Upper Deck Series One Hockey came out earlier this month, so it’s time once again to see which of these hot dogs come off looking like weenies — thanks to some intrepid hockey photographers and Upper Deck’s editors!
Chris Pronger has accomplished everything you would expect from an elite NHL defenseman. He’s won the Stanley Cup, the Norris Trophy and the Hart Trophy. He was the captain of three different NHL teams, was on the cover of two different video games and lead the league in plus/minus two times, for what it’s worth.
Pronger also excelled in international competitions, winning gold once at the World Junior Championships and twice in the Olympics. He was drafted second overall in 1993 and would still be a force on the Philadelphia Flyers’ blue line if not for the injuries that ended his career in 2011.
Naysayers will bemoan the fact that Pronger is still technically an active player — heck, he even got traded back in June — so he has no business being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame until his last paycheck as a player clears. Obviously, Pronger, who suffers from post concussion syndrome, won’t be playing pro hockey again, so there’s really no controversy.
In honor of Pronger’s Hall of Fame induction, here is a look at his NHL career, accompanied by some of the more interesting hockey cards issued during the past two decades.
It’s been quite some time since Puck Junk’s last installment of “The Lost Cards,” where we investigate the fate of hockey cards that should have been but never were. Today’s “no card” is of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
The checklist for the 2009-10 Upper Deck Series One Hockey set lists card number 48 as Kristopher Letang, back when it was still cool to have a three-syllable name. However, Letang actually is not in the set.
Mark Gessner has scored his dream role. A lifelong hockey fan, the New York-based actor plays Dickie Litski, a hard-drinking hockey player, on the new IFC comedy series “Benders.” Or more specifically, he plays a really bad hockey player on a really bad beer league hockey team. Ironic, considering that Gessner, 35, has played hockey since his childhood. “Benders,” produced by Dennis Leary, follows four friends who are obsessed with two things: playing hockey and getting drunk at the bar afterward.
Gessner was both an actor and a hockey player during his high school days. He has appeared on “Orange is the New Black,” “Veep,” “The Blacklist” and “Law and Order: SVU,” among other shows. Gessner recently talked with us about his role on “Benders,” playing high school hockey and the rigors of making rec league hockey look bad.
Sal Barry: I’ve really enjoyed “Benders” so far. I play beer league hockey, and the jokes really hit home.
Mark Gessner: Nice. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.
SB: How would you describe “Benders” to someone who has not yet seen the show?
MG: Basically, “Benders” is about four guys who have totally different jobs and are from totally different walks of life — but the one thing they can all agree on is that they love playing for their horrendous men’s league hockey team. It’s where they all intersect and where they all get along, and their friendship extends off the ice, as you often find in real hockey settings. It’s one of those sports where you become tight-knit playing it.
My costar, Andrew Schultz (Paul on “Benders”), came up with this analogy: it’s like “Entourage,” but as if they never left Queens, and then crossed that with a show like “The League,” where there’s a shared interest in a sport.
From 1951 to 1964, Parkhurst hockey cards captured the imagination of a generation of hockey fans. A nickel would get them a piece of gum and some trading cards of their favorite NHL players. For most, this was the only way they could see the players that they read about in the newspapers or heard about on the radio, since TV wasn’t mainstream yet.
Before 1951, hockey card releases were sporadic, if nonexistent. In fact, no hockey cards were released from 1941-42 to 1950-51. The 1951-52 Parkhurst set is considered the first modern-era set of hockey trading cards. Parkhurst cards became highly prized by card collectors decades later, and are still sought-after today. “The Parkies Hockey Card Story,” while an incomplete work, is a valuable resource for hockey card enthusiasts who want to know more about these vintage collectibles.
Sometimes, I see a hockey card and I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen the same photo elsewhere before. I might have to rack my brain for a bit and page through my binders of hockey cards until I find a match. Heck, that’s the whole premise of Deja Vu Tuesday. But other times, I see a photo on the hockey card and can instantly recall where it was first used. Such is the case with this card of Andrei Lomakin.
Twenty-five years ago, the trading card landscape was changed forever when three new companies entered the hockey card market. I recently wrote an article for The Hockey News about this crazy time — when people were stockpiling Sergei Fedorov rookie cards like they were gold bullion — and how it eventually led to the 1992 NHL players’ strike The article is in THN’s 2015-16 Season Preview issue, but you can also read it (for free!) at the THN website here. Check it out, and let me know your favorite memory of the 1990-91 season. ■
Happy first day of the 2015-16 NHL season! While I’ll still be updating Puck Junk as regularly as possible, I am now writing about the Chicago Blackhawks for lthe website Chicagoist. Today, they published my first article, which is a preview of the Blackhawks 2015-16 season. You should all check it out. I even throw in a little hockey trivia you can use to impress your friends. If you do read it, let me know your thoughts; do you think the ‘Hawks can win the Stanley Cup again this year? ■