Top 10 Cards From A Cheap 1990/91 Topps Hockey Factory Set

There was one of those “Any single item $1” tables at the show I went to in July, but it wasn’t until after I’d grabbed a couple of small oddball sets and Topps retail team sets that I saw a set of plastic shelves where anything was $3, and one of the items was this:

Yes, a 396-card 1990/91 Topps Hockey factory set for $3. As a friend of mine likes to say, “You can’t go wrong!”

Just a quick aside… How much of a cardboard nerd am I that I love the way an unsorted box of pre-glossy Topps cards looks?

I can honestly say that I’d never in my life considered getting the entire 1990 Hockey set – before I bought the set I had just 34 of these cards – but buying this set was a no-brainer. I would’ve easily spent $3 acquiring the cards I’d wanted from 1990/91 Topps Hockey, and now I have the entire set…

…Not that I know what I’m going to do with it. I have given some thought towards making this the basis of a 396-card hockey FrankenSet, but we’ll see…

While thumbing through the set for the first time, I kept my favorite cards separate, knowing I’d be doing a “Top 10” post at some point… and here they are in no particular order:

Team cards are well-represented in my Top 10, as this subset has a number of cool action shots.

I just like the “stink eye” that Russ Courtnall seems to be giving someone.

I realize that HOFer Guy Lafleur spent two years with Quebec, but he just looks WEIRD in that uniform.

Even though Lafleur spent a year with the Rangers, that’s less odd to me because I remember watching him on TV with the Blueshirts. Nordiques? Tres bizarre.

I think this card is my favorite from the set, just because of angle of the shot.

There were also a few “honorable mention cards I wanted to include…

“Could I BE any more like Matthew Perry???”

There’s a three-card Wayne Gretzky tribute in this set, and if the photo had been better this card would’ve made it to the Top 10… but there’s no resisting a card of The Great One with the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers!

CuJo Rookie!

My general take on the set is that it’s far from classic. The design is OK but nothing great, and far too many of the photos were taken during warmups or while waiting for a face-off. By getting the factory set, I miss out on the “Team Scoring Leaders” inserts, but I can track down the one or two cards I want easily enough. All in all, it’s junk wax… but it was $3! And you can’t go wrong!


Spanning The Globe…

Between my July card show and my July COMC order, I got cards from a number of different countries… but it’s not like I was looking to replicate the Wide World Of Sports in a binder, it just worked out that way.  I’ve got a couple today, and a few more for a future post or two.

The first card is one I saw lying on top of one of the dime boxes I was going through.

When I saw it, I said “…The heck is that?”, which was quickly followed by “DON’T CARE;  WANT IT!“, and it went into my stack.

I didn’t know what I had until I got home and did some research.  This is a 1978 Scanlens Victorian Football League card featuring Mervyn Keane of the Richmond Tigers.  The “football” in question is Australian Rules Football.  I’m not going to go into detail into the sport because I know almost nothing about it and will get something wrong if I try to research it on the fly.

Here’s the back of Mervyn’s card:

Scanlens was (or is) an Australian card company which operated under a license from Topps.  Some of the other Scanlens sets used card designs which were similar to Topps designs of various years and sports.  This particular set had 156 cards plus 12 checklists.

Speaking of football… but a different kind of football… Let’s go half a world a way over to England, and check out this 1975-76 Topps English Footballer card.

I don’t know if they use the term “journeyman” in the UK, but Bob Hatton fits the description.  From 1964 to 1983 he played for nine different teams, but he put the most time in with Birmingham City (as pictured here).

Here’s the back of the card:

The curse of the Anglophile who’s learned most of what he knows about England through TV — I see “Bolton” mentioned on this card and my brain immediately goes into Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch. “It’s not a bloody palindrome! A palindrome of ‘Bolton’ would be ‘Notlob’! It don’t work!”

