Quite possibly one of the best hockey sets – ever!
The 1988-1989 Panini hockey sticker set was a great series, and possibly the best one a new hockey fan from that era could hope for. Way back in early ’89, I “discovered” hockey when I, at 14 years of age, accidentally put on the wrong channel (I was flipping between SCTV reruns and a biopic on Martin Luther King Jr.). I ended up catching the last five minutes of a Chicago Blackhawks game. Tuning into a game of theirs a few days later, I was hooked–and I needed to start collecting hockey cards.
But hockey cards were hard to find in Chicago in 1989. The only place you could find them was at baseball card stores. However, my local grocery store happened to sell Panini hockey stickers. I decided to start collecting them. Why not?–a pack of six stickers was 25 cents, and the album was only 69 cents.
Little did I know how useful this set would be to help me understand the great game of hockey.
Player selection 5 out of 5
The 1988-89 Panini hockey set contains 408 stickers – 252 of them are individual player stickers. That’s 12 stickers per team, which is far better than what Topps had to offer, and rivaled the selection of O-Pee-Chee’s set that year.
In addition to the 12 player stickers, you would also get two stickers that combine to make a team photo, a logo sticker, and a sticker that showed the team’s home and away uniforms. All of this, plus statistics, were neatly laid out in a two page spread.
Sticker Design 5 out of 5
This is where the set really shines (there’s a pun in that–you’ll see). Each Panini player sticker from that year features both a head shot and an action shot-as well as the player’s name-on a relatively small area (2 3/4″ wide by 2 1/4″ tall). Many kids in the 1990s grew up with a “head shot” on the back of each hockey card, but in the 1980s this was almost unheard of (the lone exception being the 1984-85 sets). And most of the “action shots” were actually action shots – players skating with the puck, taking a face-off or making the save. There’s nary a “warm-up” shot here.
Adding some ritz to the set are the team logos and team uniform stickers. Both of those stickers (as well as any trophy stickers) are printed on a shiny foil stock (pun completed!). Sure, this became oh-so overdone in the 1990s (Fleer Metal Universe, anyone?), but back in the 1980s this was a cool thing to do. While the team logo stickers are what you’d expect, the team uniform stickers are an awesome idea – showing the home and away jerseys, socks and pants striping. Rounding things out, the team photo stickers – while too small to really see anything – help to complete an otherwise awesome and informative two-page presentation.
Stats & info 4.5 out of 5
Considering that each team’s two-page spread accommodated 16 stickers, little room was left for statistics. But that does not matter, as Panini did an admirable job of fitting stats and info about each of the 12 players – birth place and birth date; position; height; weight; list of prior teams; stats up to 1987 (listed as a single line, such as 81-87); and 87-88 stats as well as totals.
While the stats are not as comprehensive as the backs of a Topps or O-Pee-Chee card, these did very well to get you up to speed on a player. Panini even managed to fit in Team Leaders statistics (goals, assists, etc.).as well as any trades that the team made over the summer, including this famous one mentioned on page 8:
TRANSACTION UPDATE: Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley were traded to the L.A. Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, 3 future No. 1 draft picks and over $10 million on 8/9/88.
That’s a lot of information to pack on each page, and yet Panini pulled it off in a neat, easy to follow layout.
Subsets 5 out of 5
Twenty-four stickers are used to illustrate the 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs, featuring game action photos from several of the playoff series, including the finals between Boston and Edmonton – a nice way to slide in three more stickers of Wayne Gretzky. You also get “foil” stickers of the playoff hardware: the Wales Trophy, the Campbell Bowl, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup – which is made up of two foil stickers.
I don’t find this section all that interesting, but it does give you another Gretzky sticker, as well as more stickers of fan-favorite players like Steve Yzerman, Grant Fuhr, Cam Neely and Marcel Dionne.
Towards the back of the album we have 22 stickers for Signals and Rules. Eight of the stickers feature illustrated hockey players demonstrating various infractions (spearing, cross-checking and tripping, oh my!). Twelve of the stickers are of a referee or linesman demonstrating hand signals (icing, off-sides, misconduct and so forth). Two other stickers are used to illustrate an overhead view of a hockey rink. While these stickers may seem like a waste of time to a seasoned fan, to a 14-year old Sal learning the game, these were invaluable, as they helped me understand the rules as well as what the refs were doing with those seemingly “random” arm movements.
Finally, the back page is dedicated to ten trophy winners, and includes stickers of Mario Lemieux (Hart and Art Ross Trophies), Patrick Roy (Jennings Trophy) and Ray Bourque (Norris Trophy). This helps to complete the recap of the 1987-88 season.
This set is easily in my personal top five best sets of all time. Sure, nostalgia may have skewed my review of the set, but you can’t deny the many different elements that make it great – head shots and action shots, uniform stickers, signals, rules, trophies and stats. These all combine to make one very comprehensive package. Back in 1989, this would have helped any new fan “learn” the game in a fun (and collectable) way. If only every new fan could get to collect a set this helpful, especially in this day and age of small and expensive sets that focus more on value and less on fun.
BONUS: Top 5 stickers
Here are five stickers I still find interesting after all these years:
408 sticker set
– 252 player stickers
– 42 team photo stickers
– 21 team logo stickers (foil)
– 21 team uniform stickers (foil)
– 24 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs stickers
– 14 Action stickers
– 22 Signals and Rules stickers
– 10 Trophy Winners stickers
– 1 album (52 pages)
Sticker size: 2 3/4″ wide x 2 1/4″ tall
Click here to download a printable checklist