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? ■
When I first opened my copy of “Golden Oldies: Stories of Hockey’s Heroes” and glanced at the table of contents, I was a bit confused. I wasn’t sure why author Brian McFarlane selected such an oddly diverse group of subjects for his new book. McFarlane, who has written over 80 books, is hockey’s foremost historian and a former Hockey Night in Canada host. So it seems silly for me to question his choice of subjects.
Then again, most anthology books are tied around a particular era or subject. It’s hard to find a common theme between Sprague Cleghorn, Clint Malarchuk, Eddie Shack, Bob Johnson and the 18 others featured in the book.
After two chapters, the connection became clear. All of these former players and coaches have great stories to tell.
Mario is the big five-oh! All-time great Mario Lemieux is 50 years old today. Despite numerous ailments and injuries, plus a three-year retirement, Lemieux had one of the most remarkable NHL careers. He won six scoring titles, was league MVP three times, played in 10 NHL All-Star Games, was a First Team All-Star five times and a Second Team All-Star four times. The list goes on and on.
More importantly, he saved the struggling Penguins franchise numerous times. His stellar play was a big reason why the team won back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 1991 and 1992. He purchased the team in the late 1990s, keeping the team in Pittsburgh. His comeback in 2000 also helped the struggling team by increasing interest (and ticket sales) for the Pens. Lemieux also helped secure the deal for a new arena in Pittsburgh. He has helped the Penguins off the ice as much as he did on the ice.
To celebrate Mario’s big five-oh, here is a look at his career, illustrated with some of his best cards. Continue reading
If I played pro hockey, I would want this to be my rookie card. Marc Crawford, best known as an NHL head coach for 15 years, had one mainstream hockey card issued during his playing career — and it makes him look like a total bad ass.
This is also one of the few times that blood was shown on a hockey card.
True, Hasek played in his first official NHL game as a member of the Blackhawks on November 6, 1990. He may have even appeared in a preseason game before then. But Hasek’s debut with the Blackhawks came on September 15, 1990 — 25 years ago today — when he took part in the team’s annual Red-White Scrimmage.
This wasn’t an official game. No ticket stubs exist, as it was free to get in, and no newspapers recapped it the next day. All that we have is this roster that was typed out, photocopied and passed out to fans during the first period.
Considering that Upper Deck became the exclusive trading card licensee of the American Hockey League, it is a relief that teams can still produce their own sets. While Upper Deck has made two attractive sets dedicated to AHL players the past two seasons, team-issued sets are always the most comprehensive, featuring almost everyone on the team, from future NHLers to career journeymen to bubble players.
Earlier this year, the Springfield Falcons — top affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets — released a 25-card set for the 2014-15 season. It’s a colorful set that has baseball to thank for its unique, eye-catching design.
Whenever a company makes a set of retired greats, the likelihood is high that a photo used on a card many years ago may find its way back on a card again. Take for instance this photograph of Mike Gartner on his 2000-01 Upper Deck Legends card. I knew I saw it on another card before. You just don’t forget a menacing, pissed-off glare like the one Gartner is giving here — even if it isn’t directed at you.
It turns out, I was right…from a certain point of view, as Obi-Wan Kenobi would say.
It was the end of an era as we knew it. Actually, it was the end of several eras. The 1989-90 Topps Hockey set marked the last time that Topps was the only game in town when it came to hockey cards in the U.S. It was the fourth, and final, year in a row that Topps issued a 198-card hockey set. And it was the last time Topps would crudely alter photographs of players who were traded over the summer.
If any set could represent the end of an era, it was this one.
Next year, the marketplace would expand, Topps would be overshadowed by newer companies making slicker products, and hockey card sets would balloon to upwards of 500 cards each.
So, let’s take a look back at 1989-90 Topps Hockey, and long for the days when a collector could build an entire set from only one box of cards.
Al Arbour, who passed away at age 82 on August 28, had a long career as a professional hockey player, and an even longer career as an NHL coach. Arbour broke into the NHL during the Original Six Era and played pro for 18 seasons between the NHL and the minor leagues. But he is best known for his success behind the bench: 22 seasons, one Jack Adams Award, second all-time in wins and four consecutive Stanley Cup Championships.
Here is a look at both of Arbour’s careers — as a player and as a coach — illustrated with various hockey cards and collectibles issued over six decades. Continue reading
Twenty-five years ago today was the first — and last — Chicago Hockey Show. This two-day, noting-but-hockey event was truly ahead of its time, almost two decades before the Chicago Blackhawks started holding their own annual summertime convention. Held on August 25 and 26, 1990, the Chicago Hockey Show gave fans an opportunity to meet and get autographs from current and former ‘Hawks players. There was a dealer room that was focused almost exclusively on hockey memorabilia, from game-used jerseys to hockey cards.
And speaking of hockey cards, Pro Set was on-hand, giving out samples from their forthcoming 1990-91 hockey set several weeks before you could buy the cards.
As a young hockey fan in 1990, the Chicago Hockey Show was almost too good to be true.