Moving on to hockey… All I knew about this last card when I bought it was that COMC listed the set as “1995 Semic Globe”.  Beyond that, not a clue… other than it featured former Capital Michal Pivonka.

Turns out that Semic is a Swedish publishing company and this card set was to commemorate the 1995 World Championship, which was held in Stockholm that year.  According to Beckett, the “VM ’95” is the logo of the championship (presumably a Swedish language abbreviation, and a pretty boring logo if that’s true).  Beckett also says that “it’s believed that there are fewer than 2,000 of these cards in circulation”.  If that’s true then I have a relatively rare card here.

Here’s the back.  “TJECKIEN” is Swedish for “Czech”.

According to the checklist (which lists the set as “1995 Swedish Globe World Championship”), there are a number of other players in the set I wouldn’t mind having, so hopefully Beckett is wrong about the print run on these.

Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Birmingham Bulls

This is Part 2 to follow my prior “Forgotten Franchises” post. That post covered the Ottawa Nationals and Toronto Toros, the first and second stops of the franchise whose third stop was in Birmingham Alabama. Because the team went from the Toros to the Birmingham Bulls, they were able to keep the same logo.

The Bulls played three years in the WHA, never had a winning record and only made the playoffs once, but were nevertheless pretty successful in bringing hockey to Alabama. The team was not included in the WHA’s merger with the NHL and the franchise shifted to the minor league Central Hockey League.

There are two primary stories when it comes to the Bulls. The first is that, to appeal to the Alabama fans, many of whom didn’t know the finer points of hockey, the team went with a strategy very much in the vein of the movie “Slap Shot”.  Indeed, the Paul Newman character (Reggie Dunlop) was based at least in part on Bulls coach John Brophy.  Bulls player Dave Hanson appeared in the movie as one of the Hanson brothers, and was also said to be the inspiration for the Killer Carlson character in the same movie.

…But I’m not going to focus on that storyline.

The part of the Bulls story that I find most interesting is a youth movement it undertook. At the time, players could not be drafted by the NHL until they were 21 years old, but the WHA had no such restriction. The Bulls made a push to take advantage of this situation.

One of the players that the Bulls made a run at was Wayne Gretzky, but The Great One would sign with the Indianapolis Racers. However, the Bulls did sign a number of players, referred to collectively as the “Baby Bulls”, and had they been able to stay together could’ve been the basis to a very good team. Of course, even if the Bulls had been part of the merger, the terms of the merger stripped most of the WHA team’s players away in a “re-entry draft”, so this is all academic.

All of these players started their professional careers with the Bulls most were rookies in the 1978-79 season.

Craig Hartsburg played for the Bulls as a 19-year-old before going on to play 10 years for the North Stars.

In 77 games with the Bulls, he scored 9 goals with 40 assists.

Gaston Gingras was also 19, and would play for the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Blues through the 1988/89 season.

In 60 games with the Bulls, he scored 13 goals with 21 assists.

Rob Ramage was a older “Baby Bull”, he was 20 when he made the WHA 1st All Star Team.  He’d go on to play for a number of teams and hoisted the Stanley Cup twice.

In 80 games with the Bulls, he’d score 12 goals with 36 assists.

Rick Vaive played for the Maple Leafs, Sabres, Black Hawks and Canucks through the 1991/92 season.

In 75 games as a 19-year-old Bull, he would lead the WHA with 248 penalty minutes, score 26 goals with 33 assists.

Pat Riggin would play through the 1987-88 season with the Flames, Capitals, Bruins and Penguins. In 1983-84 with the Caps, Riggin would leading the league with a 2.66 Goals Against Average and 4 shutouts.

As a 19-year-old with the Bulls, he had a 3.78 GAA and a shutout.

Hall-Of-Famer Michel Goulet was 18 when he played for the Bulls. He’d go on to play for the Nordiques and Black Hawks.

In 78 games with the Bulls, he’d score 28 goals with 30 assists.

