I like this photo of Phil Esposito. His hair is a mess, his face contemplative. It’s a great portrait of the Hall of Fame center. You can see the captain’s “C,” the double 7s — the reason Wayne Gretzky decided it was OK to wear double 9s — and the Rangers shield logo. The O-Pee-Chee card company must have liked it too, because they used it again, even when they probably shouldn’t have.
Two years later, the company used the same photo of Esposito in their 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee Super Photos set.
So, what’s the problem?
Much like fans of their crosstown rivals, the New York Islanders, had to endure the god-awful “Fishsticks” logo in the 1990s, Rangers fans had a similar experience in the 1970s, when the Blueshirts ditched the diagonal lettering across the front of their jerseys and went with the “shield logo.”
That look was used by the Rangers for 1976-77 and 1977-78. After that, they reverted back to their traditional jerseys. By 1980-81, the design was just a bad memory for Rangers fans, with occasional reminders like this Super Photo.
What I don’t understand is that O-Pee-Chee (and Topps, naturally) was usually quick to repaint a photo when a player was traded (see Bill Clement, Mike Krushelnyski and Steve Christoff for a few hilarious examples). So it just seems a bit odd that they would use a photo of Esposito in a jersey that was phased out two years ago. Maybe someone at O-Pee-Chee liked that photo as much as I do.