Hockey cards have changed significantly since their inception and even more so since the “modern era of collecting” which began in 1990. Despite all of these changes, not every set issued was a hit from a collector’s standpoint. In that vein, there have been a ton of flat-out weird cards produced, especially towards the end of that decade. These cards were believed by overzealous manufacturers to be exactly what collectors wanted, only to receive a not-so-wanted reception. With that I would like to share with you some of the weirdest and most unique cards that I have come across from the 1990s:
With the NHL and NHLPA recently electing to forgo the 2020 World Cup of Hockey Tournament, I figured now would be a good time to revisit Upper Deck’s 2016 WCH set.
Not long after being drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015, Jack Eichel signed an exclusive deal with Leaf Trading Cards. As a part of that deal, only Leaf products could include cards autographed by Eichel. In late 2016, Leaf released the “Jack Eichel Collection,” a 30-card boxed set that showcases the Sabres’ young superstar. The big draw to the set is that it includes a hockey card autographed by Eichel. Unfortunately, that’s really the only upside to this otherwise mundane set.
At the Pittsburgh Penguins game on January 6, 2019, the team celebrated the 10th anniversary of its 2009 Stanley Cup Championship. (Wow, a decade has passed; I feel so old.) The Penguins invited back many of the retired players from that roster to join with the current players from that team in the celebration. A few of the current players who have moved on to different teams, such as Marc Andre Fleury, sent video messages to be played during the event.
The Penguins and Upper Deck teamed up and gave to each fan in attendance a nine-card set commemorating that Stanley Cup run. Continue reading “Review: 2018-19 Upper Deck Pittsburgh Penguins Giveaway Set”
The Chicago Wolves have been a top-notch hockey team over the past 25 years, winning two Turner Cup Championships in the old IHL and two Calder Cup Championships in the AHL. Many former NHL stars, future NHL stars and minor league legends played for the team over the past quarter-century. Earlier this month, the Wolves issued a trading card set honoring its best players. Like past team sets, the Wolves’ 25th Anniversary team set does not disappoint.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights had a very successful inaugural season, first winning 51 regular season games, then powering its way to the Stanley Cup Finals. No, the Knights didn’t win in the Finals — that would have been a little too perfect — but the team was still inspiring and made many new fans along the way. So, it is only natural that Upper Deck would capitalize on the team’s popularity and success and release a Vegas Knights boxed set. Anyone who found themselves cheering for the gray and gold should definitely give this set a look.
With the NHL season now two months in, I’m sure everyone is as happy as I am that hockey is back in full swing. Just like with the last few seasons, Topps Skate is back as well with another year of digital card collecting, trading, and competition.
For those not familiar with Topps Skate, it is a digital app for mobile devices, licensed by the NHL and NHLPA, that allows users to collect and trade cards as well as compete in chase contests and live, real-time competition.
What’s that you say? Topps doesn’t make hockey cards? Topps hasn’t made hockey cards since 2004?
Well, you would be correct…if we were talking about actual, tangible cards you can touch, smell, and throw in your bike spokes. But in this case, we are talking about digital cards that exist virtually, in the mobile device world, floating through the air as little ones and zeros. Topps has had a license to produce the app and make card designs since 2016. I don’t recommend throwing your phone into your bike spokes.
This year’s app is quite different from last year and received a heavy design face lift. For those familiar with other Topps digital apps, it now looks a lot like the Topps baseball app, Bunt. But since we focus mostly on hockey, I wanted to take some time to give our readers a basic overview of the app and also give my take on Skate as a whole.
Remembering Hockey’s First Jersey Cards
It’s a brisk, early morning in September of 1997. I’m sitting at a picnic table at an elementary school playground, just north of Pittsburgh. My nine-year old self is huddled up with a few friends, rummaging through the new cards we had acquired over the summer. We were all in awe over Jeffy’s Joe Thornton rookie card, when a boy with a Sidney Crosby-esque pencil mustache approached us.
“Pfft, you guys think that’s cool?” asked eighth grader Joey M. “Check this out.”
He laid something out on the table that blew our pre-pubescent minds: a Mike Modano 1996-97 Upper Deck Game Jersey card. We stared in amazement, like it was a winning lottery ticket.
Joey glared at us like we were mere peasants in his newfound collectors kingdom. He then slowly picked up the card and walked away, without another word, leaving us in utter disbelief.
The 2002-03 Minnesota Golden Gophers team set has a sharp design and is about as comprehensive as a team set can get. It includes everyone — everyone! — from future NHLers like Thomas Vanek to the team’s third-string goalie.
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?