1979 Panini Hockey Stickers #140 – Vladislav Tretiak
Any Canadian over 40 years of age no doubt remembers the 1972 Summit Series, which pitted Canada’s best players against the best players from the Soviet Union. It was a grueling, eight game series – the Canadian Team barely coming out ahead, winning one more game than their opponents. One big reason that the series was so close was because of the amazing play of the Soviet goaltender, Vladislav Tretiak.
Tretiak is arguably the best hockey player to never play in the National Hockey League, and was a big part of the Soviet Union’s success on the international stage in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1983, but the Soviet government would not allow him to leave Russia and play in the NHL.
In 1984, Tretiak retired as one of the most decorated athletes in International competition, having won three Olympic Gold Medals, one Canada Cup, ten World Championship titles and nine European Championship titles.
Because of his stellar play in international competitions, Tretiak was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989. He was the first player to make it into the Hall of Fame without actually playing in the NHL*. He was also the first non-North American player inducted. Once the “Iron Curtain” fell, Tretiak was hired by the Chicago Blackhawks as a Goalie Coach.
Since Tretiak never played in the NHL, he was never featured on hockey cards during his playing days. A set of postcards featuring the Russian National Team was issued in 1972 – one of the cards was of Tretiak. Good luck finding that. The next best thing might be this sticker you see here. Issued by Panini in 1979, the sticker was part of a set that featured players from the 1978 and 1979 Ice Hockey World Championships. This sticker set was sold in France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Canada – so it was not just a regional issue like the aforementioned postcards.
Later sets from the 1990s and forward would issue a Tretiak card every now and then, such as In the Game’s “Heroes and Prospects” card sets. But what makes this sticky little piece of memorabilia so special is that it was actually released when Tretiak was still tearing things up in net – and not years after the fact.
* – More accurately, Tretiak was the first player to get induced into the Hockey Hall of Fame without having played in either the National Hockey League or any of those other “old” pro hockey leagues from the late 1800s and early 1900s, such as the National Hockey Association, the Ontario Hockey Association and the Pacific Coast Hockey League. Many of the first inductees in the Hockey Hall of Fame played in these leagues, and not the NHL.