When I went to the Fall Expo in Toronto last weekend, I had a very small set of targets. I wanted to get the last two cards I needed from ’63-64 Topps, snag maybe two ’63-64 Parkhurst (getting me down to six remaining on that set) and then see what was around, looking at other pre-1963 sets or maybe OPC baseball from the late 1960s or the last dozen I need for 1974.
In the end, I came home with the four cards I expected – two Topps, two Parkhurst. Nothing else jumped out at me and nobody had the OPC baseball I was hoping for (almost all the baseball dealers came from the States), at least in any kind of condition. A little disappointing in that I didn’t even get to do anything with my traders, but polishing off 1963-64 Topps is still kind of nice.
1963-64 is the last Topps set where they didn’t have the rights to the entire NHL. Detroit, Montreal and Toronto were all handled by Parkhurst. The set was actually produced and distributed by OPC under the Topps license. I don’t think the cards were specifically distributed in the States.
The design is fairly basic – all the photos are staged and mounted on a coloured background. They are not colour coded by team. The portraits are centred on the left, the right is given over to a small game-action shot. Topps was not that careful with the action shots – a number of them include teams they didn’t have rights to, notably Detroit and Montreal. Toronto, featured in a number of backgrounds in 1961-62, is missing this time out.
One thing that could have made this a significantly cooler set would have been if the action shot actually was of the person depicted on the card instead of something random. As it stands, the only player whose game action picture includes him is Glenn Hall. This was presumably an accident.
By this time, almost all the pictures are actual colour shots. There are only a handful that are colourized black-and-white images. One of them, oddly, is Bobby Hull, the signature player in the set. I find this odd because they had a full-colour shot in ’62-63. This picture is a repeat from 1961-62.
Key rookies include Eddie Johnston, Ed Westfall, Gilles Villemure. This set also has the first appearance of Jacques Plante as a Ranger and the second-last appearance of Doug Harvey, also as a Ranger. Andy Bathgate makes his last Ranger appearance. He’d be dealt to Toronto before season’s end.
I’ve been plugging away at this for a long, long time. A number of these cards are things I’ve had since the mid-80s.
While the set has some limitations, it displays really well – better than the scans would indicate. The colours are bright and eye appeal is pretty good. The backs have a bit of an odd colour scheme and a trivia question with a scratch-off answer. These ones are unusually hard to read, so I don’t know most of the answers.
Things of note: First appearance of Milt Schmidt on a card since his playing days ended (1954-55). Tom Johnson joins the Bruins after a lengthy career in Montreal where he won a Norris. The player depicted on Johnson’s action shot is Marcel Pronovost of Detroit. Rookie cards of Eddie Johnston (who in ’63-64 would become the last goalie to play a full season), Ed Westfall (a defenseman who would later become a very useful two-way forward) and Bob McCord (a tough guy who would see more action post-expansion). The goalie on Leo Boivin’s card appears to be Terry Sawchuk, while both Mohns and Johnston get Gump Worsley. Neither Sawchuk nor Worsley are part of this set.
