These cards were produced within a few months of each other, half a world apart. Both have designs used under license from Topps. One depicts Wayne Gordon of Melbourne Football club, the other Gordie Howe of the Hartford Whalers. They arrived at my door on the same day and for obvious reasons I post them together.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with the British Footballers cards that made use of pre-existing Topps designs. Typically, these came from earlier baseball releases although the 1978 Footballers series was (american) football-based.
Thanks to Off-Centered, I found out that there was a whole other world of sports cards to explore – those from the land down under. Scanlens, a candymaker along the lines of OPC in Canada and A&BC in the UK, made both sports and non-sports cards for the Australian market. Like elsewhere, they licensed US designs and then recast them for local use.
Where A&BC primarily licensed baseball artwork for their footballers series, Scanlens tended to use football – except for their 1980 series. These made liberal use of a classic well-known in Canada – the 1979-80 hockey set.
They’re not a dead clone. Where the name normally went, Scanlens printed the company name. They shortened the overall design to put the player name along the bottom. The tip of the upper colour bar has been sharpened to a point and the card number has been added to the front. The logo is not of the team but the league.
Still, they’re unmistakeable as being based on 1979-80 hockey and as soon as I saw them I had to grab a few.
One particular difference is the back. The hockey skate was clearly not appropriate, but Scanlens has solved the problem by not having text at all. Instead, the backs are images from a puzzle. I don’t have enough yet to know whether it’s a single large puzzle or a collection of smaller ones.
The impact of the puzzle back is that you can’t do one traditional thing with the cards – use the backs to figure out who the person is or learn anything about them. So when it came time to choose of of the lot (there were six) to use for this post, I basically looked at the faces and picked the one I found most compelling. I would look up the personal details when I was writing this up.
As it turned out, I had a variety of players, some of renown, some largely unknown, but Wayne Gordon was a special case. Described as a fiery winger, “in which position he was dynamic and dashing, but subject to occasional bouts of almost manic aggression,” (kind of like Gordie in that sense) his career was cut short by a battle with cancer, which claimed him at just 29 years of age.
It’s the sort of thing one doesn’t expect to discover from a randomly-selected card and saddened me when I read it. Here’s to the memory of a young man half a planet away who fought hard, played well and eventually lost a battle like so many others. Cancer sucks.
I haven’t decided yet how many of these or how many other years I’ll try to track down. This page shows off a lot of the designs. 1967 looks rather familiar, too.