Review: 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Leaders

41 of the best players from the ’86-87 season

016_f_zoomA popular trend in the late-1980s was the “leaders” set – a small, inexpensively priced set of trading cards focusing on the best players from the prior year. These cards were smaller in size and cheaper than regular cards, but also seen as premium cards due to their glossy fronts and the better cardstock that was used to print them on. O-Pee-Chee would make a Leaders set in the 1987-88 and 1988-89 seasons. Back in the day, you could a pack of five “super glossy hockey cards” for a quarter.

Player Selection 4 out of 5
026_f_zoomThere are 41 player cards and one checklist. The players featured, while a bit of a mixed bag, are overall very good. This set features a card of every player who was an All-Star, won an award or was a statistical leader from the previous (1986-87) season. Some cards are of really good players, while others are of mediocre players who just happened to be “top five” in a statistical category the previous year.

For example, you’ll get cards of guys like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy and Ray Bourque, because in the ’80s those guys were uber. Each of those players was a trophy winner and a stat leader during the ’86-87 season, hence they have a card in this set.

002_f_zoomBut then you’ll get some clunkers, like Brian Benning (4th in rookie points), Doug Jarvis (Masterson Trophy winner) and Petri Skriko (tied for 2nd in hat tricks). Yes, those guys were trophy winners and/or stat leaders too.

But how many Canadian kids jumped for joy because they got a card of Hartford’s Doug Jarvis in a pack, instead of Edmonton’s Mark Messier or Calgary’s Al MacInnis? And did anyone ever really want a mini-sized card of Petri Skriko for their collection? If you said “yes’, then you are probably lying.

So, you end up with a set that features many amazing players, many good players and some mediocre players who happened to just have a good season the year before.

Interestingly enough, there’s not one Toronto Maple Leaf player in this set.

Card Design 1 out of 5
There is really nothing special about the design of these cards. The front of each card is as simple as you can get – a player photo that fades at the side and bottom, a large white border, the player name and the O-Pee-Chee logo. Baseball card collectors will recognize this design, as it is almost exactly like the design of similarly-themed Topps Leaders “mini card” set that was sold in 1986.

019_f_zoomPhotographically speaking, the set is the usual run-of-the mill “standing around” photos that we thought were cool until Upper Deck hit the scene a few years later. A few shots are game action; but most of the photos are from either face-offs or warm-ups.

040_f_zoomStats & Info / Back Design 4 out of 5
The stats themselves are pretty good. Each card lists the player’s name, team, position, height weight and “extended” stats from the 1986-87 season.

039_b_zoomYes, extended stats! In addition to goals, assists, points and penalty minutes, we also get stats for plus/minus, power play goals, short-handed goals, game winning goals, game tying goals and shots.

016_b_zoomFor goaltenders, stats featured are games played, minutes, goals-allowed average, wins, losses, ties, shutouts, goals allowed, saves and save percentage. They also have “EN” listed, which I am assuming means “Empty Net Goals”. I’m not sure why that is kept track of on a goalie’s card, since an empty net goal counts against the team but not the goalie’s stats. Regardless, this extra bit of information is interesting.

022_b_zoomAlso prominently listed is the player’s specific accomplishment(s) that merited them this card, whether it is winning an award, or placing within the top five of a statistical category such as goals, assists, points, hat tricks, playoff points, goals allowed average, and so forth.

Did you know that Petri Skriko had 6 short-handed goals in 1986-87? Did you care?

But again with the pink backs! The regular 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee card set had pink backs, and so do these leader cards, though it is a lighter shade of pink. The backs though are very easy to read, though, due to the blue ink that was used as well as the white (not tan) card stock. The improved grade of card stock – along with the gloss on the front – really made these cards feel like premium quality for the late 1980s.

Rating 4 out of 5This is a really nice set of cards to own. It won’t take up much space in your collection and features some of the most amazing players of that decade. Keep in mind that many of these cards were printed. Even during the early 1990s, full boxes of 1987-88 OPC Leaders could be purchased for $15. Complete sets today are quite abundant and today sell for around $10. Interested in one of these sets? Then check out my Complete Sets for Trade page, because I have extra sets (as well as singles) for trade.

Here are five cards of players who would dominate the era (1980s and 1990s), and would all end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame:

004_f_zoom4 Ray Bourque – During the ’86-87 season, Bourque was first in points by a defenseman, second in assists, fourth in plus/minus for defenseman, a First Team All-Star and the Norris Trophy Winner. (back)

013_f_zoom13 Wayne Gretzky – During the ’86-87 season, Gretzky was first overall in goals, assists and points; tied for second in hat tricks, first overall in playoff scoring, a First Team All-Star; and winner of the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy (back)

023_f_zoom23 Mario Lemieux – In ’86-87, Lemieux was tied for third in goals, tied for third in points, tied for third in power play goals, was first in hat tricks and a Second Team All-Star. (back)

035_f_zoom35 Luc Robitaille – “Lucky” Luc was first in rookie points, a Second Team All-Star, and winner of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year during the ’86-87 campaign. (back)

036_f_zoom36 Patrick Roy – In ’86-87, Roy was second overall in goals against average. Yep, that’s it. Remember, 1986 was just his second season, so this was just the tip of the iceberg as far as what Roy would end up accomplishing throughout his career. (back)

Enjoy this scan of the wrapper, which was printed on cellophane and usually tore very easily.

wrapper_zoomThe wrappers are clear on their edges, and a bit “see-through” in the colored areas. You can actually see what the top card is through the wrapper of an unopened pack.

Here is the worst card in the set: Glen Hanlon.

hanlon_f_zoomYou can read all about this card here.

42 card set
Card size: 2 1/4″ wide x 3″ tall
Click here to download a printable checklist


Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

6 thoughts on “Review: 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Leaders”

  1. I actually liked getting Doug Jarvis cards back then… and the Glen Hanlon card is one of the greatest ever!

    I have an uncut sheet of these rolled up around here somewhere as well.

    Also, what kind of stock are these printed on? Looks like Tembec!

    1. I remember my classmates in grammar school finding the Glen Hanlon card hilarious.

      An uncut sheet would be cool to have — and small. You can actually fit that in a frame.

      I didn’t think too much about the stock. Don’t know if it is Tembec. Even though these were printed in Canada, there was a very similar set of baseball cards printed by Topps. In fact, Topps used to sell these small baseball card sets (such as “Top 50 Hitters”) for around $3.00 in various retail chains. Those cards were also printed on very bright white paper — white like old Fleer baseball cards.

      1. The sheet has four sets on it, I believe, so it’s not as large as a conventional 132-card sheet.

  2. Hey, for us young Canucks fans of the 80s, Petri Skriko was about as good as it got, along with Tony Tanti. I absolutely loved him back then and still do!!!

    #26 Forever

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