Part of the reason this set took so long to complete is that vintage sets involve a lot of waiting. It’s always possible to find something with a gigantic “Buy it Now” price tag attached to it, but if the goal is to finish without breaking the bank, it’s a lot of patience and a little bit of luck.
The same shop that had the Pilote I featured yesterday had the Hull card three or four years later. I debated it for a long time, but it was kind of a mess with a big stain and it was really in pretty poor shape. I felt my money was better spent elsewhere.
As it turned out, that was the last chance I had at a Hull for years. When this set was coming more on the radar, one rule I set for myself was that I didn’t want to be sitting on Bobby Hull as the last card I needed (never leave all the stars till the end). Problem was, they tended to run in the $200-$250 range for nice copies and I didn’t want to spend $100-plus for something damaged. I decided to wait on my favourite grade, the PSA 6.5. They’re always good value for money, particularly since I’m cracking them for the set.
As it turned out, after keeping my eyes peeled for a couple of years, I lucked into this card, which was a PSA 7 that went unnoticed. Got it for less than half of what they often wanted.
When I first started to mess with graded cards, Andre Pronovost was one of them. I think he was a 6 due to centering. Andre was part of the great Hab teams of the late 1950s. In 1962-63, he’d play 21 games with Boston, registering only 2 assists. He’d move to Detroit before season’s end. Terry Gray was mostly a minor-leaguer. His two mostly-full NHL seasons were 1961-62 (Boston) and 1967-68 (LA). He ended up with three cards, two of which use the picture above. Tommy Williams wasn’t the first US-born player in the NHL, but for most of the 1960s he was the only one. This is his RC. Tommy would score a career-high 23 goals in 1962-63 and would be an NHL regular until 1975-76. The Bruins team card is notable for the presence of Willie O’Ree in the back row, third from the right. Willie had already been traded to Montreal.
The Chicago cards start with coach Rudy Pilous. He was a Manitoba kid who played junior and senior between 1932 and 1941. He had been coach of the Hawks since 1957. This would be his last season. The Hawks would finish second overall, but an early playoff exit doomed him. He’d coach Bobby Hull again in 1974-75 with the Jets. Goalie Glenn Hall doesn’t need much intoduction. His iron-man streak of 502 consecutive games in net would end this season and Denis DeJordy would get the other four games. Hall would retire in 1971 at 39. The DeJordy card is actually his second, despite the fact that he didn’t see a second of NHL action the season prior. Denis was rated highly enough that the Hawks actually let Hall go in the 1967 Expansion Draft. He’d be supplanted by Tony Esposito. Jack “Tex” Evans was a veteran defenseman who’d broken in in 1948 with the Rangers. A tough, stay at home type, he’d record 8 assists in 1962-63, his last season. Moose Vasko would be an NHL All-Star (2nd Team) in 1962-63, the first of back-to-back selections. A big, burly guy who could skate, if he’d been meaner, he’d have been absolutely terrifying.
This is probably the most star-laden page of the set. Pierre Pilote leads it off – the card I’ve had longer than any other from this season. Missing 11 games due to injury and producing one of the lowest points-per-game totals of his career, he was nonetheless a First-Team All-Star and won the first of three straight Norris Trophies. Bob Turner was a journeyman multi-purpose player, playing forward or defense as required. Offense was not his strength – he’d have just 3 goals and 3 assists in 1962-63, his last NHL season. Dollard St. Laurent was another veteran, having broken in with the Habs in 1950. He actually spent the season with the Quebec Aces and subsequently retired. Wayne Hillman was in his first full season in the NHL. One of three Hillman brothers, he’d team up with brother Larry on the Sabres in the early 1970s. Al MacNeil was one of the rare Martimers in the NHL in those days. A former Leaf and Hab, he’d add a little bit of muscle to the blue line. A Cup-winning coach with Montreal in 1971, Al has been associated with the Calgary Flames forever. The back of Bobby Hull’s card lists his first 50-goal season. He’d slump back to 31 this year, but “slump” and “Bobby Hull” would basically never be uttered in the same sentence again. Bobby retired having scored more major professional (NHL/WHA) goals than anyone not named Gordie Howe. Stan Mikita would be a Hawk until back surgery forced him out in 1979. He was the First All-Star Team centre in 1962-63, scoring 76 points in 65 games. He’s most famous for becoming the first back-to-back triple award winner (Hart, Ross, Byng) in 1966-67 and 1967-68. He was also one of the last cards I needed (the old one was not too nice) – he’s invariably one of the last cards I need in any set. I have no idea why. Bill Hay centered the “Million Dollar Line” with Bobby Hull and Murray Balfour. I always expected Mikita to centre Hull, but it was Hay. He was a big guy at 6’3″ and the Calder winner in 1960. His career was short as he started late and left to go into business after 1967. He’s also in the Flames hierarchy. Murray Balfour is a tragic story – a solid winger, he started struggling in 1963-64 and went to Boston for ’64-65. Complaining of shortness of breath, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in February of 1965 and passed away just three months later. He was 28.
This page finishes off the Hawks and starts off the Rangers. There is no coach card for the Rangers as player-coach Doug Harvey resigned after 1961-62. Muzz Patrick would coach until mid-season and be replaced by Red Sullivan.
Chico Maki, Phil Esposito’s buddy from the Soo, has his RC in this set. A great skater and chercker, Chico would play for the Hawks until 1975-76. Ab McDonald broke in with the Habs but couldn’t get much ice time. He blossomed as a scorer with Chicago and would play for five more teams before retiring in 1974. Ken Wharram is yet another great scorer on this team. A smaller player with great speed, he was part of the Scooter Line with Mikita and McDonald. He scored 20 goals for the first time in 1962-63 and never would score less than 24 again. He was forced out of the game with a heart ailment in 1969. Ron Murphy was a veteran winger who played 18 years in the NHL. He’d score 18 goals this year. Eric Nesterenko was a Leaf prospect of whom stardom was predicted. Instead he became one of the premier checkers and penalty killers of his generation. After parts of five seasons in Toronto, he spent the next 16 in Chicago. Reggie Fleming was a wild man, a hitter and fighter and occasional scorer. He’d play in the bigs until age 37 in 1974 and continued in the minors beyond that. The battles took their toll. When Reggie passed away at 73 in 2009 after struggles with memory and other impairments, his brain was donated for research. CTE was apparent in the tissue. Murray Hall wouldn’t see any big league action until the playoffs, where he was brought up for four games. He’d be up and down until 1970, when he broke through with the expansion Canucks. After two seasons there, he spent another four in the WHA. The Chicago team card was the last one I needed to finish this set.
The Rangers start off not with a coach but with veteran goalie Gump Worsley. Gump led the league in games played, goals against and losses in 1962-63, the result of being the number one goaltender on a weak team. He would move to Montreal in 1963-64 and after two part-seasons in the minors, team with Charlie Hodge and later Rogie Vachon to win multiple Cups and Vezinas. He’d play until age 44 in 1974.
Part 3 is all about the Rangers. The Rangers weren’t took good in 1962-63, but a lot of pieces are starting to appear that would end up being in the great teams of the early 1970s