As I was finishing up this post, I realized that this last player actually played for the Bulls the year before the others, in 1977/78.  HOFer and two-time Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) winner Rod Langway started with the Bulls as a 20-year-old before going on to win a Cup with the Canadians and later play a major role in keeping the struggling Capitals in Washington.

In 52 games with Birmingham, he’d score 3 goals with 18 assists.

Throw these guys on top of the players from the Toronto years – Frank Mahovolich, Paul Henderson and Vaclav Nedomansky – and you’ve got quite an assortment of talent for any team, much less a WHA team.

Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Ottawa Nationals / Toronto Toros

This original WHA franchise lasted through the entire run of the WHA and played in three different cities; I’m going to address the “early years” in this post, and then get to the final chapter in “Part Two”, which I’ll post next Friday.

The franchise which was to become the Ottawa Nationals was originally given the WHA rights to all of Ontario. The original plans were to put the team in Hamilton, which is at the westernmost part of Lake Ontario, and between Toronto and Buffalo if one is driving rather than sailing across the lake. Because there wasn’t a suitable arena in Hamilton, the team was instead put in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

The first game in WHA history was played in Ottawa on October 11, 1972. The Nationals were host to the Alberta (later Edmonton) Oilers. The Oilers won that game 7-4.

The team was not a success in Ottawa, and I read (but could not verify) that within the first months of the season there were rumors of the team moving to Milwaukee. The Nationals finished with a 35-39-4, 4th in the East division and good enough to make the playoffs. However, they didn’t have access to their home ice for the playoffs, so the postseason home games were held in Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Ottawa lost in the semis to the eventual league champion New England Whalers.

Before the following season, the team was sold and became the Toronto Toros.

They played their first season in the University of Toronto’s arena while working on alternate venues within the Toronto area. None of those panned out for the short term, and the University’s arena had a small capacity and no broadcast facilities, so the team became the tenants of their NHL rival and moved to Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Toros marketed themselves aggressively and courted a younger fanbase than the Maple Leafs. They also signed a number of former Maple Leafs, and made an attempt to lure Leafs’ star Darryl Sittler. They did well at the gate but suffering from leasing the Garden from the Maple Leafs’ owner, who was generally not a fan (to say the least) of the WHA and the Toros.

After three seasons in Toronto and no feasible alternative available within Toronto, the Toros reluctantly moved south to Alabama, keeping the logo and the alliteration by becoming the Birmingham Bulls… which is where Part 2 of this Forgotten Franchises entry will pick up.

Among the Toronto Toros who put significant time in with NHL teams were…

…Hall Of Famer Frank Mahovolich, who capped off his Hall Of Fame career with the Toros and the Bulls.

Paul Henderson was a former Maple Leaf and Red Wing, but most importantly to Canadian hockey fans, he was a national hero for scoring three game-winning goals in the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.

Vaclav Nedomansky was the first player to defect from behind the Iron Curtain, defecting from Czechoslovakia and signing with the Toros.

After playing with the Toros and Bulls, he put in four seasons with the Red Wings

Wayne Dillon, who played with the Toros, Bulls, Rangers and Jets.

Dillon’s 1975-76 Topps card shows him with the Rangers, but I’m pretty sure that’s a Toros jersey.

Gilles Gratton only played 47 NHL games with the Blues and Rangers, but was possibly best known for his goalie mask which had a tiger’s face painted on it.

Pat Hickey played for the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Blues, with brief stops with the Colorado Rockies and Quebec Nordiques

Mark Napier turned pro as a 19 year old, was the WHA rookie of the year, and would win Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and Oilers.  He also played for the North Stars and Sabres.

2017 TSR Custom Fun Pack #2: Continuing To Follow My Muse

As I mentioned in my last custom card post, I’ve been having a time trying to keep to my original intentions regarding the customs I’m making, so for now I’m just going to go with whatever inspires me, and put the assorted customs into an old-school repack format.

