Friday, August 31, 2012

On the Topic Of....Hockey Cards

Thursday was the final day of the NHLPA's Rookie Showcase, where the newest of NHLPA members get their pictures taken for their first hockey cards, their images put into the latest EA Sports video, sign some memorabilia  and just give some face time to the media.

Merchandising has been a big thing in the past decade or so and you often had to wait until the second set of cards to be released in order to get an action shot of the rookies in the league. However, with days like these, they are able to get in on the first set in their new uniforms rather than just their draft pose.

The cards factor itself got me thinking as to what my own personal favorite were. Of course, Upper Deck was the king of the cards in the late-90s and early-00s, having the exclusive NHL license before Panini America got back into the fold. The first set of Upper Deck, 1990-91, could be my favorite of the entire timeline. The design was simplistic, the wordmark at the bottom was a nice nod to the part of the logo sheet that didn't get much notice, and it was a solid design with an ice look of team colors along the border.

Upper Deck made an off-shoot of their cards, the Collector's Choice, that started in the 1995-96 season. It was more of a collection that had a lot of specialty inserts in it, which made it more unique than the base Upper Deck brand. It was almost an alternative of the regular cards, with different contests and geared to a younger crowd with their packs. Their "You Crash The Game" cards were interactive and gave the collector a chance to redeem them for bigger prizes should the player displayed get a certain achievement on the date stated. While the first run was nice, the 1996-97 set was a personal favorite for the design that they put out there coupled with the crisp shot of each player, as well as little facts on the back from their little mascot "Chippy."

Though, if you want to talk unique cards-- you have to go to Fleer and their set called Power Play, the tall boys of hockey cards. While they were awkward to put into sleeves, the fact Fleer took a different approach to cards was a nice outlook and very kitschy. They already had a solid looking Fleer Ultra set with a marble-esque design at the front; the 1993-94 Power Plays were another outlook to the card, even though it was short lived.

Yet, one timeless hockey card set is the Pro-Set set from the 1990-91 season. Regardless of all the inaccuracies that the line had for that season, the design is something that has been engrained in our memories-- so much so that the AHL's card set for the 2011-12 season almost mimicked the design of the Pro-Set line. Pro-Set also did a helluva job with their Pro-Set Platinum edition of the 1991-92 season, which was one of the first with a full shot of the card-- no borders, no names-- as well as no stats on the back of the card, either. It seemed to be a higher class of card. Not only that-- their Celebrity Captain cards were always aces for Hollywood's......elite??

For me, those are the classics when it comes to NHL cards and those that stand out to me. While I'm sure there's others that are memorable, I had to limit some of them. If you've got any you remember-- leave 'em in the comments and enlighten us.

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