For 3 ½ years, I was a card show promoter. At the same time, I was also a teenager. Thus, I was a teenage card show promoter. I know, it sounds like the title of a bad B-movie or a cheesy pulp novel, but the story you are about to read is 100 percent true. From early 1992 to mid-1995, I organized a monthly get-together known to collectors around Chicago as the “First Friday Show,” fueled by a few postage stamps and my passion for sports cards.
Before he would score one of the most famous goals in New York Rangers history (“Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!“), Stephane Matteau was a young winger on a stacked Calgary Flames team. He played 78 games for the Flames in 1990-91, so there should have been plenty of photos of Matteau for Topps to choose from for Matteau’s 1991-92 Stadium Club hockey card. But for some reason, they picked this picture, which fails on so many levels that it’s kind of sad.
George H.W. Bush, who was the 41st President of the United States, passed away Friday night. He was 94 years old. Prior to his term as President (1989-1993), Bush was, among other things, a pilot for the navy during World War II, the head of the CIA for a year and the U.S. Vice President for eight years. During his Presidency, Bush welcomed the Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House to congratulate their 1991 Stanley Cup Championship, as commemorated on this 1991-92 Upper Deck hockey card.
1991-92 Pro Set #Cc3 – Pat Falloon
1991-92 Pro Set #CC4 – Scott Niedermayer
Longtime collectors will no doubt remember the 1991-92 Pro Set cards of Pat Falloon and Scott Niedermayer that were inserted into packs of 1991-92 Pro Set Hockey Series One, only to be pulled early on in production for reasons unknown. This caused the value of these two cards to soar during the early 1990s, becoming the stuff of legend, before eventually becoming the stuff of dollar bins. But what many collectors do not realize is that these two cards sparked a change in the hockey card industry.
So what happened here? Did these cards disappear because they violated an agreement with the NHL, with the NHL Players’ Association or with Falloon and Niedermayer — or all of the above?
Former National Hockey League President John Ziegler Jr. passed away last Thursday. The NHL and two teams that Ziegler worked for — the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks — all issued whitewashed statements about how great Ziegler was for the NHL during his 15-year tenure as president. Various media outlets also issued brief stories, regurgitating what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in his statement. All of these articles made a half-hearted attempt to puff up Ziegler’s accomplishments, but none really said that Ziegler did more harm than good during his run as NHL president. So I will.
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.
Expectations were not very high for the United States Men’s Ice Hockey Team during the 1992 Winter Olympics, but for a two-week span, the group of college players and minor leaguers captured the hearts and minds of Americans watching back home.
After the U.S. rocked the hockey world at the 1980 Olympics with its “Miracle on Ice” win over the Soviet Union and subsequent gold medal victory, Americans hoped for a repeat. It wouldn’t happen that decade, though, as the U.S. finished 7th out of 12 teams in 1984 and again in 1988.
While the U.S. team may have been projected to be a doormat at the 1992 Olympics, the team proved the world wrong. Led by goaltender Ray Leblanc, an unlikely hero between the pipes, the ’92 team was the U.S.’s “Near-Miracle on Ice” – a team that was unstoppable in its first six games, only to be halted by the tournament’s eventual champion.
Part I – The Long Road to Méribel
The 1992 U.S. Olympic Team was a bricolage of college standouts and minor pro players, with a few NHLers mixed in. Building the team was an ongoing process that started in the summer of 1991 and went until a few weeks before the Olympics started in February of 1992.
Bret Hedican | #24 | Defense I had a really good junior year at St. Cloud State University. I was on spring break, of all things, and I got a call from my parents. They said USA Hockey called, and that they wanted me to represent the Americans in Russia for a tournament called the Pravda Cup. I was blown away. I never – not once – had been asked to represent the United States in any national tournament. I had four of the best games of my life. I gave everything I had, because I knew it was my chance of a lifetime. The coaches were Dave Peterson and Dean Blais, and they asked me to try out for the National Team. I left college my senior year to make the National Team, in hopes to make the Olympic Team.
David Emma | #10 | Forward After I won the Hobey [Baker Award, as the NCAA’s best player], I went right to the tryouts.
Shawn McEachern | #15 | Forward We had tryouts in the summertime. That’s the way it worked with the Olympic teams back then. You went to tryouts for the National Team, and then you played for the National Team. And then you’d play a season against some NHL teams and some college and minor league teams. And then, just before the Olympics, they cut it down. We traveled around for about six months with the National Team.
Keith Tkachuk | #17 | Forward This was before I was a professional. Because I was so young, 19 years old, I wasn’t expecting to make the team. I guess I had a good tryout. I was already enrolled to go back to school that fall, but luckily, I made it, and kept on making it, and got to go play in the Olympics.
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.
Happy 2018, party people! As is my annual ritual, here is a look back at the most popular Puck Junk articles from the previous year.
Well, almost. I gotta make a small confession here. The most popular article on this site during the 2017 calendar year was actually “Every 1990-91 Hockey Card Set Ranked,” which was published in 2016. It just goes to show how significant the 1990-91 season was for hockey collectibles if people are still reading about those cards more than 25 years after they were made.
While a lot of hockey cards were made during the 1990-91 season, the 1991-92 season was like a movie sequel: bigger and bolder, with more of everything.
More cards? Check.
Larger sets? That too.
Extra inserts? You bet!
The amount of sets made, and cards to collect, nearly doubled, with companies releasing two or three sets each in an attempt to cash in on the boom. Hockey card revenue from the 1991-92 season, generated from the brisk sales, spiked to $15 million and was even a major cause of the 1992 NHL Players’ Strike.
That’s funny if you think about it, because hockey cards in the 1991-92 season were worth $15 million to the players and owners – money worth fighting over — and yet hockey cards from that year are practically worthless today.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t open up your collection a little bit to some of these “neo-vintage” (don’t call ’em “junk wax”) sets. Maybe you have room in your collection for one, or a few, of these — assuming you don’t have them already. So here is my ranking of every 1991-92 hockey card set.