Thursday, January 24, 2008

07-08 Upper Deck Series 1

Dustin Penner, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, 07-08, Upper Deck, hockey, hockey cardsI don't feel like this set really needs a big write-up. All you really need to know is that there aren't nearly as many exciting action shots as the previous year's set, I don't like the skinny little bar at the bottom/side of the cards, but it is still a lot better than the new O-Pee-Chee set which is once again ugly. 07-08 Upper Deck is above average, but below great.

Five of my favourites:

#54 - Joe Sakic - Overhead shots are always stand-outs.

#79 - Steve Bernier - There should have been more cards like this.

- Martin Biron - The one improvement over the previous year's set is the goalie cards. There are a lot more horizontal action shots, which are always the best.

#131 - Simon Gagne - I just noticed that all but one of the cards I pulled from the set as potential favourites are horizontal cards. They should just make the whole set like this.

#147 - Chris Phillips - I always like when I can see what the player is doing in the context of the play.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

77-78 O-Pee-Chee WHA

Rosaire Paiement, New England Whalers, Indianapolis Racers, WHA, 77-78, O-Pee-Chee, hockey, hockey cardsNothing shows the WHA's instability better than its final O-Pee-Chee set. More than a quarter of the cards in the relatively small 66-card set have "Now with. . ." printed somewhere on the front. Four of the twelve teams that existed during the 76-77 WHA season folded prior to the release of O-Pee-Chee's 77-78 set, which would have made it hard for O-Pee-Chee to release a full sized set with the correct teams listed on each player's card, so they really didn't bother to try to get it right.

The lack of up-to-date photos makes for a nice variety of jerseys with all eight surviving teams included (Birmingham Bulls, Cincinnati Stingers, Edmonton Oilers, Houston Aeros, Indianapolis Racers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets) as well as the four teams that folded after the 76-77 season (Calgary Cowboys, Minnesota Fighting Saints, Phoenix Roadrunners and San Diego Mariners) as well as, for some reason, the Los Angeles Sharks, a team that relocated to Michigan after the 73-74 season, and the NHL's Vancouver Canucks. Since the set is only 66 cards you mostly get the WHA stars, like Bobby Hull, Frank Mahovlich and the Howe brothers, this unfortunately means players like the Carlson brothers, who played the Hanson's in the movie Slap Shot do not get cards. It's not hard to understand why O-Pee-Chee did not make another WHA set even though the league lasted until the 78-79 season-- the league was constantly on verge of going under, and judging from the number of photos reused from previous WHA sets, O-Pee-Chee had better things to do than make cards for the rebel league.

One of the nice things about this set is the number of action shots. O-Pee-Chee was sometimes guilty of putting too many boring shots of people standing around or posing. While this set does have some of that, it also has some pretty good photography, especially for a set from the 70's. There is action, and there are rad game photos of goalies. I'd also like to point out how much I love the fuzzy edges and off-centering. Sure, it means the cards aren't in mint condition, but they have so much character. Some of the cards have the line of copyright information at the bottom of the card, some have a little at the both the top and bottom, while others don't have it at all. Beautiful!

My favourites:

- Gordie Howe - Gordie doesn't get a regular card in the set, just this one commemorating his 1000th professional goal. Note the Plexiglas boards!

- Jean Bernier - I like the crude old Nordiques jersey and that wearing a helmet is notable enough to get mentioned on the back.

#3 - Anders Hedberg - He's got the crazy-eye!

#14 - Don McLeod - I wish we could go back to the days of double-chinned goaltenders.

#37 - Terry Ruskowski - This card came with a little piece of authentic 77-78 O-Pee-Chee gum stuck to it!

#41 - John McKenzie - if you can believe it, gramps here played another two seasons after this photo was taken.

- Al Smith - Goalies looked so badass in the 70's.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hockey Card of the Day #25

Brian McFarlane, Hockey Night In Canada, It Happened in Hockey, 06-07 Parkhurst, Upper Deck, hockey, hockey cards#72 - Brian McFarlane
06-07 Parkhurst

Here is the highly sought after rookie card of the author of my second through fifth favorite books on hockey: It Happened in Hockey, More It Happened in Hockey, and Still More It Happened in Hockey. In case you are wondering, Ed Willes' The Rebel League, about the WHA's short but amazing history is my favourite book on hockey. When Ed Willes gets a hockey card, I will gladly pay up to 25 cents for it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

94-95 Be a Player

Doug Gilmour, Toronto Maple Leafs, 94-95 Be A Player, Upper Deck, hockey, hockey cardSo far on my blog I've covered some pretty awful sets, like the infamous 90-91 Pro-Set, which featured errors, referees and the puck; Sunkist's riculous 05-06 'orange peel' set with it's horribly photoshopped jerseys; Pro-Set Platinum's 91-92 second series which, most notably, features cards of children's entertainer, Fred (Mr.) Rogers and CNN douche, Larry King; as well as numerous low-budget draft pick and major junior sets that really scraped the bottom of the barrel of good taste and basic competency. But all these sets pale in comparison to the set that I am naming the official Worst Set of All-Time: 94-95 Be A Player.

