I tend to be of the mindset that anything that I can’t really explain about why something was or wasn’t produced in cards is probably tied to licensing issues. I have no other reason to explain why there was no OPC-produced WHA set in 1973-74. They did produce a smallish poster set at some point during the season (that isn’t part of this list), but never got around to making actual cards.
That means that the sole WHA set for 1973-74 was a food issue produced by Quaker Oats. (At least it was produced for Quaker Oats, I don’t know who it was produced by.)
This 1973-74 release wasn’t the first foray into hockey for Quaker Oats. From 1946-54 you could order 8X10 glossy photos of NHL players in a program akin to Bee Hive photos (available as a mail-in redemption from the 1930s to the 1960s). Parkhurst also produced a green-backed version of its 1955-56 set that was distributed by Quaker Oats. That’s a great set to pursue if you win PowerBall, or Super 7, or whatever the local lottery happens to be.
The 1973-74 set was only 50 cards, released in 10 strips of 5 cards each. These strips were sealed in cellophane and included in Quaker Oats products. The cards were perforated along the edges and the strips folded to save space.
They are a touch tricky to find and are more desirable when they’re still sealed, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. While it’s great to have them still in the individual packages they were released in, it means you don’t actually get to check out the cards. You sort of need a second set for that. In my set, 8 of the strips are still sealed, so I’ve scanned the two that aren’t.
This set is also significant as the first standalone WHA release. WHA cards made up the high series of 1972-73 OPC, but this is the first solo appearance of the WHA in its own set. (There are various team-issue postcard sets and the like from ’72-73, but they really aren’t cards and don’t count.)
There’s not much to talk about by way of design here. The cards are simply an round-cornered image with a white border and the player name and team along the bottom. The backs are mostly stat-free, but do have the team logo and a fairly wordy bilingual writeup, given the amount of space they have to work with. The cards are about 3/5 the size of a standard card.
There isn’t an action card in the set. Most images are posed stills, though a handful were at least taken on the ice surface. The most entertaining aspect of the photos comes from the wild hair and garish uniforms that clearly place this in the early 70s.
This is kind of a funny set in terms of the checklist. There aren’t any big-name rookies (and I’m not sure they’d really count, anyway) and most of the other big names that would eventually be associated with the WHA aren’t here yet. The Howes had arrived and were part of the OPC poster set, but not Quaker Oats. Parent and Sanderson had headed back to the NHL, so the two keys in this set are Bobby Hull (#50) and Gerry Cheevers (#8). There are a lot of names that are familiar if you collect hockey from the late 1960s and early-mid 1970s, but not a lot that are household names.
Come for the cards but stay for the:
wild hair, crazy uniforms and wordy writeups.
Now, wild hair and loud uniforms are true of a lot of 70s sets and NHL expansion teams, but nothing’s louder than the early WHA. By the time you get the larger, more robust WHA sets later, the colour schemes have become more muted and a number of these early teams have simply disappeared.
The writing on the back has a bit of a Parkhurst feel to it. The cards actually tell you something about the player other than the usual platitudes and you can actually learn a little something from them. In an era of full-stats and cartoons, this isn’t all that common and it’s kind of a nice touch. They don’t make them like this anymore.
One would expect this to be either the Hull or the Cheevers, but I just get a kick out of JP Leblanc. He’s got the big hair happening to an extent that he never does later and you simply never see LA Sharks cards anywhere. Talk to a Sharks fan (v2.0 in San Jose) and ask whether he knows that JP Leblanc scored the first goal in Sharks history. Bet he doesn’t.
It was a tough call between this set and 1977-78. While ’77-78 OPC is clearly the superior production, the comparative scarcity of the Quaker Oats, its significance as the first WHA release and the fact that it’s simply so odd made me rank it a smidge ahead.