually skate properly after rehab was over,” Jeffery said. “I was very motivated to get back to skating because I was scheduled to play hockey with Mark Messier in Madison Square Garden. I made it and was selected captain of Messier’s team and scored two goals in Madison Square Garden. I hurt my knee playing hockey three weeks before I was to play at Yankee Stadium, but with five-times-a-week rehab, I made it to Yankee Stadium fairly healthy.”
The former Canadian said he became a Yankee fan in 2000, intrigued with the team’s tradition. “I’m very nostalgic. The Yankee franchise is probably the most nostalgic franchise in all of sports. To be a part of that somehow is very special.”

“Only a handful of non-professional athletes can say they have played in Yankee Stadium and certainly not the new one. I got to play there the last year and the first year.”

Jeffery grew up playing goalie in hockey and second base and pitcher in baseball, but admits he didn’t have the dedication needed to become a professional athlete.

“My love for sports has actually increased,” Jeffery said. “I was so into hockey as a kid but when I moved to California in 1990, like every other Canadian kid growing up I wanted to become more of the summer sport guy, the surfer guy. So I spent years trying to disassociate myself from hockey and my roots.”

The dedication needed for a sports career was applied to the real estate market, where Jeffery has over $180 million in South Bay sales and is the owner of William Shaw Real Estate Services.

“After seven or eight years of working six-seven days a week in real estate, I was able to afford the luxury of attending hockey camps,” Jeffery said. His wife, Xiomara, bought a high-speed sports camera and enrolled in a photography class so she could capture the moments. Raised in Honduras, Xiomara grew up playing different sports and has become involved with her husband’s obsession with hockey and baseball. She even took ice skating lessons so she could skate with Phil Esposito.
“It’s been fun going with Boyd to the camps,” Xiomara said. “The athletes have been so gracious to our family and very personable.”

The couple’s 26-month-old son Kai is also involved. His bedroom walls depict the outside of Yankee Stadium, complete with flags of each of Boyd’s favorite teams.

“When my son grows up, he’ll have a great time with the room and collection, but he’ll also learn what sports can provide for him,” Jeffery professes. “He’ll learn the responsibility of competition and how to lose admirably. These are things in business that are very important.”

Jeffery is not your usual memorabilia collector. The majority of his collection has been autographed by the athletes beginning with the words “To Boyd.” Many sports collectors frown on the personalization of signatures which decrease the value of the items… at least in the collectible market.

“They are terrific souvenirs of terrific events I’ve participated in or that I’ve seen,” explained. “I only buy a collectible that was used by a favorite player or from an event I personally attended or saw and when I get to meet that athlete, I will ask them to sign it and personalize it. I’m not interested in anything pre-signed. It’s the best souvenir of all to have a piece of memorabilia that you’ve used and have an athlete sign while you’re participating with them.

The majority of Jeffery’s collection is hockey oriented. Hanging on the walls illuminated by track lighting are professionally-framed photos, many including Jeffery with NHL legends such as Gretzky, Esposito, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and Bobby Hull. There is one of the six benches used by the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden from 1968-1998.

Scores of jerseys hang in rows, each with a story behind it. “The hockey jerseys remind me of games my father took me to as a kid,” Jeffery said. “Dad had season tickets to Edmonton when Gretzky was on team. The present day items have ties to my wife or son.”

Surrounded by autographed gloves, baseball bats, hockey sticks and skates, Jeffery will often sit in one of the stadium seats he acquired from Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium and reminisce about his experience of throwing off the mound at Yankee Stadium. He has a replica of a Yankee Stadium locker that holds the cleats, batting helmet, glove cap – even the jock strap – he used.

“I faced former Yankee players such as Tim Raines, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers and Oscar Gamble,” Jeffery recalled. “Ron Guidry came to the mound in the middle of an inning and gave me pointers because I was throwing a few pitches outside. That was unbelievable. I recorded a strikeout and got one hit in the game.”
Jeffery bought the pitching rubber he used after the next Yankee home stand was over. It rests on the floor in front of a display dedicated to his other favorite baseball team – the Angels. Jeffery is a bi-coastal season ticket holder, having ducats to the Angels and Yankees.

Boyd and Xiomara attended six of the seven World Series games when the Angels won the title in 2002. A team-autographed jersey along with framed programs and tickets from the championship run hang on the wall as a reminder of the Angel’s first World Series appearance.

With the strong possibility of the Angels and Yankees playing each other for American League pennant, Jeffery admits “I would cheer for the Yankees without standing up and clapping, respectfully cheering inside.”

Jeffery has his collection insured, but declined to disclose the appraised value. “To me, it’s priceless,” he said. “It’s something I want my son to enjoy as he grows up.”

Jeffery said his most prized item would be of little value to other collectors. Hanging on a wall next to a staircase in their multi-level home is a framed 16x20 photo taken after Jeffery’s pitching performance. It shows Boyd and Kai in matching uniforms, backs turned, walking toward home plate in a deserted Yankee Stadium. A few days after the camp, Jeffery met Yogi Berra at an autograph session and had the Hall of Fame catcher write his signature on home plate.

The most prized collectible in Jeffery’s collection is an autographed game-used jersey worn by Messier in the Heritage Classic when 53,000 spectators packed the football stadium in Edmonton to watch the first ever outdoor NHL hockey game.

Whether it was playing against Gretzky, attending a leadership camp held by Messier (the captain of six Stanley Cup championship teams), or pitching in the stadium where Babe Ruth and other legends of American sport have competed, the camps have benefited Jeffery beyond providing memorable moments.

“I’ve had diabetes for 29 years,” Jeffery explained. “I started out with one needle a day, then two, then up to eight a day. As I got older, I had more complications. When I started to work a lot during the first 10 years of my career and I didn’t exercise as much, my body started to break down. When I started doing sports again, my diabetes got better.”

Jeffery said he was one of first to receive an insulin pump, but stresses the importance of exercise. He recalled playing in a hockey fantasy camp in 2007. “There were times when I had to leave the ice and get a candy bar. Gretzky had heard about it and after the game brought a stick over and signed it: “To Boyd, Ironman Award.”

Just one more item – and story – for the collection. B