Like millions of other teenagers, I too got hooked on the hockey card craze of the early 1990s. Hearing news that the price of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards were skyrocketing, my fellow teens rushed in droves in hopes of striking it rich.
I knew of one father who treated the cards as an investment in his son's future, and spoke seriously of how they would pay for his son's way through University. The rest of us were slightly more grounded in reality, but were still overly protective of our tiny cards of paper, because you really never knew if a card was going to be "the one".
The truth is that there was no way in hell ANY of these cards were going to be worth a dime. In a simple case of supply and demand, the market was completely flooded with hockey cards. It's probably not an exaggeration to say that during this boom, there were enough hockey cards printed to supply every man, woman, child and pet in North America with 4 complete sets of each of the main card lines.
Hockey cards were as plentiful as grains of sand. In my home town of Dauphin alone, I can think of FOUR hockey card shops that sprung up overnight. For a town of only 9,000 there were more hockey card stores per capita than there were men's clothing stores, clinics, and arcades!
The bonus of having such a huge stock of cards is that almost a decade after they were released, unopened packs can still be found. This week I noticed Toys R Us had unopened packs of early '90s Score, ProSet, and Parkhurst cards for sale.
Even better, PharmaPlus was selling unopened packs of the very first series of Upper Deck NHL cards. Just holding the matte finish foil pack in my mitts again brought back a huge wave of nostalgia, and a slight sheen of sweat on my palms.
I opened it slowly, savouring the sound of tearing foil, curious as to which players of old would be contained in the pack. Lo and behold, the NHL logo peering out at me after being sealed away for 19 years, was that of my beloved Winnipeg Jets.
The pack contained not one, but TWO Jets players! Brent Ashton and Paul Fenton! How sweet was that!
Having studied every card in this set when it first came out, it was a real blast experience facts and details brought out of the closets of my memory by the sight of these photos. Once again, the knowledge that Toronto Maple Leaf Lou Franceschetti was actually BORN in Toronto! Bill Ranford won the Conn Smyth Trophy as Playoff MVP. Brad Shaw had played his entire career (to that point) for the Hartford Whalers. And Michal Pivonka had obviously made some enemies for the Upper Deck staff to choose such an unphotogenic mugshot for his card (see right).
The following cards were included in my pack:
#80 - Michal Pivonka, Washington Capitals
#90 - Brad Shaw - Hartford Whalers
#92 - Paul Fenton, Winnipeg Jets
#102 - Wendell Young, Pittsburgh Penguins
#200 - Checklist, #101-200
#201 - Conn Smythe Trophy, Bill Ranford
#220 - Brent Ashton, Winnipeg Jets
#242 - Steve Larmer, Chicago Blackhawks
#328 - Rich Sutter, St. Louis Blues
#347 - Rod Brind'amour, St. Louis Blues, All Rookie Team
#375 - Paul Ysebaert, New Jersey Devils
#396 - Lou Franceschetti, Toronto Maple Leafs
They're all for sale if you need any of them to complete your collection. Paul Fenton and Brent Ashton excluded, of course.
Currently playing: Colin James - Cadillac Baby
Currently colouring: A yet to be solicited project for Dark Horse Comics!
Proudly in my fourth Cola free year!