When the 1993-94 hockey season started, the Leaf Trading Card Company entered into the foray and released several hockey card sets. The company chose a rather significant superstar as their spokesperson – Mario Lemieux.
As a Pittsburgh Penguins fan in the early 1990s, it was exciting to see Lemieux heavily featured in all of Leaf’s promotional material. Given the health issues he faced the previous season, seeing Lemieux look so vibrant, and featuring him in his own 10-card insert set, seemed like a fitting tribute to my hero.
The 10-card insert set was split between 1993-94 Leaf Series One and Leaf Series Two, and showcased some key moments of Lemieux’s career to-date, including his two Stanley Cup victories. I couldn’t find the odds of finding a Lemieux card, other than the “randomly inserted” tag that was stated in the promo material.
The cards are presented in chronological order, starting with Lemieux’s junior career and early NHL days, and ending with his most-recent accomplishments, including his back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships.
I collected the Leaf set feverishly as a child. I lost count of the number of packs I ripped, hoping to find one of the Lemieux cards — I never did.
In the summer of 1994, my local card shop was offering the complete insert set for $50. The owner agreed to put the set on layaway for me as long as I made weekly payments of $5 toward my balance. I held my end of the bargain, cutting lawns and selling items to raise the funds. At the end of two months, I finally owned the set and spent hours reading and admiring the cards. To this day the set stands as one of my favorite releases.
What I like about the 1993-94 Leaf Mario Lemieux Collection: The set provided a nice look at the accomplishments of one of the greatest hockey players to ever play the game. If you were a novice to the sport of hockey or unfamiliar with some of Lemieux’s feats, then this set gave you an education.
The designers made solid choices and produced a set that screams quality. The fronts and backs of the cards have a nice consistency to them and play nicely off each other.
What I do not like about the 1993-94 Leaf Mario Lemieux Collection: The set pays tribute to the phenomenal season Lemieux put together during the 1992-93 campaign, but failed to mention the context by which he was able to achieve it. This may have been a deliberate move by Leaf and Lemieux to leave his diagnosis and treatment in the past. However, it would have been nice to have a card that gave a brief synopsis of the full events of that season.
A little nit-picky here, but the font on the titles on the back of the cards could have been a little larger, as it blends into the picture on the back of the card and makes some of them difficult to read.
The gold embossing, particularly on the title card, has a tendency to chip off. I have seen several examples over the years at collector shows that show a nearly-illegible card.
I will have liked to see a few different shots on the cards as many of them are stock photos that have been used by other companies in the past.
The Leaf Company spared no expense in creating their inaugural hockey card release and the Mario Lemieux Collection is no exception. In honoring one of the greats of the game, the Leaf Company set themselves apart from the other companies that were producing cards at the time. Whether your a Penguins fan or not, you should add this beautiful release to your collection. ■
About Rob Joncas: I am just a common man, living in a short print land. Card collector and Penguins obsessor since ’89. You can find me on Twitter @RobJoncas.