Be A Player, which was produced by the Upper Deck and the NHLPA, was kind of a big deal back when it was first released because it was the first set to include an autographed card in every pack. Hopefully, the excitement of finding an autographed card was enough to off-set the disappointment of finding out that the set was not licensed by the NHL, meaning that none of the players were shown wearing their team's jersey. When the players are shown playing hockey (which isn't as often as you'd expect in a set of hockey cards) they are wearing a variety of ugly NHLPA jerseys, and when they aren't playing hockey, you find some of the worst hockey cards in existence.

The set can be divided into ten different, but all terrible, sub-sets:
  1. Hockey players being hockey players - This includes the few action shots, the many posing in hockey equipment shots, and the poorly airbrushed uniform shots.
  2. Hockey players being golfers - Golfing might be fun, but it isn't very cool. No one collects golf cards, and no one should have ever made cards of hockey players golfing.
  3. Hockey players being models - Half of this set looks like a NHLPA clothing catalog.
  4. Hockey players being themselves - This is one of my favourite parts of the set because I get to see how professional hockey players are just like regular people: they like playing pool, rollerblading (note that this is from the same photo shoot as his 91-92 Upper Deck card), dogs, being gay, impersonating Kenny G, and arson!
  5. Hockey players giving tips - The boring part of the set.
  6. Hockey player snapshots - There's shots of 14 NHL stars or up-and-comers,Pavel Bure, Fanimation, Vancouver Canucks, 94-95 Be A Player, Upper Deck, hockey, hockey card and then, for some reason, Garry Valk.
  7. Hockey players as kids - You get to guess who the person is from their childhood photo. I guessed Cammie Granato on this one, but it was actually this guy.
  8. Denis Leary talking about hockey players - You remember him? The guy who had that comedy song 'Asshole'. He makes some 'PG ' jokes on some players' cards.
  9. Hockey players in the news - I always hate these cheesy fake newspaper things. It usually means that their are too many words and not enough action, but this card makes up for it on the back-- a player playing real hockey!
  10. Hockey players as fanimated superheros - Try to imagine the worst thing you could possibly put on a hockey card. This is worse.
I could have put almost all of the 180 cards from this set into my Worst Cards of All-Time list, but I've narrowed it down to these five inductees:

- Jason Arnott - I snuck into these waterslides at the West Edmonton Mall once when I was on a band trip. I'm a little disappointed I didn't get a photo on a trading card.

- Steve Smith - Too bad Steve isn't as good at golf as he is at scoring in his own net in the 1986 playoffs.

- Denis Leary - It's sad that a comedian is one of the few people shown playing hockey in this set.

- Curtis Joseph - Touching his balls!

- Eric Lindros - I always wondered what Eric Lindros would look like as a pimp from the year 3000. Not that he was a bad dresser back in the 90's though.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

06-07 Fleer

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks, 06-07 Fleer, Upper Deck, hockey, hockey cardsIt doesn't seem like Upper Deck is going to be releasing a Fleer set this year, which is too bad considering this was the second best set of 06-07, in my opinion (which is the correct opinion). I already said just about everything I have to say about this set in a previous post, but since I got the set off of eBay for next to nothing, I thought it deserved it's own post.

Upper Deck should have released these cards as their O-Pee-Chee set instead of the ugly brown cards that got the O-Pee-Chee brand name. Everything about the Fleer set is closer to the traditional look and feel of the O-Pee-Chee sets of the past except that the backs only have stats from the player's last five NHL season stats.

Five of my favourites:

#45 - Nikolai Khabibulin - Judging from what I can see of his face through his mask, he must be the world's ugliest dude.

#94 - Rob Blake - Since this was one of the first sets of the 07-08 season there weren't photos of some of the players with their current teams, so they either used a photo of the player with his previous team and put the current team's logo in the corner, or, in Rob Blake's case, they hired a handicapped person to hold up his new jersey for a photo.

- Scott Hartnall - As much as I liked Nashville's gaudy third jerseys, it's about time they were put out of the NHL's misery.

#125 - Trent Hunter - This guy looks like he was drafted from the dark corner of one of those internet cafe's where you see people playing war games online 24 hours a day.

- Sidney Crosby - Ever heard of him?