Sometimes the best things in life are free
I filled up the car the other day and after handing over the $90 drove off wondering, where went the days when you got something at a gas station (other than gas) just for showing up. You know–a freebie. Yard sales today are usually laden with those cheap juice glasses that used to be handed out when you filled up. Check your cottage shelves as well you are sure to find some. It was a little hook that brought you back the next time. I was 10 in 1970 and remember going with Dad to the local Esso station where a $5 fill up (that’s correct, $5!) allowed you to receive a few booklets of the 1970-71 Esso Power Players. These were large postage stamp size stickers of NHL stars that you could put in an album. The food stores then got in on the act too, and in 1975 Loblaws had their own album, giving out new stickers every week until you completed the set. Every time I look at my albums, I jump right back into an episode of “That 70s Show”.
There is no doubt that most of you from that era reading this know exactly what I am talking about and have already said to yourselves “I remember those and I wish mom had not thrown them out after I left home.” So, I decided to have another look at these sticker albums and found a few interesting items that deserve attention after all these years.
It was a few years after expansion and the Esso Power Players album includes the new teams. Their logos are what draw you to the pages. Bright and colorful. The California Golden Seals are always fun to look at. Gary “Suitcase” Smith was their goalie. Vancouver had just entered the NHL and their great old “blue and green shall never be seen” look jumps off the pages. Pat Quinn looks intimidating all those years ago too. The Original Six teams are loaded with the stars of the day. Superstars like Orr, Beliveau, Hull, Howe, Esposito – each with their own stamp that pull in high prices on the sports card and collectibles market even to this day.
The mid seventies was the end of the Flyers “Broad Street Bullies” reign and the NHL Action Players album of 1975 has a nice story on the Flyers to start. My favorite part is the Atlanta Flames pages. That had to be one of the best “simple” logos of all time – a time that I can travel back to every now and then, knowing that these stickers are much rarer than the typical hockey cards.
The Esso album came in both soft and hard cover versions as well as English and French. These are very desirable amongst collectors and if you happen to have unopened booklets or the trading pouches (little vinyl sleeves to hold duplicates), then your Esso collection is really something to brag about. The NHL Action Players album is much harder to find in great shape. Unlike the Esso players, the card stock was thin paper. It was difficult to separate the individual cards and once in the album they were there forever. It’s still an excellent period piece. Have a look at some of my favorites.