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 NHL RINK 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.
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.
Anyway, here are the top 10 most-read articles on Puck Junk that were actually published during 2017. Continue reading “Puck Junk’s Top Articles of 2017”
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.
It was a frosty Chicago afternoon in late December of 1991. I was on break from school. The “Christmas money” was burning a hole in my wallet. It burned hot enough to make me brave the cold and venture out to the local mall. For those who grew up in Chicago, the mall I speak of was the Brickyard. Back in its heyday, the Brickyard Mall was Chicago’s premier indoor shopping center. It was torn down in 2002 and rebuilt as an outdoor monstrosity, but I digress.
The Osco Drug store at the Brickyard had one side of an entire aisle dedicated to just sports cards. But behind the camera counter is where they kept the good stuff; cards like Upper Deck or Stadium Club, and not the usual 50-cents-per-pack swill like Topps or Score. Behind the counter was a full, unopened box of hockey cards that I had never seen before: Pro Set Platinum Series One.
Man, was I excited! Even though I religiously read Beckett Hockey Magazine, this was the first I had heard of Pro Set issuing a high-end set of hockey trading cards. I don’t recall what they cost, but I think they were around $1 per pack. I eagerly purchased the entire box. I hurried home and opened every pack while sipping hot cocoa, and made two complete, 150-card sets; the good old days indeed.
Now, 25 years later, I think it would be fun to take a look back at the first, last and only set of Pro Set Platinum hockey cards. Continue reading “Review: 1991-92 Pro Set Platinum Hockey”
Pro Set cards may have made the most overproduced hockey trading cards from the hockey card boom years, but if you look around hard enough, you will find a few rarities among the clutter. One example are these four St. Louis Blues cards, which were given away at the Midwest Sports Collectors Show. The convention took place on November 15-17, 1991 in downtown St. Louis, featured over 300 tables and had Blues’ star Adam Oates and baseball legend Mickey Mantle as autograph guests. Fans could also get these four exclusive Blues cards, made by Pro Set.
Although not particularly rare, they are enough of an oddball variant that a completest might want them. Also, the promo set features a Blues’ player that probably should not have been included.
Today, a former New York Islanders captain celebrates his 55th birthday. No, not Denis Potvin, though he did just turn 63 about a week ago. Nor is it the birthday of Clark Gillies, Brent Sutter or Patrick Flatley. Today is the birthday of former New York Islanders Celebrity Captain Ralph Macchio. Yup, The Karate Kid himself once donned the “C” for the Islanders. Well, sort of.
Back in the 1991-92 season, as a part of the NHL’s 75th Anniversary celebration, all teams appointed a celebrity captain. Continue reading “Ralph Macchio: Celebrity Hockey Captain”
Twenty-five years ago today, Canada won the 1991 Canada Cup Tournament when they beat the United States. It would be the last Canada Cup, as the tournament would be renamed the World Cup of Hockey in 1996.
A few months after the 1991 Canada Cup, Upper Deck released its 1991-92 hockey card set, which included a Canada Cup subset. This was the first time that a set of trading cards would feature pictures and players from the Canada Cup. These Canada Cup cards were also the first hockey cards for many of the European players — some who would go on to lengthy NHL careers.
Here’s a look at how each of the six teams, as well as many of the players, performed at the 1991 Canada Cup.
Continue reading “A Look Back at the 1991 Canada Cup”
For those who did not collect hockey cards in the 1990s, please allow me to first explain one of the strangest aspects from that time; an incorrect mindset, if you will, that led to the production of many thousands of useless, worthless hockey cards.
Back then, and even today, a player’s “rookie card” — that is, the first card to show him with his NHL team — is usually the most desirable, and thus usually the most valuable.
“Well then,” thought several trading card companies, “we should make cards of players BEFORE they play in the NHL, because those would be even MORE valuable, so people will buy them. It would be like printing money!”
But instead of printing money, it was more like they printed junk bonds for a failed startup company. During the 1991-92 season, four different companies issued trading card sets of the players who were selected in the 1991 NHL Draft.
But like a first round dud — such as Brent Bilodeau (sorry, Habs fans) — these draft picks sets fizzled at retail. Here’s a look at these four sets, along with why they bombed.