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.
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.
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.
Jaromir Jagr’s 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier rookie card was one of the most sought-after hockey cards of the season. As far as Jagr RCs went, this was the one to have that year, especially in the United States, where we had to pay through the nose to get OPC Premier cards. Seriously. Full sets were selling for $125; sealed boxes $250. The Jagr card itself was a cool $15. But through some shrewd purchases and trades, I ended up with several.