Review: 1987-88 Topps Hockey

Robitaille and Oates stand out in this sleeper set.

1987-88 OPC #15 - Mario LemieuxDuring the 1986-87 season, Topps increased its hockey set from 165 cards to 198 cards. This year continued the trend of 198 cards, as that seemed to be a comfortable number of cards for Topps to handle. Hockey cards were not popular in the United States in the 1980s – remember, there were no Topps hockey card sets for 1982-83 or 1983-84. So, it would not make sense to make their hockey sets as large as say, their annual Football set, which was usually around 396 cards.

1987-88 OPC #53 - Wayne GretzkyPlayer selection 4 out of 5
This year’s Topps set had 196 player cards, plus two checklists. Since Topps hockey cards were sold in the United States, it should be no surprise that most of the cards are focused on U.S.-based teams. Each U.S. team gets about eight or nine cards, while the Canadian-based teams usually got four or five cards each.

Some of the highlights from this s set include Patrick Roy’s second card, Mario Lemieux’s third card, and the last “regular” card to feature Wayne Gretzky as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. There are also quite a few good rookie cards in this year’s set – namely Luc Robitaille and Adam Oates. Oates is a shoe-in to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008, as is Robitaille in 2009. Many othher longtime NHLers have rookie cards in this set, including Ron Hextall, Ulf Samuelsson, Bill Ranford, Rick Tocchet, Christian Ruuttu, Esa Tikkanen and Kevin Hatcher.

1987-88 OPC #63 - Patrick RoyCard design 3 out of 5
This year’s design featured a hockey stick with the player’s name, and a puck with the team name. Normally, I get tired of hockey sticks and such being used as design elements on hockey cards – I always find that to be trite. It has been so overdone throughout the past decades, the whole “this is a hockey card, so we need to put a hockey stick somewhere on it”. Gimmicky design does not make good design. But on this set, I don’t seem to mind it as much. While I like the use of the hockey stick for the player name, I think the “puck” in the lower right corner feels a bit clunky.

The photos themselves are standard fare for the 1980s – shots usually taken during the pregame warmup skate. Pretty much all of the photographs seem to have been taken in Boston, New Jersey or Long Island, so we get to see mostly road jerseys – which were dark back then (nowadays, teams wear their white jerseys when on the road). I’ve always liked the dark jerseys better, so even though the photos lack action overall the set is quite colorful.

Stats & info 5 out of 5
Topps really set the standard when it comes to information on hockey cards. Like previous years, this is no exception. The player’s height, weight, shot birth date, birth place, home, and last amateur club are all mentioned – as well as how the player was acquired (trade, draft, etc.).

1987-88 OPC #53 - Wayne Gretzky (back)Complete year-by-year statistics are listed, as well as some biographical information about the player, when space allows. Forwards and defensemen also have an additional stat – game winning goals for 1986-87 – listed under their totals. Goaltenders have listed the amount of shots faced from the 1986-87 season.

There is one drawback about the card backs is that they have a horizontal layout, which I find annoying because the fronts are vertical. So, when viewing these in pages, you either have to rotate your binder or turn your head sideways in order to read the stats. I always find that irritating.

I do like the magenta hockey stick that appears under the player’s name, as here it nicely breaks up the space between the player name, card number and statistics.

Also interesting is that the NHL logo, the NHLPA logo, and the Topps logo are all rather large, appearing to the left of the statistics. Usually, these logos are small, and buried at the bottom of the card. Here, for some reason they get the rock star treatment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NHL shield so large on the back of a trading card.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5Despite several good cards in this set, it is not very much in demand. You can probably find it for less than Beckett value if you look hard enough. This is still a worthwhile set to own because of the rookie cards of Luc Robitaille and Adam Oates, as well as some good cards of Roy, Lemieux and Gretzky.

BONUS: Top 5 Rookie Cards
A lot of players who would last a long time in the NHL have rookie cards in this set. Here are the five of the top RCs in this set.

1987-88 OPC #2 - Rick Tocchet2 – Rick Tocchet – Tocchet played 18 seasons in the NHL, and was both a sniper and a physical presence on the ice. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #13 - Bill Ranford13 – Bill Ranford – One of the best goalies from the late 1980s to mid 1990s, Ranford would lead the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup in 1990, and win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #42 - Luc Robitaille42 – Luc Robitaille – Winner of the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, Robitaille would go onto become the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #123 - Adam Oates123 – Adam Oates – In the 1990s, Oates would score an insane amount of assists, establishing himself as a premier set-up man. Expect him to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #169 - Ron Hextall169 – Ron Hextall– Winner of the Vezina Trophy (top goalie) and Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), Hextall would go onto have a colorful career. The hotheaded netminder loved to fight – and was the first goalie to score an empty-net goal on the opposition\. (view back)

Here are five interesting cards in this set:

1987-88 OPC #97 - Tony Tanti97 – Tony Tanti – I’ve always liked this photo, even though it’s of a player sitting on the bench. What makes it good is that you are looking down the bench at Tanti, which makes you feel like you are there. I also like the way that everyone else is out of focus in the picture, really drawing your attention to him. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #135 - Greg Adams135 – Greg Adams – Yep, a warmup shot. But he’s hitting the brakes hard, and few things are cooler than the ice-spraying hockey stop. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #149 - Dale Hawerchuk149 – Dale Hawerchuk – Since those old Topps / O-Pee-Chee sets usually lacked action shots, I wish they would have opted for more candid photos like this one here. I’m not sure what Hawerchuck could be watching, but it’s cool to see such a great player “at ease”. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #178 - Grant Fuhr178 – Grant Fuhr – Another candid shot, here we see the future Hall of Fame netminder get his mask on before a game. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #184 - Dirk Graham184 – Dirk Graham – Or should I say “Dick Graham”?. Graham was one of my favorite players as a kid, so I found it annoying that his first name was misspelled on the card. His name is spelled correctly on the back of the card though. Go figure. (view back)

198 card set
Card size: 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall
Click here to download a printable checklist


Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

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