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.

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