Longtime collectors will remember when Upper Deck used to make hockey cards written in French for fans in Quebec in the early 1990s. Taking that idea to a whole new level, in 2017 Upper Deck issued hockey cards written in Chinese, and gave them to attendees of the NHL’s “China Games” — a two-game preseason series between the L.A. Kings and the Vancouver Canucks. The Kings won the first match 5-2 on September 21 in Shanghai, and again in the shootout 4-3 on September 23 in Beijing.
The series marked the first time that NHL games were played in China, and for many in attendance, it was probably the first time they saw a live hockey game. Likewise, it was probably the first time many of the Chinese in attendance saw a hockey card too. Upper Deck gave away an eight-card panel of hockey trading cards.
China may not be big on hockey, or hockey cards for the matter, but fans in attendance got some pretty sweet cards.
Being a collector of oddball items, there was no way I could pass up this 1993-94 Topps Stadium Club proof card of Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux. Measuring 2 7/8″ by 3 7/8″, the proof card is 3/8″ bigger in width and height, showing some of the photo that was ultimately cropped out.
When you collect for a long time, you begin to crave unique items that you don’t see all that often. I try to collect every Chris Chelios card that I can find, including offbeat stuff like this 1991-92 Topps Stadium Club proof card. As you can see from the comparison above, the proof (right) is bigger than the standard card. The proof measures 2-7/8″ wide by 3-7/8″ tall — 3/4″ of an inch bigger in both directions. There’s an interesting reason for this.
If you traveled back to 1974 with a couple of $20 bills, you could get a lot of great Detroit Red Wings merchandise for a pretty good price. A while ago, I came across this list of Detroit Red Wings souvenir items that were available directly from the team via mail order during the 1973-74 season.
Remember those little 10-cent off coupons that we got in packs of Pro Set Hockey cards during the 1991-92 season? That year, those discount cards advertised the “Rink Rat Fan Club.” Every pack of Pro Set Series One and Series Two had a special offer to “join the Rat Pack” for $3.95.
The full text reads as follows:
Join the Official NHLRINK RAT FAN CLUB
Join the Rat Pack today and be a part of terrific merchandise offers, Rink Rat club kit merchandise, and team updates. Rink Rats also have an opportunity to be a part of nationwide Rink Rat events and are eligible to win a trip to an opening night game! Sign up today!
The other side had the sign-up form.
I will admit that back in the day, I had no desire to join the Rink Rat Fan Club. It sounded like something for a little kid, and not at all interesting to a teenage boy — even one like me who collected hockey cards. Not for a second did I consider joining it.
Also, a few years prior I had joined the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Turtle Force Fan Club,” and still remembered how disappointing that was. It took over a year to get my TMNT fan club kit — and all it consisted of was a red bandanna and a cardboard membership card.
So, it would not be for another 25 years or so that I would even wonder what “Rat Pack” members got for their $3.95.
Fortunately, I was able to track down a complete Rink Rat Fan Club kit, which consisted of two separate mailings: one in the fall/winter of 1991 and the other around March of 1992. Note that these items got mixed up a bit between then and now, so I did my best here to put them in the order that fans received them, based on the copyright dates on the items, which version of the Pro Set logo the items use, and the enclosed letters from “Rink Rat.” I did make some assumptions based on that information, but if you know something I don’t, please chime in.
Looking at this now, if I knew what $3.95 would have gotten me, I would have joined that Rink Rat Fan Club in a heartbeat. Surprisingly, club members got some pretty nice collectible items for four bucks.
Over 40 years ago, the Los Angeles King mailed a little love to their fans. The team sent out this page of facsimile autographs during the 1973-74 season. The standard letter-sized page was neatly typed out, autographed by 21 players in marker, photocopied, folded into thirds and mailed in a business-size envelope. At the top, it reads” BEST WISHES FROM THE LOS ANGELES KINGS.”
Action Packed was a trading card company that pinned its hopes on four new sets of hockey collectibles scheduled to launch during the 1994-95 season. Unfortunately for the company, none of its odd memorabilia items saw the light of day, mainly due to the 1994 NHL Lockout. One of these ill-fated Action Packed items was a set of hockey lapel pins called Badge of Honour.
Upper Deck issued a promotional card of Wayne Gretzky to show what their upcoming 1994-95 Upper Deck Series One Hockey set would look like. The promo card is nearly identical to the card of Gretzky found in packs later that fall. However, there is one small difference that is quite obvious when you know what to look for.
Unlike most of the other hockey sets from 1990-91, Score did not bother to put checklist cards in their hockey cards sets that year. However, collectors who wanted a complete list of the available cards could mail away for a page-sized (8 1/2″ by 11″) checklist. It is actually quite attractive, printed in red and blue ink and neatly lists the cards in six columns on a single side of a page.
The “1990 NHL Hockey Player List,” as it is called at the top, lists all 440 cards, including the different “American-only” and “Canadian-only” variants, as well as the five special Eric Lindros cards that were available only in the boxed sets. A key that runs along the bottom of the page deciphers the different subset cards, such as Record Setters (RS), Trophy Winners (T) and ’90 Prospects (P).
The offer was advertised on packs of 1990-91 Score trading cards.
You had to mail in $1.00 and wait six weeks.
The full text reads:
1990 SCORE NHL HOCKEY CHECKLIST To order your complete 440 player card checklist, send a check or money order for $1.00 (U.S.) made payable to Major League Marketing along with your name and address on a 3″x5″ card and mail to: 1990 SCORE NHL Hockey List, Major League Marketing, 25 Ford Road, Westport, CT 06680. Connecticut residents add 8% sales tax. Promotion good while supplies last. Allow six weeks for shipment.
If I recall correctly, the checklist was mailed in business-sized envelope. My checklist is folded in thirds horizontally, and would fit perfectly in a #10 envelope. (As a kid, I folded it a few more times so that it would fit in a box with cards.)
With companies putting their complete trading card checklists online, mailing away for a paper checklist today seems almost unthinkable; even more pointless than putting checklists in the packs of cards, like some companies still insist on doing.
But just imagine a world where you would write a letter to a card company, ask them for a paper checklist, and then they would mail one to you six weeks later. We used to live in that world.
Did you send away for one of these 1990-91 Score Checklists back in the day? Did it help you keep track of your set? Did you actually mark it up? Leave a comment below. ■
Seven exclusive Chicago Blackhawks trading cards, made by Upper Deck, were given away at a Blackhawks game during the 2015-16 season. At a glance, these closely resemble the standard 2015-16 Upper Deck hockey cards found in packs of Upper Deck Series One and Series Two. However, upon closer examination there are several notable differences. Furthermore, some cards even use entirely different photographs, making for an odd, offbeat parallel for team or player collectors.