Alien #78 — It Lives to Destroy!

Alien - 78I thought I’d slide in one last post in 2012–this one brings me up to an even fifty for the year. One thing I’d like to do in 2013 is more posts on cards and sets not usually featured on others blogs. So behold: the first post on Topps’ 1979 set based on Alien. The set has 84 cards and 22 stickers. There’s a card for each character (including Jones the cat) but the majority of the set is a synopsis of the plot. Of course, they feature hokey and corny descriptions of film stills like the one on the right. “It Lives to Destroy!”? (C’mon Topps, you could have come up with something that went with the movie’s dark atmosphere a little more than that.) I’m actually surprised Topps decided to make an Alien set. At the time, it was common for them to produce sets based on popular movies–like E.T., Indiana Jones, Star Wars, et al.) but I can’t imagine that much of an overlap in Topps’ and the film’s demographics.

Anyway.

I watched Alien when I was way far, far too young. It was the Saturday matinee on TV-38 when I was only nine or ten and it freaked the hell out of me. I remember eating baked beans after, afraid they were Xenomorph eggs and my stomach would explode soon after. My near-constant fear was soon intensified even further on a family vacation to Universal Studios when–while on that Experience the Movies! ride–I was forced to, well, experience Ripley’s horror escaping the alien, just like the scene in this card. Nightmares followed for weeks.

Still, a pretty awesome movie.

Alien - 78 back

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1969-70 Topps Basketball — Walt Bellamy

A first for Off-Centred: a basketball post! Basketball cards don’t get much love from collectors, myself included. In fact, I don’t really like basketball–I’ll watch the Celtics if it’s the playoffs but that’s about it–so this was purchased strictly for aesthetics. I like it so much that I thought I’d try and put it together, however, the Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar/Lew Alcindor and a few other rookies put it out of reach. Also, Topps had some sort of licensing issue going on at the time with the NBA, so almost all the players are wearing their jerseys backwards to avoid showing team nicknames. This card is an exception, as the Pistons away jerseys at the time just listed “Detroit” on the front instead. So I’ll probably just pick up a few here and there for my tallboy collection.

I don’t know much about Walt over here other that he won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics, was a first overall pick, and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame here in Massachusetts. The thing I find most impressive about him is the list of defunct and relocated teams on his resume: Chicago Packers, Baltimore Bullets, and New Orleans Jazz. Of all the strange things about professional sports I think the strangest is that the franchise kept the nickname “Jazz” after they moved to Utah. The Utah Jazz. Just think about that for a second, people.

Tall Boy Storage

Quick question for you, dear reader: What sheets do you use to store tall boy sets? I’m using Ultra Pros and I’m left with this:

Image

I don’t like the large, empty space above each card. At all. A while ago, I found this photo on ebay for Fleer’s 1993-94 Power Play set which is the same size. There’s no extra space! Does anybody know the brand of sheets or where to purchase them?

1980-81 Nordiques Post Cards — John Paddock

Back in the spring of 2007, I needed a roommate. All my friends were either living with girlfriends or locked into leases so I had to go on Craigslist. After showing the apartment to dozens of weirdos (you know, the type of people who normally need help from the internet finding a roommate) a nice Canadian girl named Sally, who was going to Boston University for grad school, contacted me. She was up in Winnipeg for the spring and summer but sent her friend to look at the place to “make sure you’re not a serial killer.” I knew right then she was going to be an awesome roommate. Anyway, when I met with the friend I asked how she knew Sally she said their dads worked together in Winnipeg and then there employer relocated and they both moved to Phoenix. “Just like the Jets,” I said. She laughed awkwardly. “Actually, it was the Jets,” she said. “What position?” I pressed, figuring she’d say marketing or something. “Head coach and GM.” I almost fainted. Turns out my (then) future roommate’s father was this guy: John Paddock. The former head coach and general manager of the Winnipeg Jets. The guy who coached Selanne during his 76 goal season. The guy who was currently the assistant head coach of the Ottawa Senators.

