Review: 1993-94 Topps Team USA

After the modest, fourth-place finish of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Hockey team, and an increasing nostalgia for the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” Topps issued cards of players from the 1994 U.S. National Team. Most of these players went on to play for Team USA at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and quite a few went on to have successful careers in the NHL afterward. 

At a glance:
– 1993-94 Topps Team USA inserts
– 23 cards
– Size: 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
Download checklist

Team USA insert cards were found one in every 12 packs of 1993-94 Premier Series Two. If I remember correctly, Series Two came out around February of 1994, the same month the Olympics were taking place, so the timing was right. The set consists of 23 cards. Some of the more notable players in the set are Brian Rolston, Brad Marchant and Peter Laviolette. 

Continue reading “Review: 1993-94 Topps Team USA”

Review: 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Box Bottoms


From 1985-86 to 1990-91, both Topps and O-Pee-Chee printed special trading cards on the bottom of the boxes of hockey cards. If you think about it, these “box bottoms,” as they are usually called, are like the short prints of the vintage era because you only got four per box. You either had to buy the entire box of cards to get just four box bottoms, or find other ways to acquire them.

At a glance:
– 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Box Bottoms
– 16 cards
– Size: 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
(sizes may vary slightly)
Download checklist

The 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Box Bottoms set features cards of players who led their playoff-bound teams in scoring during the regular season; that is, they were on a team that made the playoffs and led their team in scoring during the regular season. This just might be the high-water mark of hockey box bottom sets, as 12 of the 16 players here were later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Continue reading “Review: 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Box Bottoms”

Review: 1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars

46 greats from the ’93 All-Star Game

1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars - Wayne Gretzky
The 44th NHL All-Star Game, held at Montreal Forum on February 6 of 1993, was the end of an era for the league’s annual best-vs-best game. This was the last time the Wales Conference and Campbell Conference would square off; next season, they were renamed the Eastern Conference and Western Conferences, respectively. It was also the last time the All-Star Game uniforms would feature the familiar black, white and orange palette that had been the game’s color scheme since 1973.

1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars - Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux

The 1993-94 Stadium Club Hockey set featured a striking, 23-card insert set dedicated to the 1993 All-Star Game. The cards were seeded 1 in every 24 packs of Series One. One side of each card had a portrait of a Campbell Conference All-Star; the other side, his Wales Conference counterpart. Its combination of great players, good portraits and a timeless design makes for a cool insert set worth owning.

Player Selection 5 out of 5
Every player who suited up for the 1993 All-Star Game is in this set: 23 Campbell Conference players and 22 Wales Conference players. Mario Lemieux is also included. He did not play in the All-Star Game due to illness, but was honored at Montreal Forum in a pre-game ceremony.

1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars - Brett Hull
Brett Hull

Given that this is a set of cards based on an all-star game, it is not surprising that it has a lot of amazing players. Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr, Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic are some of the more memorable names in this set. There are also some players who are necessarily NHL legends, but were still the best players from their respective teams at the time. Overall, they make a for great snapshot of the NHL’s elite that year.

Card Design 4 out of 5
Past card sets based on NHL All-Star games would use game action photographs, with a portrait or close-up here and there. This set uses all portrait photos–save for Lemieux–that have been then cut out and placed in front of a star-filled background?

1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars - Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr

The star motif is a bit of an overhanded troupe for an all-star set–punctuated by the large star at the top replacing the hyphen between the words “all” and “star.” The backdrop may seem more appropriate for a senior prom photo instead of a hockey card set. But this was normal for the 1990s, and actually kind of tame compared to sets that were yet to come. Even today, half of the card sets cut the player’s picture out and places him in front of some sort of imaginary, ice-and-chotchkie background. At least the black-and-blue star filled sky looks awesome.

Another cool design “feature” is that the player on one side of the card logically corresponds to the player on the other side. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux share a card, as they should. But the other “matchups” make sense too. Other counterparts include: Jaromir Jagr and Brett Hull (two high-scoring wings); Brad Marsh and Randy Carlyle (two soon-to-retire defensemen); Jeremy Roenick and Rich Tocchet (two power forwards); and Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy (the league’s best two goalies).

1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars - Chris Chelios (Members' Only variation)
Chris Chelios – Members’ Only variation. Note the gold “Members’ Only” logo near the upper-right corner.

