Trading Cards Brought to You by Smokey the Bear
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention sponsored a set of Los Angeles Kings trading cards during the 1988-89 season. Of course, we know this Department best by their mascot, Smokey the Bear. The anthropomorphic bear told us, over the years, that “only you can prevent forest fires.” Since the set bears Smokey’s face on the front, the set is usually referred to as the “Smokey” or “Smokey the Bear” Kings set. As is the case with most team-issued sets, many lesser-known players — as well as the coaches — are featured throughout.
Player Selection 5 out of 5
The set boasts an excellent range of players. Many of the players pictured you never really see as a King on a trading card — either because it was early or late in their career, and therefore not featured on a Topps or O-Pee-Chee card.
That said some of the lesser-utilized players get cards, like then-rookie goaltender Mark Fitzpatrick and enforcer Ken Baumgartner. Both of these guys would not get real cards until two seasons later when they enjoyed more active roles in their careers.
Of course, all of the obvious players are in this set, like Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaile and Bernie Nicholls.
Fan-favorite Jim Fox–who was out with an injury for the entire 1988-89 season–gets a card too.
In all, you get 21 player cards, three cards of the coaches and one checklist card.
Card Design 3 out of 5
Not bad, considering that this was a product of the 1980s. The majority of the photos are game-action shots, with the exception of the coaches and the injured Fox. The photos and art elements are bordered by beveled frames, and both the Kings logo and the floating head of Smokey the bear adorn the front of each card. While the design is not exactly stimulating, it does not fall too hard towards gaudy like so many other sets of the era.
Stats & Info / Back Design 2 out of 5
No stats, and just the basic player info (name, position, height, weight, etc.). But the awesome and cheesy drawings on the back of each card, giving us such helpful tips like:
“Defend against wildfire!”
“If you find matches, give them to an adult!”
“Keep it clean around your house!”
“Keep emergency numbers handy!”
“Make sure your chimney and fireplace are fire safe!”
“Score one against wildfire!”
“Don’t get burned by wildfire!”
Sure, no one wants to “get burned by wildfire”…but how does one “defend against” it? Apparently by beating it in the game of hockey. You see, many of these illustrations feature a mischievous little flame and/or hockey playing bears, as well as Smokey himself. For that reason, I have generously given the “Stats & Info” a higher rating than I normally would, given the lack of statistics. Cartoon flames and/or bears sometimes affect my judgment.
A decent-looking set that features nice action photography. Did I also mention that I dig the drawings on the back? I’m glad that a large, shirtless bear could instruct the children of the 1980s to keep forests safe, while also providing us with these sweet hockey cards.
Five cards that I like for one reason or another.
Wayne Gretzky – Duh, it’s Gretzky. His first action photo on a card since becoming a member of the Los Angeles Kings. (back)
Luc Robitaille – Probably the second-most famous King after Gretzky. (back)
Ron Duguay – Winding down his career, this was Duguay’s last card as an active NHL player, and only one to show him as a King. Duguay was famous for his long flowing locks of hair, seen here. (back)
Cap Raeder – A one-time goalie in the WHA and longtime assistant coach for the Kings, this is Raeder’s first, last and only hockey card. (back)
Glenn Healy – Another player who would not get a “real” card until 1990-91. It’s funny how many of the Kings on this squad went on to become New York Islanders. (back)