Review: 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Hockey

Overlooked set has many good rookie cards

1987-88 OPC #53 - Wayne GretzkyLike the previous year, this season’s O-Pee-Chee set contained 264 cards. The first 198 cards were identical to the 1987-88 Topps Hockey set – both Topps and O-Pee-Chee use the same photographs. Cards of players traded in the off-season differ slightly in this set. Players who got traded have a short text blurb mentioning the player’s new whereabouts (“Now with Black Hawks”, “Now with Maple Leafs”, and so forth). The team name on the front of the card is also changed to reflect the player’s new digs.

1987-88 OPC #15 - Mario LemieuxFor the past few seasons, O-Pee-Chee releases had some very big rookie cards – Steve Yzerman in 1984, Mario Lemieux in 1985 and Patrick Roy in 1986. While this set does not have a card as pricey as any of those three, it does have RCs for two future Hall of Famers – Luc Robitaille and Adam Oates. Many other good rookie cards are in this set, which we’ll talk about later.

A factory set was also available, coming in a box with a similar design to the wax boxes from that year. Sure, I guess you could have bought packs of these cards back then, but maybe the smart kids just waited until the factory set came out and bought that instead?

Player selection 5 out of 5
1987-88 OPC #233 - Stephane RicherThe 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee release contains 262 player cards and two checklists. The set offers good range of players from the prior season, including the second card of Patrick Roy, the third card of Mario Lemieux and the last card to show Wayne Gretzky as a member of the Edmonton Oilers (not counting those new “retro” or “throwback” sets).

The first 198 cards mirror the 1987-88 Topps set – which itself focuses on mainly U.S.-based teams. But the last 66 cards focus almost exclusively on players from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec, Calgary and Winnipeg. Makes sense, given that these cards were sold in Canada and intended for a Canadian audience. Notable “O-Pee-Chee” only rookie cards include Stephane Richer, Mike Vernon, Claude Lemieux, Ken Wregget, Marty McSorley and Vincent Damphousse.

1987-88 OPC #104 - Ed OlczykCard 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. Most of the photographs were taken in Boston or New Jersey, 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
O-Pee-Chee (and 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 #15 - Mario Lemieux (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 – and no, it’s not that they are pink. The backs 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. That always irritates me.

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 O-Pee-Chee 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.

Since these cards were sold in Canada, the backs are bilingual, offering the information in both English and French. Other than the text in French, these cards have the exact same information as their Topps counterparts.

Rating 4 out of 5While the design is just OK, everything else about this set is top-notch – the stats, the player selection, and the fact that some really good rookie cards are found here. This is the year when 1980s O-Pee-Chee sets start to get affordable. If you look hard enough, you can probably find this set for less than Beckett value. But don’t wait too long – once Oates and Robitaille make it into the Hall of Fame, interest in this set will most likely increase.

BONUS: Top 5 Rookie Cards NOT found in the Topps set
Since the first 198 cards from this set are the same as the ’87-88 Topps set, here I will focus on the Top 5 “O-Pee-Chee only” rookie cards in this set:

1987-88 OPC #205 - Marty McSorley205 – Marty McSorley – Known as “Gretzky’s bodyguard” throughout much of his career, McSorley would play with Gretzky on two different teams over eleven years. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #215 - Mike Vernon215 – Mike Vernon – All-Star Mike Vernon would lead Calgary to the Stanley Cup the next season, and the Red Wings almost a decade later. Note the empty spot to the right of Vernon’s height on the back of the card – for some reason, Vernon’s birth date and birthplace were omitted on the back. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #227 - Claude Lemieux227 – Claude Lemieux – Quite possibly the most annoying man to lace up a pair of skates – maybe even more so than Dino Cicarelli. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #242 - Ken Wregget242 – Ken Wregget – Often overlooked throughout his career, Wregget was a backup goalie during most of his time in the NHL. A talented goaltender, Wregget should have been a starter on many of the teams that he played for, as he was arguably better than some of the guys he backed up. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #243 - Vin Damphousse243 –  Vin Damphousse – Vincent’s first name got truncated to better fit on this card. Damphousse would go onto an 18-season all-star career with Toronto, Montreal and San Jose (plus one season in Edmonton). He scored four goals in the 1991 All-Star Game and was named MVP. (view back)

Five cards I in this set that find interesting:

1987-88 OPC #81 - Dino Ciccarelli81 – Dino Cicarelli – I’ve always liked this photograph of the Minnesota super pest, jostling for position during a face-off. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #217 - Dan Berthiaume217 – Dan Berthiaume – Jets goalie is poised and ready to face a shot. OK, maybe it’s a warmup photo, but at least he isn’t milling around mask-less like oh-so-many goalie photos from the 1980s. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #232 - Guy Carboneau232 – Guy Carboneau – In this photo taken during the pre-game warmup, Carboneau looks bored as he leans against the boards. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #245 - Dale Hunter245 – Dale Hunter – Over the summer of ’87, Hunter was traded from the Quebec Nordiques to the Washington Capitals. The O-Pee-Chee airbrush artists got to work, doing their usual crappy job when converting Hunter from a Nord to a Cap. Here, Hunter looks more like a member of the Soviet Red Army than the Washington Capitals. Notice that they forgot to add white on the shoulders – and didn’t quite cover all of the blue in the helmet. (view back)

1987-88 OPC #254 - Alain Cote254 –  Alain Cote – Quite possibly the only “game action” – and therefore, most exciting – photo in the entire set. Cote takes part in an offensive rush. In the background we see Boston Bruins center Ken Linesman. (view back)

264 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

8 thoughts on “Review: 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Hockey”

  1. Hockey stick designs on hockey are awesome. Gimmicky is all the stupid shit they put on current hockey cards. I don’t think O-Pee-Chee could ever be accused of being gimmicky. I always thought of them as no frills or bullshit company. That’s why I like them.

  2. Well, comparatively speaking, yes. Gold foil hologram die cut cards are gimmicky compared to “hockey sticks”.

    But I always found that putting hockey sticks on hockey cards, baseball bats on baseball cards, etc. was kind of a cop-out design wise.

    1. Gum? You mean in the packs? I think the gum was on the top of the pack (right underneath the picture on the wrapper) so that i wouldn’t get hit with the wax that sealed the packs.

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