May you live in interesting times (and ’71 ball!)

“Interesting times” means things like blogs fall by the wayside for a spell.  I’ve got scans of all the great things Fuji sent me, but can’t write any of them up yet because I need to research them to sound like I have a vague sense of what I’m talking about.

However, this happened, and it speaks for itself, mostly:

1971 OPC baseball - cards 676-684

Yes, complete pages from 1971 baseball are not uncommon.  What’s the deal?

Well, it’s this:

1971 OPC baseball - cards 676-684 backs

This is the first page of the OPC high numbers I’ve managed to complete, almost six years after starting to build the set.  If one wants to get really pedantic, it’s the second, since I also have the last page done, but this is the first 9-card sheet of highs I have.  Jack DiLauro was the straggler.

As is obvious, by the last couple of series, OPC had given up on the redesign of the back and abandoned the French text.  I’m not sure whether they got in trouble for this, but I note that in 1972. they didn’t bother with the high series at all and stopped the set at 525 cards.  Most likely (IMO) they were knee-deep in hockey and didn’t want to spend the effort on the baseball anymore.

77 cards to go.

Posted in Joy of Completed Things, OPC, Vintage Baseball | Tagged | 6 Comments

More tinkering with the 70-71 customs

Bobby Orr - 1970-71 OPC hockey

I have a nicer version of this card. I really should scan it.

Fixing the 1970-71 Topps/OPC hockey set is becoming a minor obsession.  All the way back here (images on the link are dead, so it’s of limited use until I fix them) I noted that the set was basically an inverted 1971 baseball and in this post I got it into a nice looking card (in my opinion, anyway), but my inability to fix the text of the team name really irritated me.

The problem with the text is that either the ink isn’t 100% evenly applied or the process of compression the image into a jpg muddies the borders.  Either way, those letters can’t be selected in a photo-editing tool in such a way that the lines actually wind up straight.  When I tried it in the past, what I wound up with was this:

Bobby Orr - 1970-71 OPC custom

It feels so much better, but it’s not quite right.

It took quite a lot of effort to get the letters even to be that good and it became clear when I went after it again that no amount would ever get it looking quite right.  I was stuck with trying to find an appropriate font and making the best of it.

After some trying, I hit on this.  The font is “Lucida Bright” in a demibold, 30-point.

Bobby Orr - 1970-71 OPC custom

Cleaner, anyway

It’s cleaner and not inappropriate.  I was almost happy with it, in fact.  It just lacked a little, I don’t know, call it pizzazz.  I monkeyed around a little bit before hitting on something called “Informal Roman.”  It’s kind of arty and wispy and I like it.

Bobby Orr - 1970-71 OPC custom

Now, we’re cooking

Is ti to everyone’s taste?  Dunno, but I like it.  To test the design, I took another ’70-71 of some prominence:

Gordie Howe - 1970-71 OPC

Again, I have a better one and should have scanned it, but no matter.  All it was doing was donating some text.  Gordie, reworked, gives me this:

Gordie Howe - 1970-71 OPC custom

I like it.

This is why I like the Informal Roman.  For whatever reason, I think “DET. RED WINGS” looks awful in the Lucida Bright.  It works OK for Boston, but not Detroit.  This, I like.

And one more for the moment.  I didn’t have this scanned at all, so I scooped one of the internet.  This works well, too:

Gerry Cheevers - 1970-71 OPC custom

I like this better than any card Cheevers ever had, actually.

I think I might end up trying to make a bunch more of this set.  It’s kind of cool, really. These cards desperately needed action shots.



Posted in Card Design, OPC, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Christmas comes early – Fuji-style

When I finished off the last post, I mused that I needed a new project – something that shouldn’t be a bank buster and something that feels a little different than what I’ve been doing lately.

That very day, an envelope arrived at the house.

It was a large envelope from California, and I cringed a little at this because I know what happens when one combines large envelopes with international postage.  I’ve tried to become adept at maxing out the little mailers that don’t (yet) count as packages.

