Pre-NHL card of goalie Nabokov keep this set from being forgettable
Given away at a home game in November 1999, the Cleveland Lumberjacks team set contains 24 cards. The ‘Jacks were a minor-league hockey team in the old International Hockey League (IHL). Formerly in Muskegon, the Lumberjacks were the top minor-league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins for 14 years until 1997. In 1999, the team became affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks. Thus, this set has mostly Blackhawks’ prospects and minor leaguers. It does, however, have a card of future superstar San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
Player Selection 5 out of 5
There are 22 player cards in this set, as well as one title card and one team mascot card. Virtually all of the full-time ‘Jacks players are represented, as well as a few of the guys who did not see as much action with
Because the ‘Jacks were affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks that season – and the ‘Hawks were pretty abysmal during that time – most of the players in this set are forgettable. One exception, though, is Lumberjacks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Here, his first name is spelled “Yevgeni”, and he was on loan from the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks were saturated with quality goaltenders – Mike Vernon and Steve Shields played in San Jose, while Johan Hedberg and Mikka Kiprusoff played with the Sharks’ top affiliate in Kentucky. This left Nabokov with little chance to play – and develop – hence his loan to Cleveland.
Another noteworthy card is of team captain Jock Callander. Callander played 14 seasons for the Lumberjacks franchise (seven in Muskegon and seven in Cleveland), and ended up as the team’s all-time leading scorer when he retired from playing in 2000. While he never played much in the NHL (he did win a cup with the Penguins in 1992, though), his long scoring prowess in the IHL made him a popular player among ‘Jacks fans.
Front Design 1 out of 5
Like many things from the 1990s, the design is overdone, with way too much going on. The player’s name runs vertically along the left edge, but it in a serif font layered on top of the word “Lumberjacks”, which itself is in a “scribbly” font. That makes the player’s name hard to read. The action photos have the background “blurred” out, using some sort of mosaic effect, as if the designer had a little too much fun with Photoshop filters. Adding to the clutter is the player’s number, position, the Lumberjacks logo and the sponsor logo (The Peak Sports Medicine & Injury Rehab) – all haphazardly plopped over the photo. Poor legibility, blurry background, abundance of clutter – this is how things look when I’m drunk!
Back Design / Stats & Info 3 out of 5
The back of each card is no-frills, but still very informative. Player name, number, position, height, weight, shoots (catches for goalies) and birth date are all neatly listed.
The set is worthwhile if you are a fan of the Lumberjacks or of Nabokov…or perhaps of crummy Blackhawks prospects who never pan out. The design is, well, overdesigned and kitschy – but I guess that’s par for the course with minor league team sets.
BONUS: Top 5 Cards
Not everyone in this set was a bust. Here are the best cards in this set:
Yevgeni Nabokov – Never mind the extraneous Y, Nabokov would later win the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2001 as the NHL Rookie of the Year. He is considered one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. (back)
Todd White – A Blackhawks’ prospect that spent most of his first four pro years in the minors, White has gone on to become a regular since 2001 and has played regularly for the Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild and Atlanta Thrashers. (back)
Kyle Calder – Actually a decent player when he was with the Blackhawks, Calder has since played over 500 games in the NHL. (back)
Jim Paek – The first Korean to play in the National Hockey League, Paek won two Stanley Cup Championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins. By the time this card came out, his career was winding down. (back)
Buzz the Mascot – You didn’t think I’d forget about the team mascot? Buzz’s card features quite the biography, explaining that he was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, majored in woodcarving at Beaver State University and is apparently “Thrilled by the large number of wooden hockey sticks in the ‘Jacks locker room.” (back)
24 card set
Card size: 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall
Click here to download a printable checklist