Again, this was March 2007. The Senators ripped through the Eastern Conference playoffs and faced the Ducks in the finals. Visions–albeit delusional–of the Stanley Cup in my living room danced in my head. Of course, the Sens lost in five games but after Bryan Murray was promoted to GM he stepped down as head coach and gave the job to John. So by September I was living with the daughter of an NHL head coach.

That fall and early winter was a blast. The Senators won 15 out of their first 17, an NHL record. Emery and Gerber were impossible to score on and Spezza, Alfredsson, and Heatley were unstoppable. We had NHL Center Ice which meant we got to see it all. (Some of my happiest hockey memories are watching Hockney Night in Canada that season before going out with friends on Saturday nights. Remember, we Americans miss these!) In January, John was named the Eastern Conference head coach. I was certain that summer, the Stanley Cup would be in my living room.

As you probably remember, things didn’t quite work out. The Senators imploded after the All-Star game. By the time they came to Boston in February, there were whispers that he’d be fired. Sally and I and her sisters went to the Garden for the game and the Bruins thrashed the Senators 4-0. I’ve never been so sad to see the B’s win. At this point, I still hadn’t met John but we went down to the locker room to see him after the post game.

I had been looking forward to this moment for months. I pictured myself walking around the locker room like George Costanza hanging around the Yankee clubhouse helping Alfredsson with his wrist shot and Ray Emery with his uppercut. Instead, John was waiting for us outside. I swear this is exactly how I was introduced to him:

Sally: Did it happen?

John: I just talked to Bryan. They let me go.

Sally: Oh god. I’m so sorry, Dad. <the most awkward silence you can imagine> By the way, this is my roommate, Justin.

me: I literally don’t know what to say.

Things got stranger from there. We went back to the Ritz to wait for John and say goodbye before he flew home. While in the lobby of the hotel, a TSN reporter noticed the girls were wearing Senators shirts and hats:

TSN reporter: Sens fans, eh?

Sisters Paddock: Yes.

TSN reporter: <unaware who he was talking to>Don’t worry, I work for TSN and I just got the news that Paddock was fired. Things should get better soon.

One of the sisters: HE’S OUR DAD.

Instead of apologizing, the reporter mumbled something along the lines of “Well, you have to admit he wasn’t doing a good job.” The four girls lost it and started literally screaming at him until he left the lobby of the four-star hotel we were all in. I can say without a shred of exaggeration that these two conversations, fifteen minutes from each other, were among the most surreal moments of my life.

John went back to Ottawa for a few days but having just been fired, he felt uncomfortable going out in the city. We lived in Allston (I still do) which is like the Brooklyn of Boston and Sally thought a hip neighborhood consisting of grad students and musicians was the perfect place to hideout. In those pre-Bruins Stanley Cup days no one cared about hockey in this neighborhood unless it was a vintage Whalers shirt or hat. So I had a former NHL’er LIVING ON MY COUCH. (Though he had a brief playing career, John scored a dramatic goal in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals, staving off elimination for the Flyers and forcing overtime.) We’d stay up late watching west coast games and drinking beer. It was the greatest thing ever.

One last quick story: once I woke up early for work and he was sitting on the couch reading a copy of Nylon. I had an existential crisis for him thinking how he went from the All-Star game to living on an Ikea couch in a student ghetto over the course of a month. Things got better for him though; he coached the Philadelphia Phantoms down in the AHL the next year before being promoted to being an Assistant GM with the Flyers. Sally moved out in June and, sadly, I never talked to John again.

I bet he misses hockey as much as I do, though.

The 2012 NHL Lockout, or, Trade with supportingtheminnow

1980-81 OPC 01Trevor, from supportingtheminnow, and I recently completed a trade. I sent him some 1974-75 and 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee WHA cards along with a stack from the past couple of years and he was more than generous in his return, sending me well over half of the 1980-81 OPC set. I sent him 60 cards, he sent me about 200 in return. They weren’t just commons either, there were a lot like this guy to the left. I’ve thanked him a hundred times via email but I wanted to do it again here.

It’s these kinds of selfless acts that have kept me collecting and writing through this disaster of a lockout and something I tried to focus on after last night’s events. Hockey can still bring me joy and happiness even if it’s not currently being played or won’t be played again until October of 2013 or later. But it’s hard. Whenever I feel better, whenever I’m able to push the negativity out of my mind for a while, I wind up getting upset soon after when something like this happens.