I remembered that when Fuji had asked me what I was interested in collecting, I mentioned that I had virtually no basketball at all, so any commons would be cool. I mused that this package might have some 80s Fleer or some such.  That would be neat.

Then I opened it:

lots od old stuff

Oh, my

Now, this is awesome.

That first block of four? 1972 Topps.  The next two? 1978.  The third? 1975.  I had a few of these from Mark Hoyle a few months back and thought they were neat and worth pursuing, but this brings it to a whole ‘nother level.

Part of the reason I’ve always liked old cards is that they offered a chance to learn things about people I never saw play.  This gives me a whole new sport!  I mean – the top of the second package is a player from the “Tams!”  What on earth is a Tam?  I have no idea!  It’s wonderful!

Given the sorry state of my hockey team and the fact that the local basketball club is actually competent again, I’ve been meaning to give this sport more attention.  This gets me going.

I had to resist my normal urge to tear everything open.  I am rationing myself with these. One per week, and then I will be able to post some highlights.

Thanks so much, Fuji.  I will scour around for more Padres and A’s and so forth. 🙂

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Joy of a completed set: 1957-58 Topps Hockey (Part 4)

This is the last part of the set and is made up of the balance of the Rangers team.

1957-58 was a good year for New York.  They made their third straight playoff appearance and their winning percentage of .550 was their best since 1942.  They had some good young talent, a legitimate star in Andy Bathgate and a pretty sound goaltender, so I don’t know why they fell off so bad in subsequent years.  That .550 would be their last season better than .500 for nine years and their best effort until 1967-68.

Their results with Worsley in goal were significantly better than with Marcel Paille, so it’s possible this season’s results were really a result of Gump carrying the team.  Bathgate was also excellent.’

There are only twelve cards in this post, but some really interesting people.

Page 7 – cards 55-63

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 55-63

#55: Jack “Tex” Evans was a tough, veteran blueliner who was pretty well-regarded.  He was up and down with the Rangers almost every season between 1948-49 and 1954-55, but then stuck and only missed five games over the next eight seasons.  A low-scoring banger out of Alberta (via Wales), he won his only Cup with Chicago in 1961.  Out of the NHL after 1962-63, he played in the minors until 1972.  He also coached eight seasons in the NHL with the Seals, Barons and Whalers.  His prairie drawl earned him the nickname “Tex.”

#56: George “Red” Sullivan started in the Boston system but struggled to stay with the big club.  A 119-point season for their farm club in Hershey caught the eye of the Black Hawks, who traded for him in September 1954.  Sullivan would remain a regular until 1960-61, peaking at 63 points in 1958-59.  After a couple years in the minors, he would return as the Rangers’ coach in the middle of the 1962-63 season, remaining there until 1965-66.  He would also coach Pittsburgh and Washington in the NHL.

#57: Gerry Foley (RC) would dress for 68 games on the wing this season, but presumably only in spot duty, as he only scored 2 goals and 5 assists.  It would be his last NHL action until a single game with the LA Kings – eleven years later in 1968-69.  In the meantime, he spent eight years with Eddie Shore’s Springfield Indians – the team Don Cherry often called “the Siberia of Hockey.”  They were unaffiliated and not easy to get away from and Shore was “interesting” to play for.

#58: Andy Hebenton would record his third consecutive 20-goal season in 1957-58 and would pot 33 the next season.  Hebenton was in the middle of what would become a record-setting iron-man streak of 630 games.  Like current record-holder Doug Jarvis, he never missed a game in his entire career.  He played every game of the 9 seasons he saw NHL action.  His streak ended when he was sent to the minors for the 1964-65 season.  In the minors he was just as durable, missing just two games (both in 1967-68) over the next ten seasons.  He retired in 1974-75 at age 45.  Overall, starting in 1952-53 in the WHL, he played in 1562 of 1564 possible games, and his total streak is at minimum 1054 games. Assuming the games he missed in 1951-52 and 1967-68 weren’t right at the end and start of the season, the real total is likely somewhere beyond 1100 consecutive games.


