1993 World Cup Soccer #HC4
& 1994 World Cup Soccer #C8
Honorary Captain Wayne Gretzky
During the 1990s, several spokesmen for trading card companies would sometimes promote cards of sports they did not play. You had Eric Lindros on a Score baseball card, Rocket Ishmail on a Classic hockey card and Wayne Gretzky on an Upper Deck soccer card.
Because nothing — and I mean NOTHING — says soccer like Wayne Gretzky.
This particular card was released in 1993 as part of Upper Deck’s World Cup Soccer set and flew under my radar until recently. Ironic, since that was during the height of my card collecting days in the 90s. How did I miss this one?
Anyway, the card of Gretzky is part of the “Honorary Captains” insert set. Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Reggie Jackson and Wayne Gretzky are featured in this four-card insert set. Gretzky is supposedly Canada’s “Honorary Captain” for the World Cup, at least according to Upper Deck. Here he is dressed like a soccer player in this rather grandiose photograph. The back has a clumsily-written justification of why hockey’s greatest star is sporting soccer shoes:
Hockey’s popularity soared last spring with the Kings’ run into the Stanley Cup Finals. Soccer is hoping for the same rise in popularity with a successful World Cup Finals Tournament next summer. The sports of hockey and soccer have similar strategies and are thrilling to watch, the level of excitement should be just as great as our playoff run in LA last spring!
Translation: Gretzky is a paid spokesman for Upper Deck. Gretzky plays for the L.A. Kings. The L.A. Kings lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Let’s hope the World Cup does better than the L.A. Kings. Oh — and buy our soccer cards!
I’m not sure what good it did to shoehorn the greatest hockey player ever into a set of soccer cards. But Upper Deck must have seen some value to it, as Gretzky would later appear in Upper Deck’s second World Cup Soccer set, released in 1994 (seen at right). This time, Upper Deck assigned an Honorary Captain to each of the ten cities the tournament was to take place, with Gretzky representing Los Angeles.
This 1994 insert card’s photo is not at all interesting, with Gretzky pictured in front of some buildings in L.A. The text on the back of the card includes a rather contrived statement from Gretzky regarding the quad-annual tournament:
“Everybody connected with sports in Los Angeles is happy that the city will be part of the World Cup. We are proud to be the base for the U.S. team, and even more, excited that the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena has been chosen to host the Final on July 17th.”
Translation: Some Marketing / PR guy wrote this and put Gretzky’s name above it.
These two cards won’t cost you much. I shelled out around $4 for each card. Sure, they are kind of pointless, but I must stress that one consistently fun aspect of this hobby is that you always find stuff you never knew existed. Now I am determined to try and find an even more pointless Gretzky card than these two; perhaps I’ll locate one by the time the next anniversary of “The Trade” rolls around. ■
Follow Sal Barry on X/Twitter @PuckJunk.