#35 - Antti Aalto 93-94 Classic Draft Picks (back)
He won't be remembered for much in his NHL career, but at least he'll have the distinction of being the first player listed in the alumni section in every NHL record book. He better cross his fingers that Vitalij Aab doesn't get signed by an NHL team.
Putting advertisements on cards is pretty low. You can't see all of it on this card, but behind Bondra it says "The Official Magazine of the Players and Teams of the National Hockey League." The ad for PowerPlay magazine is nothing compared to their 'NHL on Fox' insert set featuring, for some reason, third-liners like Roman Oksiuta.
Things were "golden" for Sidorkiewicz back in 88-89. He took over Mike Liut's position as the Whalers' top goaltender and was named to the NHL's all-rookie team. Three seasons later, however, the Ottawa Senators claimed him in the expansion draft and Sidorkiewicz went on to an 8 win, 48 loss season. Although he was the Senators' representative in the '93 all-star game, he was traded at the end of the season to the New Jersey Devils and played just three games in the NHL over the next five seasons which were split between Fort Wayne of the IHL and Albany of the AHL.
If you've ever wondered how you could easily carry 40 of your favourite hockey or baseball cards on your belt, you missed the boat.
I think this is the simplest card ever made. It's just a logo on a piece of cardboard; no background, no words, no messing around. Other companies have tried making similar cards, but they just don't have the class of O-Pee-Chee.
NNO - Steve Yzerman 90-91 Upper Deck Hologram Stickers Worst Ever Hockey Card Set #1
Usually when you look at these holograms you just have to take Upper Deck's word that there's a hockey player somewhere in the blur. But today I found out something exciting: if you hold the card at just the right angle, with perfect lighting (indirect light that's not too dark or too bright) and then close one eye and squint with the other, you can not only see the number on the player's arm clearly enough to positively identify him as Steve Yzerman, but you can see another player behind Yzerman who I think may be Brett Hull! And to think that Upper Deck was considering pulling these cards from production for lack of quality!
If I'm ever going to fulfill my dream of being the guy who writes the blurbs on the back of hockey cards, I'm going to have to learn to write the most obviously cheesy things. When I'm able to write a line like "Ronnie issued another stern warning to his opponents. . ." without choking on my own vomit, then I'll know that I'm ready.
The Blazers were Vancouver's other major-pro hockey team in the 70's. The franchise that became the Vancouver Blazers was originally supposed to be based out of Florida and called the Miami Screaming Eagles, but due to money and arena problems they never played a game in Miami and moved to Philadelphia instead where they lasted one year (72-73) before Vancouver bajillionaire Jim Pattison bought the team and moved them to Vancouver. In need of a star to replace Andre Lacriox, the WHA's all-time leading scorer who left the Blazers for the New York Golden Blades, Pattison apparently offered Phil Esposito $2.5 million to join the Blazers. Even though this was significantly more than Esposito was making in Boston, the offer was rejected and even the Blazer Belles, the team's dance squad that dressed in hot pants, couldn't keep fans interested in the two losing seasons that the team produced. Pattison relocated the team to Calgary for the 75-76 season and renamed them the Cowboys. The Cowboys lasted two years before the Miami Screaming Eagles/Philadelphia Blazers/Vancouver Blazers/Calgary Cowboys franchise finally folded. The WHA itself lasted until the 78-79 season, with the Winnipeg Jets defeating Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers to win the final Avco Cup.
I took my own advice from my post on 06-07 cards and bought the complete set of Upper Deck (both series') for $10. For some reason the rookies aren't counted as base cards even though they are numbered as part of the set, so I received cards 1 to 200 and 250 to 450. Having seen all the cards in the set now, I still think it's the best set of the year, and perhaps the last several years, but it's still far from a perfect set.
One of my biggest problems is the inappropriate use of the word 'score' in the blurbs on the backs of several cards. I'll use Brian Gionta's card as an example: ". . . his 24 power-play scores set a team record." Was that written by a four year old? Do the people at Upper Deck also say that a team won "three scores to two"? Probably not. Scoring is the action, goals are the results.
Other than Upper Deck's poor grammar, the first series is quite amazing. There are more action shots than I've seen in any other set, including net battles, body checks, slapshots, saves and goals. The second series, however, feels a lot more thrown together. Upper Deck would have had to move fast to get all the photos of players on their new teams in time to release the set before the season was over, and the quality suffers for it. Instead of action shots there are a lot more photos of guys just skating around, not doing much and goalies stretching. The lamest thing Upper Deck did was to include two Gretzky cards. It's not like these were special cards celebrating some special achievement, one is a checklist which might not have been too big of a deal, but the other is a regular card just like every other one in the set, except that the last stats shown are for the 98-99 season. Adding a retired superstar like that just so you can put his picture on the box and sell a few extra to people who don't know anything about hockey is the lamest gimmick I've seen since the terrible pre-NHL Eric Lindros cards in 91-92 Score.
