I’ve collected hockey cards for over 30 years, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of bad cards. Really bad cards. So, in 2017, I started the Puck Junk Bad Hockey Card Hall of Fame to spotlight the worst hockey cards ever made.
Just as the Hockey Hall of Fame is enshrining new members this weekend, so too is the Puck Junk Bad Hockey Card Hall of Fame. This year, 10 pieces of cardboard get honored for being horrible — be it for bad photography, bad paintjobs, or just being awful all around.
The Bad Paint Job Category
Old school hockey cards were infamous for repainting the photos of players who changed teams in the offseason. Sure, you could show that fourth-line plug in his old team’s uniform, put the text “Now with (team name)” somewhere on the card, and call it a day. But that’s boring! Instead, Topps and O-Pee-Chee would go through great lengths to doctor a player’s photo so that it kind of looked like he was with his new team…if you really used your imagination.
1979-80 Topps #121: Rick LaPointe
Speaking of imagination, imagine being six years old having to draw and the St. Louis Blues logo from memory. Because that’s totally what this card looks like. I’m sure the poor first grader who drew the logo on Rick Lapointe’s jersey did so after watching a Blues-Rockies game on a black-and-white TV in 1978. The “blue note” logo has a few too many feathers and, frankly, looks kind of fat compared to the real Blues logo that is just an inch away.
Then there’s that helmet atop Lapointe’s noggin. It looks like it was sculpted from paper mache, and probably affords just as much protection, too. Whoever did airbrush Lapointe’s Flyers uniform into a Blues uniform really paid attention to detail, giving Lapointe number 5 — his number in Philly — and getting the sleeve striping right. Unfortunately, Lapointe ended up wearing number 18 in St. Louis, while the Blues changed their road jerseys for 1979-80, adding yellow to the shoulders. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
1986-87 O-Pee-Chee #208: Steve Richmond
Steve Richmond appears to be looking at himself in the mirror, and he’s got questions about his 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee card. Like, why do the shoulder yokes look like they belong on two different jerseys? Why is he wearing one of those silver L.A. Kings helmets from 2021? And did the person who drew the Devils logo on his chest know they were running out of room, because the “devil tail” on the “N” goes sideways instead of down. It sucks when this is your only hockey card from your NHL career.
1989-90 O-Pee-Chee #279: Chris Kotsopoulos
Chris Kotsopoulos played exactly two games for Detroit during the 1989-90 season — his final two NHL games — before being sent to the minors. So, it was totally worth the time that O-Pee-Chee spent painting over his Maple Leafs uniform so that he looked like a member of the Red Wings.
Unfortunately, Kotsopoulos looks more like a character from the excellent 1983 movie Tron than he does a Red Wing. And I love Tron — but not its horrible sequel, Tron Legacy. (First mentioned on Puck Junk in 2010.)
The Bad Photograph Category
Remember, someone saw these photos and said, “Hey, these would look GREAT on a hockey card!” The only problem is, they don’t.
1991-92 Stadium Club #290: Daniel Berthiaume
Daniel Berthiaume played 37 games during the previous season, so there had to be more than just this photo of him in net for the Kings. And yet, Topps picked this picture, which has the logo of their competitor — UPPER DECK — prominently in the background. Topps did alter the second “P” in “UPPER” to a “B,” perhaps with the same airbrush they used on the above three cards. But pretty much every hockey card collector knew what Topps was trying to hide. Besides, we can still see Upper Deck’s diamond logo through the netting. (First mentioned on Puck Junk in 2008.)
1991-92 Topps/O-Pee-Chee #393: Dan Quinn
It’s bad enough when you get overshadowed by another player on your own hockey card — but it’s even worse when you get overshadowed by his butt. And yet for some reason, Mario Marois’ backside is front and center on Dan Quinn’s card. Topps could have zoomed in on Quinn, and cropped out Marois’ booty. You know, to actually focus the card on the player whose name appears on the card. Instead, Topps gave the card a horizontal layout to accommodate Marois’ ample posterior.
1997-98 Donruss Canadian Ice #143: Jaroslav Svejkovsky
“Hey kid, welcome to the NHL! Enjoy your rookie card that shows you wiping out. ” Maybe he tripped over the Donruss logo? Fortunately, Jaroslav Svejkovsky — or “Yogi” to his friends — had a few other rookie cards that didn’t make him look like a doofus. The card does manage to fit his entire last name, which is no small feat, considering that it is 10 letters long.
The Bad Mistake Category
Hockey cards so bad that they shouldn’t have been made. Just one in this category this year, but it’s a doozy.
1979-80 Topps #63: Dale McCourt
This card does a decent job of making Dale McCourt look like a member of the L.A. Kings. The problem is, McCourt never actually played for the Kings. McCourt sued the NHL(!), the NHLPA(!!), the Kings(!!!), and the Red Wings(!!!!) so that he wouldn’t have to play in L.A.
Around the time Topps was repainting McCourt’s Red Wings uniform into a Kings uniform for his 1979-80 Topps Hockey card, McCourt escalated his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a long story, which I cover here, but ultimately the Kings realized that if a guy sues them in court, he really does not want to play for them. This card is about as close as McCourt ever got to playing for the Kings. (First mentioned on Puck Junk in 2007.)
Bad Head Swap Category
When card companies transplanted the head of one player onto the body of another player, the results were usually a cut below.
1970-71 O-Pee-Chee #230: Len Lunde
Len Lunde’s 1970-71 O-Pee-Chee card is a disaster. His head is too small for that gigantic body, and it is casting a ridiculously-harsh shadow from an imaginary light source. To top it off, the Canucks logo is facing the wrong way! Instead of head-swapping ol’ Len with another player who shot righty, O-Pee-Chee used a photo of a left-shot Canucks player, airbrushed out the numbers, then reversed the photo. That’s a lot of effort for a guy who ended up playing only 20 games in Vancouver.
The Bad Idea Category
Hockey cards so bad that they shouldn’t have been made.
2019-20 The Cup – Overshadow #OS-JG: Jake Guentzel
Even new hockey cards can be bad. These “Overshadow” inserts from 2019-20 The Cup are proof of that. “Overshadow” cards put the player’s face inside their silhouette, and look more like artwork by Pablo Picasso than hockey cards by Upper Deck.
All the “Overshadow” cards are bad, but the worst of the bunch is Jake Guentzel, who looks like the Marvel Supervillain M.O.D.O.K. with a giant head and tiny limbs.
Help! Someone call the Avengers! Or maybe the Avalanche!
2012-13 Heroes and Prospects #9: Grant Fuhr
In The Game cards usually had excellent artwork in their card sets. The 2012-13 Heroes and Prospects set is a glaring exception. The set starts with 30 illustrated cards of “Hockey Heroes,” but the likenesses on most of them is questionable. Perhaps the least-flattering rendition of the bunch is of Grant Fuhr, who looks like Ken Griffey Jr. — after drinking the tonic — in The Simpsons episode “Homer At the Bat.”
Or maybe he’s supposed to look like Gabe Kotter from Welcome Back Kotter.
I’m so confused.
Which of these cards do you think is the worst of them all? And what card do you think should make it into the Puck Junk Bad Hockey Card Hall of Fame in 2023? Leave a comment and let me know!
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■