Teemu Selanne has a stellar hockey career. He scored 1,457 points in 1,451 games, won the Stanley Cup and had his number retired by the Anaheim Ducks. When he becomes eligible, he will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. But despite all the goals, assists, awards and other accolades, The Finnish Flash could not get through his career without having at least one awful hockey card — the result of a free-agent signing while overseas and a hockey card company that refused to use Photoshop.
At first glance of Selanne’s card from the 2003-04 In The Game Action set, he appears to be underwater in one of those giant fish tanks you would find at a fancy restaurant; all that’s needed is an angelfish swimming by. But Selanne’s calm demeanor and lack of air bubbles emanating from his nostrils dispelled that notion.
Take a closer look, and you can see scan lines, making Teemu look like a Sportflic baseball card, but minus the magic-motion goodness. It’s actually a picture of a TV screen! But the photographer of this card photo didn’t even bother to take the picture straight-on. It looks like a stalker took a picture with a telephoto lens through a window of someone’s home while they were watching TV.
The back of the card tries to justify the odd photo choice with this explanation:
Signed by Colorado as a free agent on July 3 after two-plus seasons with San Jose…fans caught their first glimpse of him in an Avalanche jersey during a press conference from his homeland via satellite TV…
Sorry, but a crooked photograph of a television — or maybe that’s the Pepsi Center Jumbotron, who knows? — with Selanne wearing an Avs jersey for the first time does not excuse this card for being bad. Yes, it does kind of use a press conference photo, but not as cool as the press conference photo used on Wayne Gretzky’s 1988-89 Topps card, or even on Zdeno Chara’s 2006-07 Fleer card.
Did In The Game really need to use this picture? Sure, it does show Selanne in an Avalanche sweater, but timeliness aside, it still sucks. I find it hard to believe that not one single photographer in Finland took a picture of Selanne in person when he made his free agent announcement. But maybe that was the case. Stock photo agency Getty Images is selling a less-crooked photo, almost identical to the one used on Selanne’s trading card, for $175 and up. If Getty doesn’t have a photo from the press conference that was actually taken in Finland, then perhaps no one did.
But let’s consider the alternatives. In The Game could have used an action pic of Selanne with the Sharks, and then put “Now with Colorado” on the front. That technique was frequently used on hockey cards during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Likewise, In The Game could have chosen a close-up photo of Selanne from the previous season and cropped it so that you couldn’t see the Sharks logo on his jersey. This is a strategy that In The Game would soon become famous for.
Heck, they could have even pasted Selanne’s head on Adam Foote’s body. Photoshop was pretty darn sophisticated by 2003.
Instead, we got what looks like a Finn in a fish tank.
What do you think? Was this a great, timely photo, or was In The Game trying a little too hard? Leave a comment below. ■