#59: Larry Cahan played just 34 games in 1957-58 (no Andy Hebenton, our Larry) due to an injury I can’t find documented.  He was a good-sized defender who came to the Rangers in 1956 from the Toronto system.  He would remain with the Rangers, though up and down with their various farm clubs, through 1964-65.  The Oakland Seals would rescue him from the minors in 1967-68, and he would play in the bigs with the Seals, Kings and the Chicago Cougars of the WHA into his 40s.  Larry was one of the two Seals (Ron Harris was the other) who hit Bill Masterton of the North Stars in 1968.  Masterton hit his head on the way down and died of his injuries.  It is now suspected that the helmetless Masterton was suffering from a serious concussion already and had no business being in the game (this was undiagnosed at the time and wouldn’t have been accounted for anyway).  The jolt from this collision rendered him unconscious before he hit the ice. Neither Cahan nor Harris was ever considered culpable for the death – the only death directly resulting from NHL play.

#60: Andy Bathgate was the brightest star on the Rangers.  He’d lead them in scoring this year with 78 points and would place second in Hart (MVP) voting.  An great skater and creative offensive force, he would win the Hart in ’58-59.  He led the league in assists twice, tied for the scoring lead once and had at least 46 assists and at least 74 points every year between 1955-56 and 1963-64 – all done with a steel plate in one knee (result of an injury in junior).  He scored the Cup-winner in 1964 for Toronto, but a 1965 wrist injury hampered his performance and started him wandering around the league, with stints in Detroit, the minors, then Pittsburgh.  He retired in 1971, though returned for 11 WHA games in 1974-75.

#61: Danny Lewicki was a great Ranger find in 1954-55, when he came out of nowhere to score 29 goals.  He had been a Leaf prospect and part of the 1951 Cup winner, but his style (little attention to defense) wasn’t to Conn Smythe’s liking and he was stuck with the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets. By 1957-58, his production was waning and he’d score just 11 goals and 30 points.  His last NHL action would come in 1958-59 with the Black Hawks. He’d retire from the AHL’s Quebec Aces in 1963.

#62: Dean Prentice always strikes me as an unsung hero.  He was a very good winger who had an excellent 22-season career in the NHL, but most of it was spent with iffy teams.  He only got to the playoffs six times in 22 years and out of the first round just once. As a Bruin on December 27, 1964, Dean was tripped up on a breakaway and slammed into the boards.  Taunted by Bobby Hull to get up, he did and scored on the resulting penalty shot.  On the bench, he lost feeling in his legs and it was determined that he’d scored the goal with a broken back.  It cost him the rest of the season.  He retired in 1974 after playing for the Wings, Penguins and North Stars.

#63: Camille Henry was rather small and not particularly fast, but had a knack for getting open and scoring lots of goals.  He scored 32 of them in 1957-58 and would peak at 37 in just 60 games in 1962-63.  A Lady Byng-winner once and finalist six other times, Henry only had 88 minutes in penalties over parts of 14 NHL seasons and only had double-digits twice.  He retired as a St. Louis Blue in 1969-70.

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 55-63 backs

Page 8 – cards 64-66

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 64-66

#64: “Leapin’ Lou” Fontinato was the first player ever to hit 200 penalty minutes in a season (202 in 1955-56) and would lead the league in 1957-58 with a comparatively tame 152.  As the policeman on the Rangers, he was as feared as anyone through the mid-to-late 1950s.  A 1959 fight with Gordie Howe left him extremely bloodied, though it cost him hardly any time.  Playing for Montreal in 1962-63, his career was ended by a broken neck received as the result of a hit into the boards.  He would walk away, but never played again.

