1974-75 Lipton Soup #29 — Gregg Sheppard

74-75 Lipton - Sheppard 1That escalated quickly.

Twelve days after certain defeat the Bruins are back in the Conference Finals, for the second time in three years, to face the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gregg Sheppard, who would go on to play for both teams, came to the Bruins to help fill the void of Derek Sanderson and others taking off for the WHA. (Sanderson would be back, rather quickly, actually.) Sheppard played a large role in the Bruins’ run to the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, netting eleven goals in the playoffs. He was traded to the Penguins a few years later, playing in Pittsburgh until retiring in 1982. I never saw Sheppard play but his size, stats, and knack for playoffs goals reminds me of Brad Marchand. Sheppard isn’t what interests me about this card, though, it’s the set itself. Lipton produced a 50-card set in 1974-75 on the back of their soup boxes. (If you have a couple of minutes be sure to read this great post on the set over at Diamond Cuts and Wax Stains.) The cards are a bit smaller than your traditional card and they had to be hand cut out of the boxes but they have a nice, simple design and are full of close cut, action shots like the one above, which look even nicer when compared to the plethora of ugly portrait shots O-Pee-Chee featured regularly back in the seventies.

But back to the Penguins.

I’m not sure if the Bruins have a chance this round. Pittsburgh has too much firepower, too many offensive weapons. They had a perfect month back in March, when they went 15-0-0, the first time ever in the history of the NHL.

Then again, I didn’t think they had a shot against Vancouver in 2011, or down three goals with 10:30 left against Toronto in Game 7.

74-75 Lipton - Sheppard 2

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1991-92 Bobby Orr BayBank

91-92 Baybank Orr1My friend gave me these a few years ago, before I got back into collecting and I filed them away in a box and kind of forgot about them until now. Back in the eighties and early-nineties Bobby Orr was the spokesperson for BayBank–a local chain of banks that merged with Bank of Boston to become BankBoston, which were then bought out by Fleet, which were then bought out by Bank of America. There’s three cards and an 8×10 and they were given away at bank locations and Bruins games. I only have the first two, in fact, I didn’t even know there was a third until I started doing research for this post. In a bit of irony, these cards feature BayBank’s blue and green colors which were also the colors of the Whalers who, if you grew up in central Massachusetts, competed for your loyalty. (I grew up closer to Hartford than Boston.) But I’m not going to turn this into another Hartford Whalers post. I promise. The juxtaposition of these black and gold photos from the seventies with the blue and green borders and BayBank’s logo that screams I’m-from-the-eighties is jarring.

The second card inverts everything. The colors are swapped, Orr’s name goes to the bottom and the company’s name shoots to the top. I think I like this one better though, I like the angle up against the boards, how little tape is on his stick.

Not surprisingly,  BayBank chose to omit Orr’s stats from the two seasons he played in Chicago on the back. I like the simplicity of the backs and how they (mostly) show his career stats. The third card in the set is the best but I don’t have it: Orr is digging the puck out along the boards with Bobby Clarke and his mop right behind. In 1995, BabyBank produced another card, both a standard and oversized version.

91-92 Baybank Orr1 back

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.

1989-90 Kraft

I love oddball/food sets. We didn’t get most of them in the US and, unlike the baseball food issues here (ahem, Post) they’re actually licensed, so no logo-less sweaters. Kraft seems to have produced some of the best; they made sets every season from ’89-90 to ’94-’95 and then did a couple more in the early oughts. At 64 cards, the ’89-’90 set is the smallest (the following year’s set had 115 if you count the oversized pogs they included) but it might be the best looking. A simple, white border includes the player’s name, number and team logo. It gives the cards a very uncrowded look which complements the excellent, action photography very. Compare this to the 1989-90 Topps/O-Pee-Chee set which features a lot of players standing around. Not to mention its busy composition (Its design is so quintessentially nineties that words “cowabunga” and “mondo” come to mind whenever I see one.) 1989-90 was the last hockey season before the explosion of the market in 1990-91, so these two sets are the only ones offered.

Only the seven Canadian teams are represented here–Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg–so sadly no Bruins, Whalers, etc. Some players from American teams made it into the set as the Wales and Campbell Conference All-Star teams are also featured. (There was no way Kraft was going to omit Gretzky.)

The cards came on boxes of Kraft products, including ROCK-O-RAMA, whatever that is. Here’s a typical box of Kraft Dinner, featuring the Sakic rookie from above, that I borrowed from the internet:

I’m currently reading Collections of Nothing by William Davies King. He’s a professor of theatre at the University of California, Santa Barbara but I can’t imagine him having time to do anything outside collecting. King writes abouts his endless collecting of valueless objects–from business cards to credit cards to envelop linings to produce stickers to pieces of scrap metal–but his largest (and most impressive?) is his collection of food labels. He has over 18,000, all neatly pasted into binders. Davies cuts out the front label and throws away the back so he may very well have done the opposite hockey collectors had done and kept the label and throw away the cards!

The reason I bring up King and his book is because of his commentary and observations on collecting. Cards–be it hockey or baseball or non-sport or soccer–are ephemera. They weren’t originally designed to be kept over the long term and, from a manufacturing standpoint, little has been done to change that, simply meaning: they’re still flimsy little pieces of cardboard. He writes that collecting “finds order in things, virtue in preservation, knowledge in obscurity, and above all it discovers and even creates value” (7). This explains, quite nicely, why I’ve just written about 600 words on a small, 25 year-old set of hockey cards that were originally cut out of boxes of macaroni and cheese.

Later in the chapter, King elaborates on his answer to the existential question collectors face every now and then, when moving, creating space for new additions, or dealing with the sheer vastness of their own collections. He’s writing about his boyhood stamp collection but it holds true to any. “I wanted to make my collection into an orderly and rich place where I could go” (13). I’ve been thinking about this more and more as the lockout continues. I thought that the lockout might dissuade me from collecting–and it still may–but for now, hockey only exists on the cards in my binders and boxes, and the ones I might buy.

1985 Donruss Pop-Ups

I had meant to do this post for the All-Star Game for obvious reasons but I never got around to it and these scans have been sitting on my computer ever since. I haven’t been collecting much baseball recently, the Red Sox are currently finishing up on their worst season since 1966. But since I’ve been virtually 100% hockey-centric recently and with the playoffs and World Series on the horizon, I figured it was time to get this post written.

I really like tallboys and these are virtually the same size when if they are not “popped-up”. The 1985 All-Star Game was at the Metrodome which, for better or worse, is featured predominately in the background. This set is totally grounded in the mid-eighties; aside from the Metrodome’s strange architecture there’s plenty of button-less uniforms, stirrups, and stretch belts. Two things I dislike about the background: the thick black bar where the card is supposed to be folded and that the upper deck is completely empty. (Not that the Metrodrome was often sold out.) Also, if you actually pop this one up, you’ll cut off half of poor George’s hands. Ouch. It’s sad to think that the Royals have not made the playoffs since this set was released.

The set is only 18 cards and features the starting lineup of both leagues. The National League started FIVE San Diego Padres. Five. An 83 win, fourth place team had five starting All-Stars.

I like the Morris card. It sort of foreshadows his heroics in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Alas, Morris would lose this game as the Nation League won 6-1. I’m bored even typing about the actual game. I used to LOVE the All-Star Game but I don’t think I’ve watched more than an inning or two in ten years.

The backs are simple but I really like them.