One small detail that I always liked is that both sides of each card have the copyright text, along with the NHL and NHLPA logos. Thus, neither side is actually the “front” or the “back” of the card, since the copyright info appears on both sides. This is a minor detail, but it really makes the set feel neutral, since neither guy is on the “front” of the card.

Stats & Info n/a
With a player portrait on each side, there wasn’t any room for stats. And that is OK. Stats from all-star games are usually not very interesting (unless you were the MVP), so these cards are just fine without them.

There are O-Pee-Chee variations of these cards. I have never seen them, but I imagine the Stadium Club logo probably says “OPC” instead of “Topps.” There are also Members’ Only variations that were issued as a mail-away. These are embossed with a gold-foil “Members’ Only” logo.

Rating 5 out of 5The 1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars insert set has the best players from 20 seasons ago–and a cool design. What else could you want?

Here are images of every card in the set for your enjoyment.

23 card insert set
Card size: 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall
Click here for a printable checklist

Review: 2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies

What if Topps didn’t always play it safe?

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-JS - Joe Sakic

What if Topp was not such a boring company when it came to hockey cards in the 1980s? While Topps made epic-sized, 792 card baseball sets that featured practically every player on a team, including bit players and first round draft picks before they even suited up for a game, their hockey sets were seriously lacking,

In that decade, Topps hockey sets were not much bigger than most non-sports sets, sometimes weighing in at a scant 165 cards. That is, if they even bothered to make a hockey set at all.

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-ML - Mario LemieuxThose of us who started collecting hockey in the 1980s will remember when NHL players had to EARN a rookie card. While some exceptional players in the 1960s and 1970s got rookie cards during their rookie season–like Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur–the 1980s were a different story. A player had to play a full season before they were granted cardboard. Even Mario Lemieux, who rewrote the record books in junior hockey and was drafted first overall, had to play in the NHL for a year before getting a card.

In 2003-04, Topps released an insert set called The Lost Rookies. Found 1 in every 12 packs of Topps Hockey, The Lost Rookies is a “what if” set that depicts 11 superstars on cards from their rookie year–such as Lemieux on a 1984-85 Topps card or Joe Sakic in the 1988-89 set. It is a very cool idea, and a great set for anyone who enjoyed hockey in the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s.

Player Selection 5 out of 5
2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-JR - Jeremy RoenickThe Lost Rookies features players who made their NHL debut sometimes in the 1980s and were still plugging away in 2003. The whole idea is to show what their rookie cards would have looked like if they had a card made during their rookie season.

The players in this insert set are Ed Belfour, Ron Francis, Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, Mario Lemieux, Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick, Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman. All of these players are in the Hall of Fame, or soon will be.

But there are a few great players who should be in this set but are not. Mark Messier made his NHL debut in 1979, but wasn’t featured on a Topps card until 1984-85! Trevor Linden made his debut in 1988, but didn’t see cardboard until a year later. Both were still active in the NHL in 2003, so why weren’t these two greats not a part of this set?

Front Design n/a
2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-PR - Patrick RoyEach card is based on a pre-existing design, so this insert set doesn’t really have its own design or identity.

One great thing about The Lost Rookies is that it take the classic designs–that were printed on grayish card stock back in the day–and prints them on bright white, UV-coated stock. It is really cool to see the old designs made with modern technology.

However, I wish Topps had done their homework and used a few different photos for some of the cards (more on that later).

Stats & Info / Back Design 4 out of 5
Here is where I have a bone to pick. Some cards do a good job of making you “believe” that these could have been real cards from the year they resemble, while other cards break that illusion.

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-RF - Ron Francis (back)
Why does this 1981-82 Topps card have stats from 1981-82? It must be a “Looper.”

For example, Ron Francis is shown on a 1981-82 Topps card–and the back shows his stats from 1981-82. THAT IS A COMPLETE TIME PARADOX THAT MAKES NO SENSE. 

Other “lost” type sets–such as Parkhurst’s 1956-57 Missing Link set–do a good job of staying in the given season and not referencing anything in the years to come.

If we are “pretending” that this card is from a certain year, then don’t put the stats for that very same year on the back. Seven of the 11 cards in this set do this, and it really spoils the mood for me.