#65: Bill Gadsby was, for a long time, the gold standard for a great player who never won a Stanley Cup (this probably now falls to Marcel Dionne). Gadsby broke in as a teenager in Chicago in 1946-47 (same season as Gordie Howe) and was either a first or second-team All-Star seven times in his 20 seasons.  A high-scoring defenseman in an era where there weren’t many who topped 30 points, he managed it nine times and topped 50 twice.  He placed ninth overall in NHL scoring in 1955-56.  Physical as well, he hit Tim Horton in open ice in 1955 hard enough to break both Horton’s jaw and leg.  He retired in 1965-66 with Detroit at age 38.

#66: Dave Creighton was a decent centre who could score if given ice time.  He had a career-best 52 points for the Rangers in 1957-58, but would be left exposed in the 1958 Intra-League Draft and wound up with Toronto.  Seeing only spot duty the next two seasons as he bounced between Toronto and Rochester, he scored only 18 more NHL points.  He continued to play in the minors until 1968-69, but wasn’t one of the veterans to gain a second life via expansion.  This card, as the final one in the set, tends to get bashed up and is thus somewhat pricey.

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 64-66

That does it for this set.  It was a favourite of mine in the 80s and it’s kind of hard to believe  that I won’t be getting another one unless I luck into a Howe on the cheap (there is Kelly to upgrade as well, I guess).  For the record, the last two I needed to finish it off were Vic Stasiuk and Dean Prentice.

The next set that’s near to completion is 1961-62 Topps, of which I only need four.  I need to upgrade the checklist, though, and that’s rarely fun.

I also need a new project that won’t be prohibitively expensive.  Not sure just what that will be.


Posted in Joy of Completed Things, Uncategorized, Vintage Hockey | Tagged | 4 Comments

Joy of a completed set: 1957-58 Topps Hockey (Part 3)

Part 3 of this set will mostly focus on Detroit.  The Wings had been the best team in the game for a long, long time.  From 1947-48 through 1956-57, they finished no worse than second and were first eight times, winning four Cups along the way.  They were still the top team in the league in 1956-57 despite the fact that Montreal won its second straight Cup.

The summer of 1957 basically undid that team.  The Wings had a poor first-round against Boston and went out in five games.  Wings GM Jack Adams laid the blame for this at the feet of his young star goaltender, Glenn Hall.  From the summaries, only the last game appears at all suspect, but Adams made up his mind.  He wanted Sawchuk back, despite the fact that Terry had left the Bruins in January because his nerves were cooked.  On July 10, he sent promising winger John Bucyk and to Boston for the rights to Sawchuk.  On the 23rd, he sent Hall and Lindsay (guilty of starting a players association) to Chicago for a bunch of support players.

So in the span of two weeks, Adams sent three Hall of Famers away and got back a sub-par Sawchuk and some checkers.  The Wings moved Delvecchio to the wing and Ullman to the top line and became a one-line team.  They fell to third in 1957-58, dead last a year later. There would be a brief revival in the early sixties, but other than 1964-65, the team only finished higher than fourth three times between 1959-60 and 1982-83.

The Wings, as shown by some of the players in this set, tried to strike gold with some players from the Western League, but most didn’t pan out.

Page 5 – cards 37-45

1957-58 Topps Hockey cards 37-45

#37: Tom McCarthy (RC) was a big, tough winger who had put up good numbers with the Edmonton Flyers of the Western League.  He’d get into 18 games with Detroit but only score three points.  He’d play 60 NHL games in total over four seasons, finally retiring from senior hockey in 1973.

#38: Al Arbour is known to most as the coach of the Islanders dynasty, but had a very long career as a defenseman, winning three Stanley Cups along the way (one in Chicago, two in Toronto).  Up and down from the minors with some regularity, he finished as a St. Louis Blue in 1971 before moving behind the bench.  He was known as “Radar,” as that was the only way teammates felt he could find the puck when his glasses would fog over during the games.

#39: Billy Dea (RC) (pronounced “Day”) would split this season between Detroit and Chicago, then spend a decade in the minor leagues, putting up quite good point totals for the Buffalo Bisons.  NHL expansion would save him, as he would resurface with the Pittsburgh Penguins at age 34 in 1967-68 and would rejoin the Wings in 1969-70 and 1970-71. He coached the Wings briefly in 1981-82.

