Sunday, September 30, 2007

91-92 Score Young Superstars

theoren fleury, score young superstars, score, young superstars, 91-92, calgary flames, nhl, hockey, hockey cardsI guess finding 40 young stars is a harder task than it seems. Score's Young Superstar set does have a few legitimate superstars, but it also includes players who are either not young (John Cullen, 27 in 1991), or not stars (I'll bet you all my Pro-Set cards that that was only time Murray Baron was ever called a superstar), or neither (Chris Terreri). This is a pretty average set all-around.

Three of my favourites:

#17 - Bob Essensa - If I can see one goalie stack the pads in a shootout this season, I'll be happy.

#30 - Eric Lindros - Score had made more than 20 Eric Lindros cards before he had even played a single game in the NHL. They finally went too far when they started sticking him in the background of other people's cards.

#34 - Pat Elynuik - What arena would the Jets be playing in that has clear boards?

92-93 Score Young Superstars
Scott Neidermayer, New Jersey Devils, Score, Young superstars, 92-93, nhl, hockey, hockey cards
It's like the time I handed in the same essay for two classes. Pretty lazy.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hockey Card of the Week #1

Don Cherry, Boston Bruins, Topps, 74-75, NHL, hockey, hockey cards, rookie#161 - Don Cherry
74-75 Topps

I know I usually go on about how hockey cards need to have action shots and all that, well here's the exception. I have never seen a more badass card than this one. Cherry's glare is so intense, and his mustache is so tough that he even makes Charles Bronson look like a pansy! I bet he had beaten up the photographer and insulted every minority in Canada by the time the photo shoot was done.

I'd love to have the full set of 74-75 O-Pee-Chee (I know this card is Topps, but only because I couldn't afford the O-Pee-Chee version). The design of this cards beats everything produced from the late-80's and onward (though 90-91 O-Pee-Chee comes pretty close). Putting a hockey stick in the border always looks so good that it should be a no-brainer for the card manufacturers of today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

92-93 Upper Deck

Ron Francis, Pittsburgh Penguins, Upper Deck, 92-93, nhl, hockey, hockey cards
With 640 cards between the high and low series', Upper Deck didn't leave anything out if it's 92-93 set. On top of the base cards that cover everyone from Wayne Gretzky to Grigori Panteleev, the set includes painted team checklists (though they aren't as striking as the ones in the 90-91 set), brothers (this time the Linden's are on roller blades instead of the Bure's), the '92 Finnish World Junior team, Russian stars, '92 World Hockey and '93 World Junior Championship cards, trophy winners, young guns, lethal lines, and more.

Of all the sub-sets, my favorite is the Rookie Report where hockey experts predict that Pat Falloon "has many 50-goal seasons ahead of him (he only managed two 50-point seasons in his disappointing career)," and that Tom Draper will be Buffalo's goalie of the future, while Dominik Hasek is merely "unpredictable" and "fun to watch (Hasek took Draper's spot in Buffalo in the 92-93 season)." An honorable mention goes to the player profiles that fill-out the last twenty cards of the set. There's nothing like reading boring answers to generic questions and looking at the sweet shoes that Jaromir Jagr wears, or Doug Gilmour trying to be a badass and talking about riding his "hawg." What a dink. I only wish that on Brian Bellows' profile they would have shown him holding his own hockey card.

With all those sub-sets, Upper Deck could have easily done a half-assed job of the base cards, but once again they made a classy design. The borders are simple and much smaller than the previous year leaving more room for exciting action shots-- and there are lots of them. For many sets it's tough to pick five cards that stand-out from the rest of the pack, but for this set I had to cut it down from at least 25 very good cards.

So here they are, five of my favourites:

#181 - Bob Bassen - There is so much to take in on this card. The crowd's reaction is an interesting as the defender's.

#177 - Brian Propp - Getting tripped on the front, and getting tripped on the back.

#338 - Igor Korolev - The guy with the mustache isn't allowed to sign autographs for kids under 18.

#263 - Petr Nedved - Upper Deck's photographer in Los Angeles loves that fisheye lens.

#497 - Tomas Jelinek - You need to see the back of this card to fully appreciate why Tomas Jelinek is the Lanny McDonald of unibrows.