This morning I found myself with these two paradoxical feelings:

1. Wanting to do what I did during the last lockout and forget about hockey for a while. If the owners, and now players, want to be greedy and try to squeeze each and every last percentage point and dollar out of each other at the cost of the season, forget it. If they’re going to neglect me, the fan, then I’m going to do the same to them. Why bother spending money on cards and time writing about them?

2. Missing hockey terribly. I have the desire to purchase cards and write about them more than ever to help fill the vacuum the lockout has left.

At first, I decided that the way for me to address these two thoughts is this: to view cards strictly as a means of nostalgia. The reason one collects vintage cards is that it’s an attempt to revisit a time you can’t go back to. I fell in love with hockey when I was eight and nine years-old, when the Bruins were in the old Adams Division; when there were teams in Hartford, Quebec, Winnipeg (1.0), and Minnesota (ditto); when there were still a handful of helmet-less players; and when guys routinely scored 50 goals. I wondered if I still liked hockey because it’s a means to nostalgia, that is, I thought I might enjoy watching present day hockey because it reminds me hockey in the late-eighties and early-nineties. I certainly don’t care for teams in Nashville, Phoenix, Florida, and Dallas; the Wild over the North Stars; Blake Wheeler’s Jets over Teemu Selanne’s (the franchise Bobby Hull helped build, the one that won Avco Cups before jumping over to the NHL, is owner-less and in the desert, not the one back in town); I certainly don’t care for Reebok’s slim-fit jerseys over the old CCM sweaters; the Eastern and Western Conferences to the Campbell and Wales. I like old, terrifying hockey masks:

All that thinking brought me to this: The idea that Offcentred would only feature cards that are PB, or, pre-Bettman. I’m drawing the line at 1994-95 even though he took office in January of 1993; nothing really bad happened until the first lockout. Anything produced after that wouldn’t appear on this website until the lockout is resolved. Cards printed after that which features players that are PB would be fine fine; a Gordie Howe 2008-09 Champ’s, yes; a 2011-12 OPC Retro of Ron Francis wearing a Whalers jersey, yes; a Joe Sakic 2008-09 Upper Deck in an Avalanche jersey, no.

But then I talked to my friend about my frustration over all this and she mentioned how Buddhists try to live without expectation, for it can lead to unhappiness. We were in my car and she used the example of a red light. If you have the expectation that each light will be green, you’ll get frustrated when it’s red. Instead, if you accept that the light may be green or red, you will be happy if it’s green. While it’s not a perfect metaphor–there doesn’t have to be a lockout like there has to be red lights–I’m going to treat it like this: I’m not going to expect this mess to get sorted out anytime soon. So if something hockey related brings me joy–be it buying vintage at a card show, posting one of those wonderful O-Pee-Chee Retro Marquee Legends from this years set, or playing NHL 13–I’ll do it. I’m just not going to follow the lockout and get upset, or my hopes up, anymore.

Let me know when it’s over. I’ll be thinking about those old teams:

And the 1980 Miracle on Ice:

And trading with others like Trevor.

I Love it When a Page Comes Together

1994-95 Parkhurst Missing Link

My preferred method of storage is in sheets in binders. (Actually, I use old photo albums instead of industrial binders but that’s for another post.) The bulk of my collection–the junkiest of wax notwithstanding–either resides in one or is in the process of being moved. I really appreciate a great page; with good players, nice photography and, of course, all the cards facing the same direction. Nothing throws a page off than a horizontal card going against the grain of eight others.

Here we have a page from Parkhurst’s 1994-95 Missing Link, which is meant to be the missing 1956-57 set. (Parkhurst did another retro set of Tallboys that year to pick up where the company left off in 1964-65 and did another the next year for 1966-67.) It features the Milt Schmidt card I wrote about last month. I really wish the Bruins would use those yellow sweaters.

I’m going to start posting completed sheets on the regular; I always like it when others do. Are there any sets that look particularly good in the old 3×3 grid?