Five of my favourites:
#32 - Darren McCarty - Two minutes for stupid facial hair and generally acting like a jackass.
#45 - Nikolai Khabibulin - This is a nice horizontal card with an interesting angle showing a glove save, but the real reason I like it is that it is the closest Anson Carter got to having a card. I know Carter didn't do much in Columbus or Carolina and he's out of a job now, but if his 33 goal season with Vancouver didn't earn him a card, didn't his hair?
#98 - Derek Boogaard - I read in an old Beckett that the NHLPA doesn't allow companies to use photos of players fighting. I think that's stupid. They can show goalies making saves, and players scoring, why can't they show fighters fighting? Look at this card-- they don't even give Boogaard a stick when he plays. He just runs around elbowing guys until someone fights him.
#181 - Mats Sundin - Living in Vancouver, where you can barely afford to sniff the air around GM Place when the Canucks are playing, it's hard to believe that in other NHL cities the seats are as empty as this.
You can watch a guy open a box of 06-07 Upper Deck on an internet show called Rip & Pull. I don't suggest it. It's just a chubby nerd opening packs of cards, but I wanted to point that out so I could post the video of a later episode where he gets a stripper named Dejah Vu to help him open a box of basketball cards. It's as embarrassing as it is depressing.
How did I get cards like this in my collection? It's the most random player from a very random set. As far as I can tell, Ryan Loxam didn't go on to a professional hockey career and the Vernon Lakers folded after the '93 season (another team from Vernon called the Vipers joined the league a few years later (three other Vernon teams have also played in the BCJHL: the Canadians, Vikings, and Essos)).
This card is one of a surprisingly ambitious 246 cards in the league-issued BCJHL set. Of those, I counted four players who went on to play in the NHL for any amount of time: three were drafted by the Canucks (Bill Muckalt, Dieter Kochan, Robb Gordon) and the other is a current Canuck (Brendan Morrison). I'd like to see the rest of the set to find out if the photos got any better than this cellphone quality picture.
Other than the ugly maple leaves, I like the back in a sweet-budget-set kind of way. I realize they only put the Lakers logo so prominently on the back so that they wouldn't have to put another picture and drive up printing costs, but it's a nice touch. On top of that they have some stats, a couple sentences about the guy who probably now is an assistant manager at Mr. Lube, and a pretty cool BCJHL logo. This card gets an 'A' for effort.
Future Trends released this poorly named '72 Hockey Canada set partly to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Canada/Russia Summit Series, but mostly to commemorate some easy cash at the height of the early 90's hockey card craze. Before I talk about the set, I want to point at that the company's full name is Future Trends Experience Ltd., which is by far the worst name I have ever seen associated with hockey cards. It sounds like a company that would manufacture the shitty Transformer knock-off toys that you find at dollar stores.
I could forgive all of the set's shortcomings-- the cluttered and out of focus cards, the shots of players' backs, the ugly blue logo, the boring training camp cards (did they have to name a card with a bunch of guys bending over 'coming out party'?), to name a few-- if only they had a card of John Ferguson giving the Russians the one-finger salute after the Canadians rescued Alan Eagleson from the Russian police in game eight of the series (you can watch it in this youtube video). The incident is mentioned on one card, but the photo and quote on the back don't really provide any detail about what happened. It's disappointing that they didn't think the second most amazing moment of the series (next to Henderson's goal) deserved a photo. And while I'm on the subject of things the set is missing, why not a card for Alan Eagleson or the totem pole that Team Canada gave to the Russians before game eight? Eagleson was a lot more important than Dale Tallon or Ed Johnston, who didn't even play in any games but get cards in the set, and the totem pole was just awesome.
Even though there are many things lacking in this set, there are a few redeeming qualities as well. The story of the series is told fairly effectively through quotes on the backs of the cards. Some of the cards may seem like they'd be better left to a book, but it makes for a more interesting read than the backs of most card. The best quote is on the back of Phil Esposito's card: "And when he scored, I mean. . . that's the closest I ever came to really loving another guy." And for all that I said about blurry photography, there are a few pretty exciting and funny shots.
Five of my favourites:
#20 - Alexander Maltsev - The editorial quote on the back is only slightly more flattering than the photo on the front.
#50 - Alexander Martynuk - This could just as easily be a card for the guy in the tie sitting behind the fence.
#61 - Stan Mikita - His pants on the back of the card are pretty mind-blowing.
#70 - Series Stars - Yakushev was the highest scoring Russian in the series and this is how he is shown in the set.
#83 - Yuri Liapkin - "Liapkin will always be remembered as the defenseman who gave up the puck in his own zone with 34 seconds left in the series allowing Paul Henderson to score." Beside the quote is the photo of a shocked Liapkin moments after Henderson scored the series winning goal.
It's nice that Score went back to a small simple border more like the one they had in 90-91, rather than the big red, blue, or purple borders they had in 91-92. Score also released an 92-93 American set that has the same numbering as the Canadian set (except that Jay Wells and Mick Vukota replace the two Maurice Richard cards that the Canadian set has), but different photos and an uglier design.