Monday, September 24, 2007

05-06 Sunkist

Lanny McDonald, Toronto Maple Leafs, Upper Deck, sunkist, 05-06, nhl, hockey, hockey cards
Sets this bad don't get released every day. I'd expect that most ideas that are as terrible as this get nixed long before they find themselves being bent and creased in five-pound bags of oranges. But somehow, this Sunkist/Upper Deck NHL alumni set managed to squeak through to production without anyone stopping and saying, "these cards blow."

I don't even know where to begin with this set. Maybe I'll start by pointing out that the ugly orange border on the front of the card is actually the outside of an orange, and the back of the card has the inside of an orange as the background; the logos are all photoshopped out (which is always lame), and in the case of the Richard Brodeur card, you can still see the outline of the 'V' from the Canucks 80's 'flying V' logo; only four of the six players featured in the set could really be called stars-- as good as Wendel Clark and Richard Brodeur were at times in their career, they are far from hall-of-fame quality; the back of the card has more information about fruits and vegetables than it does about the player on the card; the cards are included in a bag of oranges!

I'd have to say the one redeeming thing about this set is the sweet Sunkist logo in the bottom right corner. If Sunkist made a set that was just fruits and vegetables playing hockey I'd be so stoked I wouldn't know what to do with myself.

Here are the three remaining cards from the set that I haven't already posted:

#3 - Yvan Cournoyer
#4 - Doug Gilmour - The only player not shown in the colours of a Canadian hockey team.
#5 - Dale Hawerchuk

06-07 Sunkist
Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks, Upper Deck, sunkist, 06-07, nhl, hockey, hockey cards
If I gave an award for most improved set, Upper Deck/Sunkist would get it for their follow-up to the worst set ever produced. The back of the cards still has that ugly orange background, and more information about fruits and vegetables than the players, and the cards are still horribly cut, but other than that, the cards look pretty good. Of course, it helps that for '07, Sunkist shelled out for licensing from both the NHL and NHLPA so they could show current players and not have to photoshop out the team's logo. It's also helps that they decided against putting the same orange border on the front of the cards that they did the previous year because the ice background is actually appropriate. Unfortunately, the cards are still included in five-pound bags of oranges, so the chances of finding one that isn't bent in six different directions are slim.

Here are all ten 06-07 Sunkist cards:

- Alex Kovalev
- Jason Spezza
- Mats Sundin
- Jarome Iginla
- Ryan Smyth
- Marcus Naslund
- Alexander Ovechkin
- Vincent Lecavalier
- Joe Thornton
- Miikka Kiprusoff

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

90-91 Bowman

I made a mistake in my post on 91-92 Topps Stadium Club when I said that Stadium Club was the first set Topps made without the help of O-Pee-Chee since the 67-68 season-- I forgot that Bowman, which put out its first set in 90-91, was owned by Topps.

As far as 90-91 cards go, Pro-Set is the only company that comes anywhere close to challenging Bowman for the unenviable title of worst set of the year. Just like Topps' regular set, Bowman's cards are dark and grainy, but where Topps was able to just slap its name on cards designed by O-Pee-Chee, Bowman had to think of its own design-- and it is ugly! I'd like to know who thought the Jamaican rainbow border was a good idea.

The one thing that always made Bowman stand out from the other hockey card companies in the early-90's (apart from the rainbow border) was their unique way of showing each player's stats. Instead of showing the player's single season or career stats, Bowman broke down the player stats from the previous season so you could see exactly how many goals, assists and points the player got against each NHL team. In some cases this is kind of interesting; you get to see which teams players played especially well against, but in a lot of cases (like with marginal players who only get a handful of points) it is just too much information for the back of a hockey card.

I don't have the full set of 90-91 Bowman, but of the 50 or so cards I do have, it's impossible to find any that stand out enough to make my list of favorites. But here's the three least-worst cards I can find:

#18 of 22 - Tony Granato - I don't know if you got one of these 'Hat Trick' cards per pack, or if they were randomly inserted, but they are definitely higher quality than the base set-- they have a clear photograph, nicer border, and a cool Dick Tracy hat.