Things of note: Tommy Williams is the only American-born player in this set. With the exception of Stan Mikita, who was born in Czechoslovakia but grew up here, everyone else is Canadian. Andy Hebenton would break Johnny Wilson’s (Ron Wilson’s uncle) iron man streak this year. Hebenton didn’t miss a game between 1955 and 1964, playing 630 consecutive games. The streak would end after ’63-64 because he was sent to the minors and didn’t return. John Bucyk is the one Bruin from the 1950’s who would be present for the glory days of the early 70s. He would be the oldest player ever to score his first 50-goal season, doing so at age 35 in 1970-71. Jerry Toppazzini (0 Cups) was golfing with Henri Richard (11 Cups) when a person asked whether they’d won anything during their careers – Topper replied that between the two of them, they’d won 11 Cups. Dean Prentice was an excellent secondary scorer for 20 years. (See the card backs)
Things of note: Forbes Kennedy’s last game would come as a Maple Leaf in the 1968-69 playoffs. The Leafs got swept by the Bruins, including a 10-0 shellacking in the first game. Down 6-0, Pat Quinn drilled Bobby Orr, setting off a wild melee. Kennedy would set a record with 8 separate penalties in this game, a playoff record that still stands. Pierre Pilote would win the 1963-64 Norris as best defenseman. He teamed with Elmer “Moose” Vasko on the ice. Glenn Hall played 502 consecutive games in net between 1955 and 1962. He’d play in 66 of 70 this season, so poor Denis Dejordy didn’t see much action. Hall was the First-Team All-Star goalie in 1963-64. Wayne Hillman was one of three Hillman brothers who played. Billy Reay was the Leaf coach Punch Imlach fired and replaced with Punch Imlach. (See the card backs)
Things of note: Bobby Hull would lead the NHL in goals with 43 and finish second in points with 87 (70 games). Teammate Stan Mikita had 89 points (39-50-89) to win the Art Ross. They were both First-Team All-Stars. They were not linemates. Chicago would have 5 of the 6 First-Team All-Stars in 1963-64 (Hull, Mikita, Wharram, Pilote, Hall). The lone exception was Tim Horton of Toronto. Despite that, Toronto would win the Stanley Cup, its third in a row. Al MacNeil was one of the few Nova Scotia-born NHL players at that time. He would coach the 1971 Canadiens to a Cup win and worked with the Flames more or less forever. Howie Young and Reggie Fleming added toughness and a bit of the crazy. Ed Van Impe is more famous for his later work with the Philly “Broad Street Bullies” teams of the 1970s. Bill Hay was a big centre with soft hands who put up 133 assists in his first three seasons and everyone forgets him. (See the card backs)
Things of note: The picture in the Hawks team card is clearly old given that their Cup win was in 1961. This is probably true of the other team cards as well but I’m not going to verify it. Red Sullivan was a longtime Rangers player who was in his first full season as coach (he was hired in mid ’62-63). He got to coach Doug Harvey, who almost killed him during his playing career. Harvey speared Red in the gut, rupturing his spleen. Last rites were administered, but Red recovered and played several more years. Ken Wharram is the last of the First-Team All-Stars for Chicago. A speedy scorer, he isn’t recognized anywhere near as much as he should be. Jacques Plante makes his first appearance as a Ranger after a shocking trade for Gump Worsley over the summer. Donnie Marshall and Phil Goyette came with him. A young John McKenzie is a Hawk. He would join the Rangers before settling in with Boston. (See the card backs)
Things of note: Andy Bathgate’s last card as a Ranger – he’d go to Toronto for the ’64 Cup run. Al “Junior” Langlois will go on to be the last Bruin before Bobby Orr to wear #4. Gilles Villemure (RC) will form an excellent tandem with Ed Giacomin and share the 1970-71 Vezina. He’ll play 5 games this year and won’t win any of them (0-2-3). Don McKenny was an excellent scorer with Boston and would go with Bathgate to Toronto. He’ll hurt a shoulder in Game 5 of the Final and will never be right again. Doug Harvey, winner of seven Norris Trophies, will be sent to the minors after just 14 games. He’ll make a brief appearance with Detroit in 1966-67 and then play a brilliant season in St. Louis in 1968-69 at age 44. Jim Neilson would play into the mid 70s with the Rangers and Seals. Harry Howell would win the 1966-67 Norris and accurately predict that all the rest would go to Bobby Orr. Vic Hadfield would transform from a roughneck into a 50-goal shooter. He’s also known for pitching Bernie Parent’s mask into the stands during the 1971 playoffs. (See the card backs)
Things of note: Don’t give up on your prospects. Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert both took years to really establish themselves as regulars. Both are among the best players in Ranger history. Val Fonteyne played 969 games between the NHL and WHA and had 30 career penalty minutes. He played 5 complete seasons, including three in a row, in which he got no penalties at all. Phil Goyette would win the 1970 Masterton with St. Louis. Earl Ingarfield was one of the best scorers in Oakland Seals history. (Sadly, that’s not a really deep field.) (See the card backs)
Things of note: Not that much left. Don Johns, an old Rangers picture (Gump Worsley is seated at left) and the checklist, which was marked in pencil and I erased some time in the late 1980s. (See the card backs)
Thus ends the set. I didn’t intend for this to be quite so long and when I finally finish 1963-64 Parkhurst (this season, maybe?) I’ll break it up into more posts. Complete sets are fun, though, and even on lousy teams (which both Boston and New York were), there’s always something cool to see. That’s why I like these things so much.