But other than the “spoiler stats,” Topps did a great job of recreating the back design of each card, using the appropriate layout and typography specific to each year’s design.

Rating 5 out of 5Yeah, I complain about the stats–a lot–but that’s something I have to overlook in the grander scheme of things. The Lost Rookies is an awesome insert set worth tracking down for your collection. It was a great idea when it came out in 2003, and is the kind of insert set that any collector who remembers “The Original 21” will appreciate.

Here are all 11 cards for your viewing enjoyment, along with my griping and/or praising of each one.

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-EB - Ed Belfour1989-90 Topps Ed Befour – This card is one of the best in the set. It shows Belfour before he was “Eddie the Eagle”–notice the plain white mask and number 31 on his jersey. The photo is from the prior (1988-89) season when he was Darren Pang’s backup. The back of this card reflects his stats from the ’88-89 season. (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-RF - Ron Francis1981-82 Topps Ron Francis – We all love Ron Francis, but this card–a 1981-82 Topps–uses his stats from 1981-82 on the back. LOOPER!  (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-BH - Brett Hull1987-88 Topps Brett Hull – Shown before he was known as “The Golden Brett,” Hull played 5 regular season games and 4 playoff games for the Flames in 1986-87. So, if Topps were more daring–he is the son of a legend, after all–then this is what Hull’s “1987-88 rookie card” would have looked like. Since Hull did not play in many games, the stat for Game Winning Goals was replaced by 1987 Playoff Points. A minor change from the 1987-88 set that I don’t mind. (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-CJ - Curtis Joseph1989-90 Topps Curtis Joseph – I love the 1989-90 set, but the back of this card uses Joseph’s stats from 1989-90. It would have felt more “real” if they used his 1988-89 stats from the University of Wisconson (WCHA). (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-ML - Mario Lemieux1984-85 Topps Mario Lemieux – Who would not have absolutely loved pulling this card from a pack of 1984-85 Topps? If only it existed back then.  Both photos used on this card accurately capture the feel of the ’84-85 set. But I wish a draft-day photo was used for the head shot, and a picture of Mario in a pre-season yellow Penguins jersey for the big picture. Those would have really made this card feel like 1984. Unfortunately, the back uses his stats from ’84-85; if Topps used his record-breaking stats from junior hockey instead–and the pictures I suggested–then this card would have totally owned. (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-MM - Mike Modano1989-90 Topps Mike Modano – Magic Mike was the first overall pick in the 1988 draft, but spent the 1988-89 season in junior. Still, he did play in 2 playoff games in 1989, so him appearing in the 1989-90 set isn’t much of a stretch. Again, Topps spoils the mood by putting his 1989-90 stats on the back of this “1989-90” card. Nonetheless, this card still rules because of the green North Stars jersey.  (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-JR - Jeremy Roenick1989-90 Topps Jeremy Roenick – I absolutely love this card. I always wondered—honestly–why Roenick was not included in any 1989-90 sets. He scored 18 points in a 20-game emergency call-up for the Blackhawks, and another 4 points in 10 playoff games.That’s more points in 24 games than 11 regulars on that year’s ‘Hawks team! It was obvious that J.R. was going to make the team in 1989-90. My only gripe–you knew I’d have one–is that the card shows Roenick wearing number 27. He wore number 51 during his emergency call-up. The photo used here is from the 1989-90 season. (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-PR - Patrick Roy1985-86 Topps Patrick Roy – St. Patrick when he was just a wee minor league goaltender, making a 20-minute appearance in 1984-85. The line of stats on the back reflects 1984-85 (good), but the text beneath it references his accomplishments in 1985-86–the year of this card. That’s both inconsistent and confusing. (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-JS - Joe Sakic1988-89 Topps Joe Sakic – One of my favorite players, favorite sets and favorite uniforms. The photo even shows Sakic wearing 88–his number during his rookie year. But like the other cards I’ve complained about, this one uses his stats from 1988-89. Honestly, I would have liked it better if it said “No NHL Experience” where the stats were, just to make it “fit” with other 1988-89 cards. (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-BS - Brendan Shanahan1987-88 Topps Brendan Shanahan – This card uses Shanahan’s 1987-88 stats, but erroneously displays them as 1986-87. Oops. The photo itself looks like it as taken during warm-ups, which actually fits in nicely with most of the other pictures used in the 1987-88 Topps set. (back)

