Striking portraits of hockey immortals make this 90’s insert set memorable today
In 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.
Player Selection 5 out of 5
Ten players make up this set: Patrick Roy, Pat LaFontaine, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Gretzky, Chris Chelios, Felix Potvin, Mario Lemieux, Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros and Teemu Selanne. Quite an impressive lineup of stars from the 1993-94 season. Looking back, Felix Potvin may seem less timeless than the other players. However, you must consider that he did some amazing work in Toronto during the 1990s, playing in more than half of his team’s games, and yet posting an under-3.00 goals allowed average – a feat not as easy to accomplish back then as it is today.
Four of these players have since been inducted into the Hall of Fame: Roy, LaFontaine, Gretzky and Lemieux. Jagr and Chelios will be inducted three years after they retire, while Lindros and Selanne may or may not end up in the Hall. Nonetheless, this is one awesome group.
My only real complaint is that only ten players were featured in this “Ice Kings” insert set. In Donruss’ baseball sets, each team had one “Diamond King” featured. By that token, this set should also have had one player painting per team. I mean, where is Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic or Ray Bourque?
Card Design 4.5 out of 5
The Dick Perez paintings on the front of each card are what make them so worthwhile. Although some of the portraits don’t look as good as others, a few seem to really capture the feel of the players. Chris Chelios’ “slightly pissed off” demeanor is well rendered, as is Pat LaFontaine’s “slack-jawed deer-in-headlights” look. Two portraits that I really don’t care for are those of Pavel Bure – which feels too flat – and Wayne Gretzky, because of the angle. I would have liked Gretzky’s portrait to be from the front, and not from the back. Gretzky was THE king of the ice…and he played for the Los Angeles Kings, no less. A view from over his shoulder does not give this portrait the royal feeling it deserves.
One major drawback of these cards is the really big, shiny blue foil “Ice Kings” logo, because it takes away from the paintings. The “Ice Kings” logo should have been a lot smaller, and not cover up any of the players’ heads. The name at the bottom could have been a bit more subtle too. These design elements take away from the overall design. One-third of each painting is obscured by the logo and name, which is a shame.
Back Design / Stats & Info 4 out of 5
The back of each card features a biography and team logo. Oh yes -and the Ice Kings logo again. I don’t mind it on the back of the card, as it fits in nicely with the design.
You’ll also notice an ice rink “ghosted” behind the text. It seems that most card companies erred on the side of “overdesign” in the 1990s, and Donruss is no exception. Overall, the biographies on the back really help to explain why each player was selected as an Ice King.
Man, I love these paintings. Sure, much of them get covered up by the “Ice Kings” logo, but this is a good insert set to own, as it showcases many of the greatest players to ever put on a pair of skates.
BONUS: The entire insert set
Sure, I could have narrowed it down to my “Top 5”, but there are only ten cards. So, here are images of all of them, front and back. Enjoy!
10 card insert set
Card Size: 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall
Click here for a printable checklist.