2000-01 Topps Heritage Hockey

Obviously, Heritage has been a big baseball set since its inception in 2001 but Topps did produce hockey, basketball, and football sets back in the early-oughts before making it baseball exclusive. This is the first (or last, depending on how you’re reading this blog) entry on Topps’ three Heritage Hockey sets. The 2000-01 set is by far the worst of the three which is disappointing because it’s based on the iconic 1954-55 set. The main problem is that the photos are a little too hi-res. The soft, vintage look to the original photos are gone here.

It’s also the only of the three base sets I’ve yet to complete so many of these images are “borrowed”.

Another problem is the facsimile autograph. It’s also thinner and less prominent. The team logos seem too large as well. There’s also the problem of the Heritage logo. More on that later.

The penguin looks creepy here for some reason.

The worst part of this set is the scarcity of the SPs. They’re numbered to 1955. Which means that if you’re a set collector you’ll be shelling out a lot of cash for rookies of guys like this:

The backs are done well, though. I’m a sucker for any with a cartoon on it.


2001-02 Topps Heritage Hockey

The early oughts is a period I have little interest in collecting. It was a dark time for the Bruins–the promise and hope Joe Thornton brought with him upon being drafted was never quite delivered, with great regular seasons ending in first round exits to Montreal. Ditto hockey cards. Most sets feature loud designs and color and there’s far too much gloss. (There’s an obvious correlation between the gaudy aesthetics of both logo and jersey and cards during this time.) Which is why the 2001-02 Topps Heritage set is so great. The 2001-02 Topps Heritage Hockey set is based on the 1957-58 set. Topps didn’t produce a set in 1955-56 or 1956-57, so hence the skip in Heritage sets. Right off the bat, this one suffers from malady most of the Heritage Baseball sets do: the Heritage logo. The whole TOPPS HERITAGE mark in the top left or right corner really takes you out of it. In the 2002-03 set (below) the logo is much more subtle and sort of disappears into the crowd but here, it screams out for your attention, just in case you forgot that Curtis Joseph didn’t play in the late-fifties.

The design looks nice, very close to the original (with bonus trademark signs!) and translate well to contemporary times. The colorful background juxtaposes nicely with the white border. The SPs are less short printed than the previous set, making it much easier to complete. Again, Topps invents all-star and award winner subsets but more on that later.

The goalie cards look nice.

There’s 187 cards in the set, the final 50 are SPs of rookies and “high-numbered transactions” featuring players in their new uniforms. Ilya Kovalchuck is the big rookie here, the rest, not so much. Though that’s double the SPs from the previous year, they’re not printed at a ridiculously low number (the 2000-01 set are numbered /1955).  There’s also a parallel subset of the 1971-72 O-Pee-Chee set which do not always correspond uniform-wise with their base counterpart.

Side note: most of these feature action shots. The original set used studio portraits except for the Ken Dryden card, which I find to be the best looking.

The set really comes together nicely in a binder:

I love a good looking page. This one is all stars, all vertical, and without any subsets or checklists. The colors really stand out, it almost looks like pop art!

2002-03 Topps Heritage Hockey

The third and final Topps Heritage Hockey set is based on the iconic 1966-67 set. I’m not sure why Topps skipped ahead after the 2000-01 and 2001-02 sets mimicking 1954-55 and 1957-58, their first two releases, respectively. This was the one that originally drew me to collect all three Heritage sets. It’s also the nicest of the three. Aside from having the best design, it’s also the one Topps got closest to replicating. The 2000-01 set is kind of a mess, the photos are too sharp in comparison. While the 2001-02 looks pretty good this one definitely feels the most vintage.

The big downside here are the 30 or so SPs. Some of are stars but others are rookies. There’s a Spezza rookie, which is nice, but most of these guys never panned out. It’s hard to justify paying $5 for an Alexander Svitov card, so I’ll probably never complete the set. I do have all the base cards and a handful of SPs. Here are the highlights:

#10 — Pavel Bure Bure was one of my first favorite hockey players, mostly because he had a 99 rating for speed and slapshot in NHL ’95.

#21 — Teemu Selanne Another NHL ’95 great. Also, I had forgotten how awful those Sharks jerseys were. This is my main problem with Heritage sets. They have a great vintage design but then some of the photos on the cards juxtapose really awful, modern jerseys. Look at Selanne and then the Maple Leaf behind him. It’s so anachronistic it throws everything off.

#37 — Paul Kariya To completely contradict myself, I LOVE the original Might Ducks jersey, especially the purple one. It’s probably misplaced nostalgia but I still love everything about them, even the asymmetrical stripes.

#49 – Martin Havlat I promise not to turn this into a critique of early-00s sweaters and logos but I really miss the Senators wearing these.

#67 — Mark Recchi I love that Recchi went out on top, retiring after winning Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. If only Marchand had passed to him in the waning seconds and let him score the empty netter.

#81 — Stu Barnes Wearing a Buffalo jersey that says “New York” which the Sabres wore and then auctioned off for a 9/11 benefit. I haven’t seen these on any other card.

#82 — Alexander Mogilny Alexander the Great was my second favorite player. When he got traded to the Canucks and paired up with Bure, I almost lost it. I bought an ugly orange and yellow Canucks jersey and wore it to school almost every single day in eighth grade. I had an issue of Beckett with the two on the cover and worshipped it. I really wish I still had it.

#114 — League Leaders Penalty Minutes It’s strange that Topps decided to invent these League Leaders cards, they didn’t appear in the original set. Worrell had 354 penalty minutes that season.

It’s too bad Topps discontinued Heritage Hockey after that. I would love to see the 1965-66 or 1968-69 set and a few from the seventies, though Upper Deck did do the 1979-80 set through their OPC Retro inserts.