The Brief and Frightening Reign of the Cleveland Barons, Pt. 5

1977-78 OPC GirardI’m just going to go come out and say it: this card is a total mess. First, there’s a quality issue; it’s as if it’s a photo of a photo. And then there’s the strange, circular crop job at the top. I’ve spent hours pondering why it’s like this, trying to figure out a reason but I can’t. What makes it even stranger is that O-Pee-Chee used the exact same photo in his 1976-77 card without the black spot. So who knows. Also, there’s the usual airbrushing of his jersey. I particularly enjoy how the front trimming has been painted white but it remains yellow (from the old Seals jersey) on the inside by the nape of his neck. At least with Merrick’s they got the collar and shoulders right. Poor Bob. Even his smile is bad, reminiscent of a child’s third-grade school picture, taken right after gym class.

I’ve always wondered why some of the 77-78 cards used a all caps and a different font for the names on the back. Again, Merrick for reference.

1977-78 OPC Girard2

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The Many Masks of Ed Staniowski

81-82 OPC StaniowskiTrevor, from supportingtheminnow, recently sent me a box full of 1981-82 and 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee. By far my favorite of the lot is the Ed Staniowski on the left. There’s so many little things going on that I love: the angle, the old Jets logo, the brown leather pads, the red and sky blue border, the addition of the French “gardien” along with goalie, and, of course, the painted mask. Wow. Staniowski wore a number of terrifying masks throughout his career but this is one of my favorites. (It’s a shame you can’t see the other side because it’s fantastic.) This led me to do some research on Staniowski’s cards to see if he’s wearing his other masks. Unfortunately, he only has eight cards (well, six and a sticker and a team postcard) and of those, he’s only wearing a mask in four of them and none feature his other Jets masks or his famous Blues mask with two of the eighth note logos over his eyes. O-Pee-Chee loved the portrait shot back in the eighties, I’m not quiet sure why they didn’t have goalies wear their masks. Anyway, I’ve scanned and posted all of the masked cards below.

1979-80 O-Pee-Chee

Great photo, great design, great card, great set. I love the couple rooting him on behind the glass. I like to pretend they’re his parents. Somehow, his stance makes the mask scarier. He looks like a four-footed monster.

79-80 OPC Staniowski

1980-81 O-Pee-Chee

This one barely qualifies as mask isn’t really on. Love the angle of his stick and the glare. This would be Staniowski’s last card with the Blues before he was shipped off to the Jets. I really wish this card featured the logo mask I mentioned up. Interesting note: former Bruins Hannu Toivonen wore a tribute to it back in 2008.

80-81 OPC Staniowski

1981-82 O-Pee-Chee Stickers

Full on Jason Voorhees here. This is such a great photo and simple design I’ll forgive the airbrushed jersey. I have a bunch of stickers from this set and the photography is very good, better than the actual card set. I prefer to treat these stickers as cards and keep them loose instead of adhered to the album but their non-standard size makes them difficult to store. Any one have a binder solution to this?

81-82 OPC Staniowski sticker

Staniowski ended up playing a handful of games for the Whalers at the end of his career. Alas, there are no cards, or even photos online, that show his mask, though if a message board poster who claims to own a game worn mask of his is correct, he switched to a bird cage.

I like the idea of posting about masks through cards. I’m going to try and do this again–maybe with Mike Liut–in the near future.

81-82 OPC Staniowski 2

The Brief and Frightening Reign of the Cleveland Barons, Pt. 4

77-78 Greg Smith1I’ve been working on this project, of scanning and posting each Cleveland Barons card from the 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee set, since about the start of this blog over a year ago. Aside from the single card or two, the 1977-78 set is the only one to feature players in a Barons sweater, so I thought it’d be an interesting idea to post all of them in one place. Unfortunately, I used up all the historical anecdotes about the franchise (and all my jokes about the city of Cleveland) in the first few posts so the project stalled. But I’m recommitting to it, so if you like, you can follow it by using the tag “Barons“.

Greg Smith was drafted by the Seals and moved to Cleveland along with the franchise in 1976. He played with the Barons for both their seasons. His rights were protected when the club merged with the North Stars and the extra players were dispersed in a draft. He stayed in Minnesota for three seasons and remained in the NHL until 1988, being one of the last remaining Barons (and Seals) to retire. Dennis Maruk is the answer to that trivia question–having lasted one more year. More on him another time.

77-78 Greg Smith2

1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Mini #24 — Mike Liut

1987-88 OPC Mini Liut1The aspect of collecting I like best is finding cards I’ve never seen before, especially when they’re something old. This is why the last three posts have been on footballer and cricket cards from the sixties and seventies; even though I know very little, if anything, about the players on the cards, they’re new and exciting to me while still being vintage. I think this is why I don’t like vintage baseball as much as hockey. I’ve seen all the sets and designs a hundred times before.