#264 - Checklist - I don't usually put checklists on my site, but in this case it probably is the best looking card in the set.

#36 - Dave Poulin - This is about as much action as you'll see in this set.

91-92 Bowman
Hockey is a fast sport. A good game has lots of action: shots, goals, hits, fights, end-to-end rushes. What I don't understand is why so many hockey card companies fill their sets with photos of guys standing around. Close-up, non-action shots are fine for sports like baseball and golf where there isn't much going on, but hockey is supposed to be about action and hockey cards should show that. As much as Bowman improved in their second year producing hockey cards, they still failed when it comes to action shots; there's just nothing going on in so many of these cards.

But like I said, Bowman did make two significant improvements with their 91-92 set:
  1. Clear photographs - These cards aren't grainy at all! It took Topps a long time to figure it out, but finally in 91-92 they released a set that doesn't look like it's printed on flattened out rolls of toilet paper.
  2. No 'Rasta rainbow' border - Not like 91-92 Bowman's border is particularly great, but sometimes boring is better than awful.
Again, it's hard to pick favorites from this set, but here's five stand-outs-- good or bad:

#268 - Rick Wamsley - Were there no other photos of Wamsley without someone's ass in the way?

#176 - Wayne Gretzky - I wonder if companies had to pay more to include photos of Gretzky actually playing a real game. Bowman has this practice photo, and Stadium Club has a bad dressing room photo.

#337 - Andre Racicot - The stats are interesting for 'Red Light' Racicot. He played really well against the Rangers and Oilers but got shellacked by several other teams.

#111 - Grant Fuhr - This one is actually pretty cool for a Bowman card.

#420 - Stanley Cup Finals Game 2 - Bowman included cards for each 90-91 playoff series, plus one for each of the six games in the finals. These are the best cards in the set.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

91-92 Red Ace Russian Stars in NHL

I don't want to use the word shoddy because I really do like this set, but it definitely is one of the more. . . minimal sets I've seen. The Red Ace company made sure not to waste any effort while throwing these cards together. Once they had pictures of their 17 Russians stars, all they needed to do was type the player's name somewhere on the front, cram a big pile of hard to understand stats on the back, and boom-- it's a set. What about numbering the cards, you ask? Unnecessary. What about making sure all the cards are cut to the same width, you wonder? What's a half inch difference between cards of friends?

Other questions you may want to ask about Red Ace's Russian Stars in NHL:
- Why are the cards so thin and flimsy? To save paper.

- Who is Ravil Khaidarov, and why is he the only player who didn't play in the NHL? I don't know how he was the only player in the set that didn't make the NHL, but apparently he was actually a Russian star. He was featured in sets by Upper Deck and O-Pee-Chee in the early-90's. He was one of only four players in the set who wasn't either already an NHL'er or drafted by an NHL team when this set was released. The other players, Sergei Nemchinov, Igor Kravchuk and Vladimir Konstantinov all did pretty well for themselves in the NHL. According to, he stopped playing for a few years after the 91-92 season. So maybe he was injured and had to retire. He returned in 95-96 and has been playing mostly in German leagues ever since.

I don't usually do this, but for your hockey card viewing pleasure, here are all 17 Russian Stars in the NHL:
Pavel Bure
Evengy Davydov
Sergei Fedorov
Viacheslav Fetisov
Alexei Gusarov
Valeri Kamensky
Alexei Kasatonov
Ravil Khaidarov
Vladimir Konstantinov
Igor Kravchuk
Igor Larionov
Andrei Lomakin
Sergei Makarov
Alexander Mogilny
Sergei Nemchinov
Anatoli Semenov
Mikhail Tatarinov

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

06-07 Hockey Card Round-Up

By my count, Upper Deck released 30 different sets for the 06-07 season. Since I don't have the time or money to buy and write about each set, I am only going to cover the four affordable sets that I could find.

Upper Deck
Cost: $4/8 card pack

Easily the best set of the year. A nice simple, classy design plus lots of horizontal cards (five in my pack of eight cards) and lots of action shots. Probably my favorite set in the last ten years. Of course, like everything Upper Deck releases now, there are more subsets, inserts and game worn memorabilia cards than there are base cards. While that does make collecting the complete set from the pack difficult, it seems that there are lots of people who don't even want the base cards-- meaning you can buy the complete set off of eBay for about $10.