This post is more of a compilation of smaller posts than anything else. Almost like a “clip show” on TV, except these clips haven’t appeared before.

I read a couple of articles the other day about how the Dodgers are playing with the idea of turning Ike Davis into a pitcher. In defense of this idea, it was pointed out that Davis is athletic and was a two-way player at Arizona State.
This custom is in the style of the 1976 Wonder Bread football set.

Not once did I see another factor mentioned… the fact that pitching is in his bloodlines. Ike’s father is Ron Davis, who pitched in 481 Major League games, had 14 wins and 9 saves as a rookie, was an All-Star in 1981 and had 30 saves in 1983.

You know, THAT Ron Davis.

Former Oriole Nolan Reimold was a personal favorite of mine and had been named to the 2009 Topps All-Star Rookie team. A number of injuries, most significantly a neck injury he suffered while diving into the stands in 2012, took the momentum out of his career, and going into this season he’d signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.
This custom is my 2017 TSR design.

His time with the Ducks lasted just 19 games before Reimold retired from baseball. I wish Nolan success in his post-baseball endeavors.

Last week I featured a custom of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury of the newly-minted Vegas Golden Knights. While researching the 1970/71 Topps Hockey set (to see if the original cards said “GOALIE” or “GOALTENDER” or “G” or whatever), I stumbled across an insert from that very same set, referred to as “Sticker Stamps”, whatever that might imply. At any rate, I loved the design enough to make another Fleury custom.

This should be it for Golden Knight customs for the time being.

Last week the Mariners and Astros wore uniforms which threw back to 1977. You know me… if there are 1970’s throwback unis, I will be making customs of them! Since the uniforms were from 1977, it seems like the customs should be as well.

…or maybe 1978 Topps… I’ve got more images from this game I can use, maybe those will become 1978 customs.

From throwback to Fauxback… specifically my 2017 TSR Fauxback design (which I still suspect may be unintentional plagiarism). Back in the mid-1990’s my friends and I went to a local theater to see a collection of animated short films. My favorite of those films was “The Wrong Trousers” which I later found out was the second in a series of “Wallace And Gromit” films made by British animator Nick Park. I used to have a “Have you seen this chicken?” T-shirt and I still laugh every time I see the climactic chase scene.

Peter Sallis, who voiced Wallace, passed away in early June at the age of 96. Rest in peace, Peter Sallis.

BTW, this is my second “Fauxback” custom to honor a recently-passed figure from pop culture… this is not the “mission statement” of this custom design, just the way it’s worked out so far.

Trying To Break A Custom Funk With A “Super Value Fun Pack”!

You may have noticed that I’ve been kind of quiet with the customs lately.  It’s mainly from lack of time, but underlying that was a simple case of “writer’s block”.  I didn’t really have anything I wanted to “say”, so nothing came out.

I started to come out of the funk a little bit when I poked a bit of fun at the Topps online exclusive Throwback Thursday sets (#TSR_TBT), but then I also decided to stop focusing on my 2017 TSR set and let my muse take me wherever I might go.

I ultimately ended up with an odd assortment of customs and I was trying to think of how to present them… And that’s when I remembered a predecesor of the 21st century repack.  Back in the day, companies used to take whatever they had left over – cards, comic books, etc. – package them together at a low price and tried to make them sound appealing by throwing about words like “Value” and “Fun”.

So I came up with the idea of a “Super Value Fun Pack” and went about creating a “wrapper”:

Now that I’m done with the explanations, let’s see what’s in the Super Value Fun Pack, shall we?

Leading up to the recent NHL Expansion Draft to stock the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights, I made a decision that if any players showed up in person and put on a VGK jersey (Sorry, Canadians, I just can’t call it a “sweater”), I would make a custom out of it.

Well, a number of players did make an appearance, and I decided to use the 1970-71 Topps Hockey design because a)  It allowed me to remove the uninteresting background and b) I’d already come up with a template to use.

