Why 1993-94 Was My Favorite Season to Collect Hockey

Hockey Card Collecting was Less Complicated, More Fun 30 Years Ago

It is the 30th anniversary of the 1993-94 season – and that was my favorite year to collect hockey cards and memorabilia. That was the last year before collecting hockey got so darn complicated. 

During the 1993-94 season, the card company Leaf made its hockey debut with not one but two new hockey sets: the 440-card Leaf set and the 510-card Donruss set. What made the Donruss set so special is that it had the illustrated Ice Kings insert set and the Donruss Elite Series inserts, which was one of the first-ever serial-numbered hockey insert sets. Fleer experimented with an oversized set of cards called PowerPlay in 1993-94, and Topps finally improved the quality of its hockey cards. Back then, hockey sets were fairly easy to complete, as this was before packs got expensive and before companies short-printed the rookie cards. 

But it wasn’t just cards that were awesome in 1993-94. Thirty years ago, it was also the debut of Starting Lineup hockey figures. While Starting Lineup figures were made of baseball, football, and basketball players since 1988, it wasn’t until the 1993-94 season that our favorite hockey stars got immortalized as action figures. 

Another great thing about the 1993-94 season was that a bunch of hockey video games were released for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, including NHL Stanley Cup, Pro Sport HockeyBrett Hull Hockey, and – most notably – NHL ’94, which stood the test of time and is arguably the greatest hockey video game ever made. 

We had five companies making a total of 10 hockey card sets, four different hockey video games to choose from, and finally had Starting Lineup hockey figures. Life was great for the hockey collector in 1993-94! 

But things took a seismic shift during the 1994-95 season, mainly due to the 1994 NHL lockout, which truncated the season while players and owners worked out a new collective bargaining agreement.

After the lockout, companies started to focus on making hockey cards that were more expensive, even costing the then-unheard-of price of $5 per pack. By the late 1990s, card companies like Upper Deck started its practice of using short prints, making it way more difficult to complete hockey card sets. And then you had companies like Pacific making more sets than I care to count. Complicated is one way to describe hockey collecting post-1994, but expensive and overwhelming are other words that come to mind, too.

Of course, most everyone thinks that stuff from their teenage years was the best; that is why nostalgia is such a powerful drug, as they say. 

In closing, I invite you to read two articles that focus on that great year of collecting. One article ranks every hockey card set from the 1993-94 season, and the other gives a history on the making of the NHL ’94 video game

What was your favorite year of collecting hockey cards and memorabilia? Leave a comment and let me know, or hit me up on X/TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.

Note: This article is an updated version of an editorial that originally appeared in Volume 2 – Issue 21 of the Puck Junk Newsletter. For stories like these, plus news and updates about hockey cards and collectibles, subscribe to the newsletter here.

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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

5 thoughts on “Why 1993-94 Was My Favorite Season to Collect Hockey”

  1. I really got into collecting with the 1990 Topps set. Not worth much nor are there any golden ticket cards but sentimental nonetheless.

    1. 1990-91 was a good set for Topps. I prefer the OPC version, which has 528 cards instead of 396. Still, it was cool to see Topp go from 198 cards in 1989-90 to 396 cards in 1990-91. And Topps was the only company to have complete career statistics, even including some player’s WHA statistics. Good times indeed!

  2. 1993-94 was my favorite year too. I was 12 and was going big on Eric Lindros and Alexandre Daigle (the next Wayne Gretzky, right!?). I was mainly buying Upper Deck and Topps/OPC– hoping to pull some of the finest inserts.

    My friends and I played hundreds of games of NHL 94 on Super Nintendo.

    What a year it was.

  3. The early 1990s truly was an end of an era for all 4 sports in card collecting. Though you did not mention it, Score had a great simplistic set (same designed used for Football and Baseball), that I loved that set and is one of the very few sets I have in the 1990s. With the advent of Upper Deck the price of cards went through the roof.

    1. Upper Deck was a buck a pack in 1990-91, which was twice as much as Topps, Pro Set, and Score. But back then, I thought Upper Deck cards were twice as good, so I didn’t mind spending twice as much. Heck, the card backs of Upper Deck cards were better than the card fronts of Topps, OPC, and Score.

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