There are days when it’s OK to grouse about all the things that ail you and there are days when it’s much more about thanking life for all the things that you have. This is one of the latter.
For the moment, I’m at peace enough with the world to even forgive Brian Gionta for breaking our goalie… well, almost. Instead of wishing he were stuck in an elevator with six flatulent Great Danes, maybe I wish it were just one or two. And I’ll even let him out, eventually.
I didn’t much like the ’86-87 set when it came out. I’d been hoping that OPC would go back to the 396-card set with all the trimmings and they didn’t. They stuck with 264. The design was nothing to write home about, the pictures were smallish and kind of grainy and nobody figured out that Joel Otto of the Flames and Moe Lemay of the Canucks were actually put on each other’s cards. The set was so small that they didn’t even bother making cards of any Leaf goaltenders, though it might have been a reasonable expectation that anyone unfortunate enough to have played goal for them in ’85-86 would be off getting therapy rather than playing hockey.
There were a couple cards of note. Montreal had some beanpole goaltender that people thought would be OK, and then there was the best card in the entire set – the first card of our new hero, Wendel Clark.
I’ve written before about the role Wendel played in my becoming a Leaf fan. What I find interesting is that all of these years later he’s still the one that pulls on the heartstrings. I think that the players you care for the most in your youth are the ones that stay with you the longest. My grandfather was a Conacher and Kennedy fan. My grandmother was of the opinion that the Leafs never had a goalie after Broda. My mother has very little time for players not named Keon or Bower. My son? He wants to know why Phil Kessel isn’t part of the book he got on hockey legends. I tell him to wait.
For me, it begins and ends with the kid from Kelvington. Wendel was the reward for enduring the worst Leaf season in history. He was the future, he was promise, he was hope. King Clancy, the stalwart of the 1930s who was still with the team in those days, took one look at him and said the closest Leaf parallel was Charlie Conacher – they played the same kind of game (except Conacher was both taller and heavier – how awesome must THAT have been?).
That Clark RC is one of those instances where a card just works – where a great picture blends with the design and the end result is something approaching art. There are a lot of people who make custom cards or tribute cards and a lot of them are really fantastic because they’re made out of passion rather than by rote. They couldn’t outdo this card. This is one for the enthusiasts.
Today, I won’t focus on anything wrong with this set, this hobby or anything else. This is perfect, and that’s all that matters.