Deciding which player to feature wasn’t hard, because the one and only drafted player I’d even heard of before the draft was one of the guys who showed up.

While researching this card, I stumbled across a hockey oddball from the same year, and the custom which resulted will be in the next Super Value Fun Pack (ideally next week).

The one bit of momentum I’ve been able to maintain with my 2017 TSR custom set is making customs of Mets and Orioles for players who haven’t appeared on a real card in 2017. For this week’s Orioles entry in the “Dude Needs A Card” theme, we have a pitcher who appeared in 3 games before being Designated For Assignment, and who is already gone from the O’s organization. I’m talking about journeyman pitcher Edwin Jackson!

The Orioles were the 12th team Jackson has pitched for. When the O’s DFA’ed him, he declared free agency and signed a minor league contract with the Nationals… But if he makes it back to the Majors with the Nats, it won’t up his totals, because he pitched for the Nationals in 2012.

For the record his 12 teams (in order): Dodgers, Devil Rays/Rays (they transitioned while he was on the roster), Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, Orioles

Fernando Salas has already appeared in 36 games for the Mets and yet remains cardboard-free. I’m sure that’s nothing to do with his 6.00 ERA or 1.697 WHIP.

I would’ve created a custom for my TSR set, but I already had one made for my TSRchives set.

The final custom comes from a desire to have a design I could use for just about any purpose. I ultimately decided to revive my short-lived “TSR Fauxback” set from 2015. The design I came up with for 2017 is similar to my 2015 design in that it’s intentionally derivative as hell, but I can’t help shaking the feeling that I’ve subconsciously stolen it from somewhere.

Call it derivative, call it homage, call it plagiarism… Call it whatever, this is the 2017 TSR Fauxback design:

Rest in peace, Adam West.

Why Am I Intrigued By The Expansion Of A League I Don’t Follow?

Chalk it up to my being a “franchise nerd”.

I used to be a big hockey fan, specifically the Washington Capitals. I collected hockey cards, bought yearbooks and apparel and followed my team and the league as best I could given that my team was close to 300 miles away. My enthusiasm started to take a nosedive in the 1990’s for a variety of reasons, and when the league shut down for an entire season, that was it for the NHL. I still enjoy hockey, but I’d just as soon watch NCAA hockey as much as the pro ranks.

So with that in mind, why am I so caught up in the NHL expansion draft to stock the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights?

It’s not because I have any ties to Las Vegas or love their logo… although it is a pretty good logo.

Part of it is the relatively small number of players who will be protected from the draft. Chances are it will still result in only one player I’ve heard of being selected in the draft:  Marc-Andre Fleury (And I wouldn’t even count on him being a Knight come the opening puck drop).

So why do I care? I’ve asked myself that question several times.

Part of it is probably that I was caught up in this type of thing from an early age. My first three years of being a baseball fan was with 24 teams divided into four divisions, and when you’re a kid, three years is a long time. Just after I turned 11, there was this expansion draft to create the Blue Jays and Mariners, two brand new teams created seemingly from nothing. This blew my 11-year-old mind. New cities, new team names, new logos and colors, new uniforms… I even had to rearrange the stacks of cards in my dresser drawer to make room for two new team stacks!

And now, it’s been quite a while since any of the four major sports has expanded…. I believe the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats in 2004 was the last of the top 4 sports. Before that it was the NFL’s Houston Texans in 2002 and before that it was the NHL’s addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000. For MLB, it was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998.

When the NHL announced that they would be expanding, that the new team would cost a half-billion dollars and, in compensation, would be better stocked than prior teams, it caught my attention… even though I’d be hard-pressed to name two dozen current players in the NHL.

Unfortunately the Capitals protected the biggest obstacle to my becoming a Caps fan again – Alex Ovechkin, who got into the “Shlabotnik Hall Of Disdain” on the first ballot.  I knew the Caps wouldn’t allow Ovechkin to get selected for no compensation, but a guy can dream, can’t he?