Trading card companies continued to raise the stakes during the 1992-93 season, as the hockey card market continued to boom. Fleer entered the marketplace with its premium “Ultra” set, while Score doubled down, making truly unique sets for the U.S. and Canadian markets. Coincidentally, for the first time in their 25-year partnership, Topps and O-Pee-Chee released hockey sets that were different in design from one another. Meanwhile, Upper Deck continued to thrive, while Pro Set barely limped to the finish line. A lot happened with hockey cards 25 years ago.
However, the biggest news in hockey collectibles at the time was that 19-year old rookie Eric Lindros was going to make his NHL debut. Up until that point, only Score could legally include Lindros in its sets, due to an endorsement deal he signed with Score in 1990. That deal expired once Lindros became an active NHL player. With his debut imminent, but no photo of Lindros in a Flyers uniform readily available, the card companies had to figure out how they were going to include “The Next One” in its hockey card sets.
Here are my rankings of all 13 major hockey card sets released during the 1992-93 season. I count Score Pinnacle “U.S.” and “Canadian” (or “English” and “Bilingual,” if you prefer) as separate sets for reasons I’ll explain later. Also, this list does not include Panini stickers, because most collectors don’t consider those as “cards.” Nor does this list include small sets like McDonald’s, or oddball stuff like Season’s Action Patches.
So, will Upper Deck be number one for three years in a row?
Thirty years ago, on August 9, 1988, the biggest trade in sports was made when the Edmonton Oilers sent Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in a multiplayer deal that included draft picks and $15 million.
It was the biggest trade in history because it proved that no one was untouchable – not even a superstar player who topped the league in scoring seven of the previous eight seasons, led his team to four championships, won 23 individual awards, held 49 league records and was on the verge of breaking many more.
Gretzky’s move to the second-largest market in North America not only accelerated the growth of hockey in the United States, it sparked the eventual explosion in popularity for hockey cards and collectibles.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the honor of being the last team during the “Original Six Era” to win the Stanley Cup — and they have Jim Pappin to thank for the large part he played. The Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens four games to two in the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals. Pappin led all Maple Leafs in scoring during the playoffs, with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 12 games.
Championships seemed to follow Pappin wherever he went during the early part of his career. In 1964, he won his first Stanley Cup with the Leafs. In 1965 and 1966, he won back-to-back Calder Cup Championships with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. After his second Stanley Cup Championship in 1967, Pappin won another Calder Cup in 1968; that’s five championships in five seasons.
Pappin was later traded to the Chicago Black Hawks, where he was consistently one of the team’s top scorers during the early-to-mid 1970s, and played in five NHL All-Star Games.
Recently, Pappin was signing autographs at AU Sports, a sports card and memorabilia store near Chicago, and graciously answered a few questions about his career.
Sal Barry: You led the Maple Leafs in scoring during the playoffs in 1967 — including four goals and six assists in six games during the Finals. What went right for you in the playoffs?
Jim Pappin: If you work hard in the playoffs, you don’t have to work in the summertime (laughs). They always say, if you play hard and win the Championship, you get bottled beer instead of draft beer. It’s a good incentive.
The Chicago Blackhawks lost a cherished member of their alumni on Tuesday when Stan Mikita died at age 78. Mikita played 22 seasons in the NHL, all with the ‘Hawks, and was the team’s all-time leading scorer. He helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1961 and won numerous individual awards.
With the exception of a few alumni games, I never saw Stan Mikita play. He retired in 1980 and I started watching hockey in 1989. All my interactions with Mikita were not as a spectator, but just as a fan who admired what he accomplished. And Mikita was always good to us fans — even though the Blackhawks organization wasn’t always so good to him.
Thirty years ago today — August 9, 1988 — Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. That, of course, gets me thinking about Gretzky’s trading cards. We all know that his rookie cards are valuable, and his 1988-89 cards are hella cool, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at Gretzky’s more unusual hockey cards.
This past Friday, I was a guest on “Hockey Today” with Mick Kern on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio. We talked about who collects hockey cards these days and why, my custom cards of Scott Foster, collecting Tim Horton’s cards and my favorite hockey card sets of the 2017-18 season.
Running time is just over 13 minutes, so press play and enjoy. ■
Special thanks to Mick Kern and SiriusXM NHL Radio Network for the audio clip.
Buying Panini Hockey stickers has to be its own reward. There are no autographs, jersey cards, inserts or serial-numbered parallels. That’s OK, as long as you like what you are buying.
I’ve been a fan of Panini’s annual NHL Sticker set since the 1988-89 season. Panini’s NHL Sticker set is usually more expansive than most Upper Deck hockey card sets, with more players per team. The set also usually features special events like the All-Star Game, Winter Classic and Stadium Series, as well as recaps of the NHL Awards and Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The 2018 NHL Entry Draft was this past weekend, where hundreds of prospects hoped to get drafted and make it to the NHL — while dozens of NHL GMs also hope the prospects they drafted make it to the NHL.
I imagine that being an NHL GM with a high draft pick — preferably first overall, but even within the top 10 — would be fun; but the later picks, not so much. Because after selecting the generational talents, if any, and the highest-ranked players by position, drafting prospects becomes a lot more challenging.
The same goes for fantasy re-drafts. I’ve “re-imagined” the NHL Entry Drafts for 1990, 1991 and 1992. Making the top five or ten picks are fun, but after that, they are a lot of work!
Yes, we know how all of these players panned out, but who would you take with the 15th-overall pick in 1993: the 10th-best scorer, the fourth-best defenseman, a solid goalie or a total bruiser?
Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers here, and that is part of the fun. So, knowing then what we all know today, who would the Senators take with the first-overall pick in the ’93 Draft — Chris Pronger, Paul Kariya, or someone else? — and who would the Penguins take with the 26th pick?