#25 - Kevin Stevens - Some snow spraying can also make for a nice card.
#182 - Dave Snuggerud - I have a soft spot for bad players on bad teams, but not as much as the guy who runs this blog. He's collected autographs from some of the most unknown and unappreciated hockey players ever, such as Troy Gamble, Derek Laxdal, and Per Djoos, to name a few.
#304 - Kay Whitmore - I'm surprised he doesn't have any of Kay Whitmore as well.
#417 - Kirk Mclean/Tim Cheveldae Season Leader - Putting two goalies on a card is always a good idea.
Also, I fixed my original post called "Hockey Cards Rule." For some reason blogger deleted a bunch of it, but it's all back now.
#135 - California Golden Seals Checklist 76-77 O-Pee-Chee (back)
It's pretty common to see cards that say "now with. . ." when a player has been traded or has signed with a new team, but it's not too often you get to see the same kind of note for an entire team. If you look closely at the card, it looks like it has been painted, or maybe it's another tinted black and white photo like the Don Cherry card I wrote about last week. I only wish that O-Pee-Chee had painted Cleveland Barons jerseys on the players à la 89-90 O-Pee-Chee.
I didn't really collect hockey stickers as a kid. They were so flimsy, there were no stats on the back, and you had to stick them in a book which totally ruined their value (joke's on me, none of they cards from when I was a kid are worth anything!). But sticker collector or not, I hit the jackpot when I found this 90-91 Panini sticker album complete with every sticker for $1.99. I've seen other sticker albums around on occasion that had a handful of stickers, but never before had I seen a complete album. I wonder how many full sticker albums even exist-- collectors wouldn't put their stickers in a book, and most kids don't have the patience to collect 351 stickers and carefully place them into an album. Besides, by '91 all the kids I knew got hooked on Blades of Steel and forgot about hockey cards altogether.
At least one kid persevered, and I am very grateful to him because this album is great. By themselves, the stickers are nothing to write home about. Like too many other sets there are lots of guys standing around, but somehow the book makes the difference. I guess I can compare it to hearing one song from the middle of a great record; if you don't know the context you may think that the song is boring, that there's nothing going on. Then later when you hear the album the way it's meant to be played it all makes sense. So it is with Panini's 90-91 sticker album.
Each team page is perfectly laid-out with an exciting action or goal photo placed nicely beside the shiny silver team card on the right side of the page. The left side is headed by the team name and one of the team's star players. The 14 players' stickers all fall into place below that. There isn't a single wasted page in the whole book. Even the table of contents is awesome with its Wales, Campbell, and Stanley Cup stickers. Apart from the table of contents and the 21 NHL teams, the book also includes a recap 1990playoffs with a two page spread for the Stanley Cupfinals, all-stars and awards.
This set requires more than my usual five favourite cards, so here are my three favourite team pages:
Philadelphia Flyers - All you Keith Acton fans will be happy. Including this one, Acton is in four of the team photos.
Minnesota North Stars - I'm a sucker for the old North Star logo. Apparently it took a while for the kid who collected these stickers to figure out that you're supposed to put the sticker right over top of the name in the box, so there's a bunch of stickers that are overlapping.
After 24 great years, O-Pee-Chee's final set proved that they could no longer cut it. The set gets off to a bad start with a blurry Kevin Todd and hardly improves from there. I know that it's tough to make a set with 396 mind-blowing cards, but it seems to me that you should at least try to bury the blurry ones somewhere in the back, instead of presenting them as the first card. And besides, it's Kevin Todd! I always wonder why companies like to put some random second or third liner in such a prominent spot.
Blurry cards aren't the only problem, cluttered shots are also frequent in the set. And let's not forget about the back of the card: O-Pee-Chee has always thrived on simple two or three colour backs, so why after 24 years of success did they decide to change the winning formula? Did those little holograms on the back of the Upper Deck cards scare them into thinking that what people wanted was a colour gradient?
Luckily, the set isn't a totally write-off. As it was O-Pee-Chee's 25th anniversary, they commemorated their rich history with 25 rookie reprints. With one card for each of their regular sets from 68-69 to 91-92, plus Bure's card from 91-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier, you get a pretty good look at what O-Pee-Chee once was. Each card has an alternate photo not used on the original card. In some cases the new photo is an obvious improvement over the original, in others, not so much. Calling it a rookie reprint sub-set is a little misleading. In two cases (72-73 and 77-78) they don't use rookies from the original set. I guess that because the options for those two years were so weak (would you prefer Doug Palazzari or Jerry Korab's rookie?) they decided people would rather see the established stars. Seeing Cheevers in his badass stitch mask while playing for the WHA's Cleveland Crusaders makes me think that I agree.
Five of my favourites:
#16 - Jon Casey - The only action in this set is on the goalie cards.