Upper Deck released a set called Century Legends during the 1999-2000 season. The first 50 cards of the 89-card set featured the top 50 NHL players of all time, as selected by The Sporting News. Absent from the set was number 23 on that list – Ken Dryden. Not only was Dryden omitted from the set, but the set skips card number 23, going from 22 to 24. Dryden’s card was never made. Or was it?
Technically, a Ken Dryden card was printed during the production of Century Legends. But no photo of the goalie was used. Instead, the card was printed with cyan, yellow and magenta bars in lieu of a photograph.
The card was also embossed with a “gear graphic” from one of Upper Deck’s racing sets, so as to “destroy” the card. The bright colors would make the card easy to spot once the cards were cut apart, and subsequently removed before being put into packs.
According to The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Hockey Cards, “a handful of these deformed cards made it into packs.” One source confirms that at least 5 of them have been sold on eBay.
So, why was Ken Dryden not a part of this set? The most popular (and most likely) reason is that Upper Deck and Dryden could not come to an agreement.
But what was the sticking point? Could it have been money? Perhaps not, as Dryden does appear in the Upper Deck Retro set, also issued that year. So money might not have been an issue here.
Maybe Dryden was upset that he was ranked 4th among goaltenders, behind Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk and Glenn Hall, and wanted to be no part of The Sporting News’ Top 50. Why else would he agree to be in one card set but not the other? The 1999-00 Upper Deck Retro set also has cards of Plante, Sawchuk and Hall, but not in any particular ranking order.
No matter his reason, it is a shame that Drydent was not a part of the Century Legends set. This set has all of the big names: Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr, Howe, Plante, Beliveau, Hull, Clarke, Bossy; a venerable “who’s who” of the NHL’s first 80 years. Dryden’s exclusion makes this set feel forever incomplete.
I am not sure what type of photo Upper Deck would have used, but here is a custom card of what Dryden’s Century Legends card could have looked like.
That wraps up the last part of The Lost Cards, at least for now. I hope to have another 5 installments sometime in July.
So, what did you think? Did you learn anything from my hours of
endless obsessing research? Can you think of any cards that should be featured in a future article?