Best card from my pack: #143 - Robert Esche (back)

Cost: $2/10 card pack

The more I look at and feel these cards, the more I like them. Fleer has that great rough cardboardy texture that I thought was extinct from hockey cards. While the photography in this set isn't particularly exciting, the cards aren't boring to look at either, and the fact that this set reminds me more of O-Pee-Chee than Upper Deck's O-Pee-Chee set earns it several bonus points. This is the closest anyone has gotten to the budget cards of the early-90's in a long time. Add five more cards to the packs, get rid of most of the inserts and drop the price of the full case to around $30, and this is a ten out of ten in my books.

Best card from my pack: #56 - Sergei Fedorov (back)

Cost: $1.50-2/6 card pack

Upper Deck really messed this one up. They took the most important brand in hockey card history, and instead of giving it a classic design deserving of its name, they farted out an ugly brown border and stamped the O-Pee-Chee logo on it five times bigger than it needed to be. I know that O-Pee-Chee's last set (92-93) was bad, but why did Upper Deck have to try to up the ante on ugly? The photography does manage to follow in the tradition of O-Pee-Chee cards: lots of close-up non-action shots. It's just too bad that that was the only point that they could get right. I suppose they did also make a simple, two colour back, but it's simple to the point of laziness. I can't think of any sets with backs that are more boring than this brown quadruple-spaced turd. They couldn't even be bothered to put in the right headings for the goalie stats. Pretty lame!

Best card from my packs: #419 - Vesa Toskala (back)

Cost: $2/6 card pack

I guess Upper Deck put all their effort into thinking of thousands of uncollectable subsets, so their actual sets were just thrown together when they needed something to package with their inserts. Victory is an uninspired set that looks like a second rate Score. Everything about these cards is unspectacular. Why is it necessary to have the big Victory logo behind the player when the logo is in the top left corner anyway?

Best card from my pack: #91 - Alexander Frolov (back)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

91-92 Topps Stadium Club

You know, for their first try at hockey cards without O-Pee-Chee's help since the '67-68 season, Topps' Stadium Club is a pretty good effort. It's half way in between a premium set (it has a glossy finish and gold foil trim) and the regular meat and potato sets that the Topps/O-Pee-Chee brands were known for (there were no inserts or sub-sets, just 400 pictures of hockey players).

The thing that I always liked about the few 91-92 Stadium Club cards I had as a kid was that each one had a picture of the player's rookie card on the back; it kind of felt like I was getting two cards in one. What I didn't realize until I bought the set a few weeks ago is that they only show each player's Topps rookie card. And since Topps always released smaller sets than O-Pee-Chee, it meant that a lot of players didn't have their Topps rookie card until several years after their O-Pee-Chee rookie. Mark Messier was an NHL All-Star and Conn Smythe trophy winner before he got his Topps rookie in 1986-- six years after his O-Pee-Chee rookie. Many of the other lesser players in this set either have their regular 91-92 Topps card shown on the back, or in some cases, their Stadium Club card-- meaning the same card on the front and back.

Overall, the photography in this set is pretty good. Topps made an effort to include a decent amount of action shots, which I appreciate even when it's hard to tell who is supposed to be the main focus. There are a few cards which are slightly dark or spotty, and there are some awkward dressing room photos, and my favorite, Tim Kerr looking like a casino owner, but compared to most early-90's cards, it's hard to complain.

Five of my favorites:
#306 - David Shaw - Other than action shots, my favorite thing to see on cards is fans going nuts. The guy with the glasses is cheering because that player knocked down that other player.

#318 - Garry Valk - I know I always talk about horizontal cards, but you can fit so much cool stuff onto a horizontal card if you do it right.

#381 - Ray Sheppard - Or you can leave it empty.

#391 - Stephane Matteau - Another card where it's not totally obvious who is supposed to be the main focus right away. But it's a pretty cool angle.

#249 - Bill Ranford - This one is perfect. There is lots going on, but you know exactly who is the center of attention.