2003-04 Topps Lost Rookies #LRC-SY - Steve Yzerman1983-84 Topps Steve Yzerman – Complete shennanigans! Topps did not make hockey cards during the 1983-84 season, so showing Yzerman on a 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee card and slapping a Topps logo on it is a bit insulting to Americans who wished for a Topps Hockey set in ’83-84.  Topps did issue a set of 331 stickers that year, so maybe putting Stevie Wonder on a Topps sticker would have been more appropriate. The back, of course, uses Yzerman’s 1983-84 NHL stats. (back)

11 card insert set
Card Size: 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall

Review: 1993-94 Donruss Elite Series

One of the harder-to-find insert sets of the 1990s

1993-94 Donruss Elite Series Inserts #3 - Teemu SelanneRemember when a print run of 10,000 copies felt small? That number is laughable now, as numerous insert sets today are limited to 99, 50 or even just 10 copies of each card.Of course, there are 1 of 1 cards to collect too, so tracking down a set limited to “just” 10,000 copies doesn’t seem too daunting. But back during the 1993-94 season, it was a good idea at the time, given the millions of cards printed during the hockey card boom.

The 1993-94 Donruss Elite Series insert set was a sign of things to come, a harbinger of serial numbers and shiny holo-foil. Given that insert sets became more and more numerous, stepping back and making something that was limited in print run and looked extremely different than the base set design made this insert set unique.

So, how does this set hold up today? Is it worth buying? Continue reading “Review: 1993-94 Donruss Elite Series”

Review: 1992-93 Team Pinnacle

Six cards, twelve illustrations of 90s greats

1992-93 Team Pinnacle Ed BelfourInserted in packs of 1992-93 Pinnacle hockey trading cards, Team Pinnacle featured twelve of the greatest men to lace up skates in the 1990s. Two centers, two left wingers, two right wingers, two goalies and four defensemen are depicted in these action-oriented illustrations. While you’d think these dudes were starters in the NHL All-Star Game, or named to the NHL All-Star Team (as selected by the sports writers), that is not the case here. These guys are “Team Pinnacle”, as selected by Pinnacle (a.k.a. Score) Trading Card Company. Continue reading “Review: 1992-93 Team Pinnacle”

Review: 1993-94 Leaf Painted Warriors

Ten-card set a must for goalie collectors

1992-93 Leaf Painted Warriors Kirk McLeanOne of the coolest things that makes hockey so different is the uniqueness of the goaltender. Not only do hockey goalies wear padding all over their body to stop flying pucks, but they can have their mask painted any way they want – a tradition that started with Gerry Cheevers in the 1970s and continues to this day. You would never see a football quarterback paint his helmet differently than his teammates, or a baseball power hitter emblazon his batting helmet with his nickname. But in hockey, this is perfectly normal – hell it’s almost expected. From Cheever’s “stitches” to John Vanbiesbrouck’s “Panther”, custom goalie masks are as much a part of the game of hockey as an open ice hit, the slap shot or the Zamboni itself.

In 1993, Leaf Trading Card company released “The Leaf Set”, a high-quality hockey card set which featured several insert sets. One of these was a ten-card set called “Painted Warriors”, which keyed in on ten of the best goalies of the 1990s. Continue reading “Review: 1993-94 Leaf Painted Warriors”

Review: 1993-94 Donruss Ice Kings

Striking portraits of hockey immortals make this 90’s insert set memorable today

1993-94 Donruss Kings Ice Chris CheliosIn 1993, trading card manufacturer Donruss released its first set of hockey cards. Until then, the company had focused mainly on baseball cards. One of the coolest things about Donruss baseball cards was a yearly insert set called “Diamond Kings”, which featured paintings of the best players in Major League Baseball – usually one player per team. These paintings, by renowned sports artist Dick Perez, were the true highlight of the Donruss baseball card series.

Fortunately, Donruss commissioned Perez to do a series of 10 cards in their inaugural hockey set, known as “Ice Kings”. The set contained ten of the best players at that time. Of course, most of these players would be considered the best players of all time – including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy. Featuring striking portraits, this insert set is a worthwhile addition to any hockey card collection. Continue reading “Review: 1993-94 Donruss Ice Kings”