Sunday, November 25, 2007

95-96 Upper Deck Collector's Choice

Eric Lacroix, Los Angeles Kings, Upper Deck, 95-96, Collector's Choice, hockey, hockey cardsThe foil lettering and full-bleed photos on 95-96 Upper Deck cards meant that regular Upper Deck was out of my price range, so I collected the second best Upper Deck set. 95-96 Collector's Choice is actually more like the Upper Deck sets of the early-90's than the regular Upper Deck set: it has a simple white and gray border and action photos on both the front and back. The size of the photo of on the back depends on how long the player had been playing in the NHL: since Blaine Lacher had just finished his rookie season, you get to see a nice large photo of him doing the splits in his boxer shorts, but since Gretzky had just finished his 16th NHL season, you only get to see a thumbnail sized photo. For some the cards it is hard to understand why they chose to put the less exciting photo on the front when they have pretty awesome photos on the back.

Since the regular Upper Deck set already included all the World Junior Championship player cards, and you couldn't have a set in the mid-90's without some kind of international junior tournament, Collector's Choice made cards for the European Junior Championships, a tournament that no one in North American had noticed before or has cared about since. The set only includes the Finnish and Swedish teams, but even with two of the stronger European hockey countries, there are very few notable players, with Vesa Toskala probably the best of the bunch. The set finished off with some ugly 'What's Your Game?' cards that explain to the lay-hockey fan the roles of various players such as scorers and grinders.

Five of my favorites:

#8 - Gary Suter - It always looks like Suter's face is melting off.

- Keith Tkachuk - Kirk McLean is obviously making another highlight reel save.

#281 - Brent Gretzky - Tampa Bay was a pretty terrible team for its first few years in the league, but at least they knew how to get some easy publicity: first they put Manon Rheaume in net for a few minutes in a couple of pre-season games, then they drafted Wayne's lesser brother, Brent.

- Brett Lindros - Doesn't this photo just warm your heart?

- Mikko Markkanen - I can't figure out why a player would have a duffel bag on the ice at any time for any reason.