I recently bought the 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee Mini set and while I had seen most dozens of times on other blogs and around the internet I came across this Mike Liut card which I had not. I’m surprised I hadn’t because 1. it’s of a Whaler and. 2., it’s Mike Liut. I would say his cards are featured rather prominently on many blogs due to his terrifying, horror film-esque masks. (Some day, I’m going to do a post on all of Liut’s OPC cards because he looks like such a badass in every one.) Somehow, this one slipped through the cracks until I was thumbing through the set, giving me one of those “Ah!” moments that become fewer and farther between the more and more we collect.

I like the fuzzy white borders on this set, it adds a literal haze of nostalgia to the cards. Plus, it really works well with the white of the Whalers sweater here. I like the font, too. The whole thing looks a little like the Scanlens Cricket cards from earlier in the week.

1987-88 OPC Mini Liut2

1976-77 O-Pee-Chee #37 — Wilf Paiement

76-77 OPC Paiement1Not one, but two, defunct teams here. Perhaps the only team to challenge the Cleveland Barons in terms of obscurity in professional American sports, the Kansas City Scouts lasted only two seasons, winning a total of 27 games. They were originally going to be called the Mohawks but the Blackhawks protested for obvious reasons and the franchise settled on Scouts instead.

After a poor inaugural season, the Scouts flirted with a playoff spot for the first three months of the 1975-76 seasons before 1-35-8 in their final 44 games before moving to Colorado and becoming the original Rockies and, eventually, the New Jersey Devils. The Scouts had busy looking uniforms with their red, blue, white, and yellow color scheme–look at those gloves!–and this card does a great job of showing off their sweater and logo.

Wilf Paiement was the team’s first draft pick, going second overall in the 1974 draft. He scored 40 goals twice and had a 39 goal season in the mid-eighties. He is also one of only two players not named Gretzky to wear number 99, doing so while with the Maple Leafs.

76-77 Paiement2

1976-77 O-Pee-Chee WHA #64 — Vaclav Nedomansky

76-77 OPC WHA NedomanskyWhile picking up the Lacroix card in a dollar bin from the previous post, I also found 4/6 of the Gordie Howe puzzle on the backs of the Canadian All-Stars. Why Hull, a Canadian All-Star, is on the back of the Americans and Howe, a Canadian (playing for the Houston Aeros) an American All-Star on the backs of the Canadians, I know not.

Here’s Vaclav Nedomansky. He’s wearing a Birmingham Bulls jersey and the card features the Bulls logo but still lists the team as the Toronto Toros because it’s O-Pee-Chee and the seventies. Nedomansky is famous for being the first hockey player to defect to North America, coming from Czechoslovakia which was under Soviet rule. He paved the way for others like Stastny, Bure, Federov, and Mogilny. This wasn’t easy to do: he was unable to return home until after the fall of the Eastern Bloc in the late eighties. Nedomansky put up some pretty good numbers in the WHA first and the NHL after, scoring 38 and 35 goals with the Red Wings when he was 35 and 36. He scored over 800 goals during his twenty year career in the Czechoslovakian league, WHA, and NHL.

On the backs, we have Gordie in an one of those underrated Aeros sweaters:

76-77 OPC WHA Howe Puzzle

Edit: I found a photo of an uncut sheet with both puzzles totally intact.

1976-77 O-Pee-Chee WHA #70 — Andre Lacroix

76-77 OPC WHA LacroixGoing through a dollar bin at a show this past weekend I was able to add to the Bobby Hull puzzle on the back of the 1976-77 O-Pee-Chee WHA American All-Stars subset. Lacroix is, surprisingly, the WHA’s all-time leading scorer by over a hundred points which is not bad considering Hull and Howe, albeit aging, played each season the league was in existence. Lacroix bounced around the WHA playing a year with the Blazers in Philadelphia before joining the New York Golden Blades as they became the Jersey Knights. The team was then purchased by Ray Croc of McDonald’s and San Diego Padres fame. He then played a year in Houston and another  in New England, staying with the team for their inaugural season in 1979. This is not a good looking card. I’ve never been a fan of studio shots, particularly head shots. No offense to Lacroix, but he’s not exactly a model and he’s sort of got a cyborg thing going with his eyes. But that’s not the reason why I bought this card or I’m making this post: it’s Bobby Hull’s noggin on the back.

1976-77 OPC WHA Hull Puzzle2All that’s left is the Bobby Hull card itself which I doubt I’ll find in a dollar bin. Next up: the Gordie Howe puzzle from the backs of the Canadian All-Stars.