1990-91 O-Pee-Chee #1 — Wayne Gretzky

90-91 OPC Gretzky 1This is the only card I know of featuring the Great One in an Indianapolis Racers jersey. I find this a bit odd considering the trend of putting retired stars in their lesser known team jerseys on cards a la Howe and their Whalers or Sakic and the Nordiques. Come to think of it, Bobby Hull played in virtually the same amount of games for the Whalers as Gretzky did the Racers and there’s a bunch of him in their sweater. I guess I should just chalk that up to the power of the Whale.

I really like how O-Pee-Chee kicked off this set with the three Gretzky tribute cards–one for each team he had played for up until that point. They tried it again the next year with Guy LaFleur but the cards were ugly and–no offense Canadiens fans–was LaFleur really that important? I’ve always gotten a kick out of the fake newspaper (the Indianapolis Press doesn’t exist) with the fake volume number and fake byline and the WEATHER: BRISK mention above the headline, as if that somehow adds to the authenticity of the paper.

Oh, and if anyone needs anything from this set I have literally a thousand doubles from a couple of vending packs I picked up at the flea market over the summer.

1990-91 Upper Deck Team Checklists

This one’s been sitting in my draft box for quite some time and after posting the LaFleur tribute card last week I figured it was time. This was originally supposed to be an in-depth look at a set that’s been written about endlessly, that I’d shed some new light some on a stale subject to mix metaphors. But I don’t really have the time (or ideas) for that now, so instead, I thought I’d run with some of the scans I have of the painted team checklists.

First thing you notice is that the artistry isn’t exactly top notch. Sure, at a quick glance, they look fine. The jerseys look nice but the faces. Dear god, the faces. Brett Hull and Ron Francis look like aliens, Joe Sakic doesn’t look like Joe Sakic. And what is going on with the backgrounds? They’re so completely 90s, from the retina-hurting neons to the strange, floating shapes and random thin lines. I don’t mean to shit on the artist–it’s Vernon Wells Sr., the father of the Los Angeles Angel–and much of his work for Upper Deck is just fine. I don’t know what happened here, if he had an unrealistic deadline or something, but clearly they do not look right. Hull looks like he’s doing his best Linda Blair:

I love the idea of these, especially in context of the entire set, but the quality leaves a lot to be desired. Upper Deck gradually improved their team checklists each year but they never quite got them right, nowhere close to the classy 1983 Hockey Hall of Fame set.

1991-92 Score #402 — Guy LaFleur

91-92 Pro Set Lafleur

I’ve always been fascinating by the trend of painted insert cards during the early-90s. Donruss had their Ice Kings and Upper Deck featured one per team through their first four sets. Some look good while others are a mess. What I didn’t know until recently was that Score tried a few of their own: to commerate Gretzy’s 2000th point, their “Dream Team”, and Guy LaFleur’s final season. I’m mostly posting this just because I’ve never seen them (there’s three) on any blogs before. I’m not sure of the painter–I’m away from my cards right now–but they’re a little nicer looking than Upper Deck’s. More on that soon…

Game On!

09-10 Champs Lucic 1Hockey is back! The Bruins return tonight to face the Rangers and Rick Nash at the Garden. I’d say the two of them–and perhaps Philadelphia–are the top teams in the East.

I think I handled the lockout fine after my post a month and a half ago. After it looked like the owners and players were on the verge of a deal back in early December and then it fell apart I honestly thought there wouldn’t be a season at all. So the (personal) surprise that there will be games this winter far outweighs the anger and frustration that the lockout caused me.

It was stupid and selfish for the league and players to put the fans through a fourth work stoppage in 20 years. They probably could have worked this out earlier in the summer and avoided losing any games much like the NFL did the year before. But I’d rather push that out of my mind and enjoy hockey rather than continue to be angry about it. I understand that others disagree with me. And I understand that some won’t come back this week, month, season, etc. and I won’t argue with them but this how I’m handling it. Let’s just hope there’s not another in ten (or eight) years.

Back to the Bruins. I think they have a good shot to make it out of the east again and perhaps grab the Cup back from the Kings. Jersey has weakened, the B’s physicality matches up well physically against Pittsburgh, and as long as Bryzgalov is in net in Philadelphia I’m not scared of the Flyers. That leaves the Rangers, who were great last year and have added the aforementioned Nash. Perhaps tonight will be a barometer on where the two teams are at. There really isn’t any time for teams to tweak their roster and develop.

Game on.

09-10 Champs Lucic 2

T118 Hassan World’s Greatest Explorers — Duke of Arbuzzi

T118 ExplorersWinter has finally arrived in Boston; after months of mild weather there’s now snow on the ground and single digit temperatures. (And hockey! But more on that in a couple days.) So I thought I’d do a winter related post on a card from a T118 Hassan set: World’s Greatest Explorers.

I initially learned about this set from this article about Jefferson Burdick (which I seemingly can’t find and link to now) and how it was common for collectors to stamp their names on the back of their cards. The article had an image of a card from this set–James B. Lockwood–and Burdick’s stamp on the back. I’d love to get a card from a show or in the mail and turn it over to find it was once owned by the greatest collector of them all. Anyway. I decided to try and track down a few of these since they’re relatively inexpensive and focus on an interesting subject. First up: Duke of Arbuzzi.

The Duke, aka Prince Luigi Amedeo, is famous for exploring and mountaineering, particularly K2, the world’s second tallest mountain. In fact, one of the common routes to the summit is one he carved out and a part of the mountain, the Arbuzzi Spur, is named after him. I had planned on writing more about him but it seemed for more interesting reading about his life than typing about it here.

What I really like about this card is the background. The icebergs and starry night sky are beautiful and really round out the palette of the card. A few others from this set are painted to be at dusk, however, I believe this is the only to be at night. The whole image reminds me of the graphic novel George Sprott (1894-1975) by Seth. It tells the story of  the title character, an amateur Arctic explorer turned Canadian news personality. Seth is a professional nostalgic, so he’d definitely appreciate this set.

Being the first post of the year, I feel obligated to note a couple resolutions.

1. Make more trades. I think I made three last year and I have a giant box of doubles in my drawer.

2. Be a little more adventurous and get out of hockey and baseball more. Especially OPC/Topps.

This post was a good start to the second resolution!

T118 Explorers back