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.

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.

The Mall and the Met

I’ve recently re-focused my collecting to the eighties and early-nineties, back to when I first started watching hockey. The golden days before Bettman, expansion into markets that didn’t want hockey, and routine lockouts. This means there will be a lot of posts about sets like 1990-91 Upper Deck. Eventually I’ll do an in-depth look at the entire set, it’s so great–especially the photography. But for now, I’d like to take a look at John Tonelli’s base card. I love this card. He’s celebrating like he just netted an overtime winner in Game 7 of the Cup finals when, in all likelihood, he probably just put the Kings up 5-1 midway through the third on a Tuesday night in January in Hartford. Or maybe he just found out there was a sale at Sam Goody down the hall. (Fun fact: The Whalers played in a mall.) Even though it breaks my heart a little to say it, this is a great photo. It’s got everything: a candid, emotional shot with a great sweater, great logo, and great mustache.

The back of the card is even better, with Tonelli doing some sexy stretching in the old Met Center.

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!

The Brief and Frightening Reign of the Cleveland Barons, Pt. 2

ImageAnd we’re back.

I have a few posts planned for the upcoming weeks, one on an oversized baseball set, a vending box I picked up, and–most importantly–the worst/greatest set of junk wax hockey. But first: more Barons.

Ralph Klassen had a forgettable NHL career but his 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee card is one of my favorite in the set. It’s a great action shot–he’s helmetless, racing around the boards at the old Boston Garden chased by Rick Middleton. There’s a great shot of the Barons’ away sweater and there’s a clear view of their sleeve numbers which are outlined in the state of Ohio. I wish the Blue Jackets had incorporated this into their jerseys. Speaking of the Bruins, I prefer these old jerseys as well, they’re much heavier on the gold. The new whites are too monochromatic looking.

Back to the Barons. The same outline appears in the logo around the scripted ‘B’. Which brings me to my second favorite card in the ’77-’78 set:


Perfectly off-centred.