Review: 2002-03 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Set

The 2002-03 Minnesota  Golden Gophers team set has a sharp design and is about as comprehensive as a team set can get. It includes everyone — everyone! — from future NHLers like Thomas Vanek to the team’s third-string goalie. 

Dustin Smieja was the third-string goalie for the Golden Gophers in 2002-03 and 2003-04 (view back).

At a glance:
– 2002-03 Minnesota Golden Gophers
– 31 cards
– Standard Size: 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
Download checklist

Player Selection (5 out of 5)
The 2002-03 Minnesota Golden Gophers set includes every single player who was a part of the team that season. The set even includes cards of forward Chad Roberg and third-string goalie Dustin Smieja, neither who played in a game that season. (In fact, the sum total of Smieja’s collegiate career appears to be 10 seconds and one save in an exhibition match during the 2002-03 season.) Overall, 28 of the 31 cards are of players.

Even the mascot got a card (view back).

There are also cards of head coach Don Lucia, of mascot Goldy Gopher and a card commemorating the team’s 2001-02 national championship. 

Front Design (4.5 out of 5)
The card fronts have a full-color, full-bleed photo, either a game-action shot or a posed shot. Also included are the player’s name and number, and the team name and logo. The bottom is bordered by a circular “swoosh,” breaking up what otherwise might be a no-frills design. The 2002-03 Minnesota Golden Gophers team set gets extra points because there is no distracting sponsor logo on the front. 

Stats & Info / Back Design (4.5 out of 5)
Card backs have all the vitals — height, weight, position, birthplace, and year in school — as well as that player’s complete collegiate statistics. There is also a black and white head shot and a long biography.

Retail Notes
This set was given away at a Golden Gophers home game in December of 2002. 

Rating 4 out of 5

If you are a fan of college hockey, like collecting college hockey cards, or are a fan of Thomas Vanek or Paul Martin, then this is a cool set to have. It looks good, is informative and comprehensive — the hallmarks of any good team set. 

Five players in this set who went on to play in the NHL. 

Thomas Vanek – Vanek is still playing in the NHL today. The 2018-19 season is his 14th in the NHL. As of the end of the 2017-18 season, Vanek skated in 965 games, scoring 357 goals and 396 points. (back)

Keith Ballard – Ballard, a defenseman, played 10 years in the NHL with the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild. He appeared in 604 games and scored 38 goals and 137 assists. (back)

Barry Tallackson – Tallackson played 20 games in the NHL for the New Jersey Devils, scoring one goal and one assist, and eventually played in Germany for seven seasons. (back)

Matt Koalska – Koalska played three games for the New York Islanders in 2005-06, going scoreless and getting two penalty minutes. But hey — he did play in the NHL. (back)

Paul Martin – Martin enjoyed a 14-year NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks. He played in 870 games, scoring 50 goals and 270 assists. (back

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk


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

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