I found this picture of Phil Esposito and Tony Esposito in a pile of old sports memorabilia at a card show a few years back. It shows the famous brothers playing for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series, along with facsimiles of their autographs. On the flip side is an advertisement for a tabletop hockey game they endorsed.
Phil and Tony Esposito’s Action Hockey was made by board game giant Parker Brothers (makers of Monopoly and Risk) and released in 1973. What made this different from other tabletop hockey games is that it used magnets instead of metal rods to control your players.
Using magnets to move the hockey players around was an innovative idea, as the players can go anywhere and you could knock into your opponent’s players. However, whoever controls from the top has a distinct advantage; they can see what they are doing, and the physical mechanics of moving your arm outward is usually easier with an overhanded grip.
Don’t believe me? Just watch how the “overhanded kid” beats the “underhanded kid” in the commercial for this toy.
According to the print ad, Parker Brothers held a contest, with two grand prizes: “a trip for two to Boston, Mass. or Chicago, Ill. to see Phil or Tony in action next NHL season.” I wonder if winners got to pick which city they went to.
The ad also suggests that you “tell your coaches that Phil and Tony Esposito’s Action Hockey is great for diagramming hockey.”
Now I know I need one of these. I’ll bring it to the bench at my next beer league hockey game. When we get a power play, I’ll call a timeout and awkwardly move the players around — in the board game, not my teammates — and diagram our winning play. It will consist of having a guy slam into the puck as hard as he can. ■