#40: Lorne Ferguson was traded with Dea to Chicago in the pre-Christmas deal.  He had scored 20 goals for the 1954-55 Bruins, but otherwise tended to top out around 15.  He played 422 games over parts of eight seasons and finally retired from senior hockey in 1970. His card has the French and English portions of the bio reversed.  Someone was napping.

#41: Warren Godfrey was a hard-hitting defenseman who split sixteen NHL seasons between Boston and Detroit, though he only played 55 NHL games between ’63-64 and ’67-68.  Topps liked this picture so much that they used it again (including a Boston Bruin paint job/makeover) in their 1962-63 set. Warren had 18 points in 1957-58, including a career-high 16 assists.

#42: Gordie Howe would slip back to 77 points in ’57-58, but still won his fourth Hart Trophy as MVP.  He was second in goals and fourth in assists and points.  This was the ninth straight season he was in the top five in points.  That’s impressive, but not as impressive as the fact he would do it the next eleven seasons, as well.  Gordie wouldn’t fall out of the top five until 1969-70, when he finished ninth – at age 42.  He’d retire for good in 1980.  This card needs an upgrade, but unless one falls in my lap, that’s not coming anytime soon.

43: Marcel Pronovost only scored 20 points in ’57-58, but still made the Second All-Star Team and placed fifth in Norris voting.  He’d be an all-star the next three seasons, as well.  A noted rusher when he was younger, it was on one of his hip checks that an 18-year-old Bobby Orr would sustain his first (recorded) knee injury.

#44: Billy McNeill (RC) is the answer to a good trivia question.  It was his assist that set up Gordie Howe’s 545th NHL goal, making him the league’s all-time leading goal scorer (now 2nd behind Gretkzy).  It was his only assist that season and the last of his NHL career.  For ’57-58, McNeill went 5-10-15 in 35 games.  He’d play in the minors until 1971.

#45: Earl Reibel went to Chicago in the big pre-Christmas trade talked about in Part II.  “Dutch” spent three seasons (1953-54 thgouth 1955-56) as one of the best points-per-game performers in the NHL, but fell off sharply and would be out of the NHL after 1958-59.

1957-58 Topps Hockey cards 37-45 backs

Page 6 – cards 46-54

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 46-54

#46: Norm Ullman (RC) was about to have his first 20-goal season.  He was rather adept at this – he wouldn’t score fewer than 20 again until 1969-70, and then again until 1974-75.  A highly-skilled centre, Norm would score 490 NHL goals and another 47 in the WHA.  He was the fourth-highest all-time NHL scorer at the time of his retirement.  He had been third going into the season, but was passed by Stan Mikita.

#47: Johnny Wilson was rejoining the Wings after a couple of seasons in Chicago.  He came back to Detroit in the Hall/Lindsay trade.  A solid two-way winger, his 39 points would be fourth on the team.  He was still in the midst of what was then a record-setting 580 consecutive games – a little over eight complete seasons.

#48: Red Kelly was a First-Team All-Star in ’56-57 and #2 in Norris voting.  This year, though, would be the first time since 1948-49 that he wouldn’t get an All-Star nod.  His numbers would drop each of the next two seasons as he battled nagging injuries, leading Jack Adams to flip him to Toronto.  The Leafs would convert him to a centre, where his career had a dramatic rebirth. Kelly won the inaugural Norris Trophy in 1953-54.  This card has a small corner crease and is the other one on the upgrade list.

#49: Bill Dineen was playing his last NHL season at just 25.  He went to Chicago in the pre-Christmas deal.  His minor league career went on until 1971, when he finally retired from the Denver Spurs at age 38.  He put up pretty solid numbers in the minors, but was basically a victim of the six-team league and was entering his downswing just as expansion hit.  He was the architect of the Houston Aeros of the WHA and was instrumental in bringing Gordie, Mark and Marty Howe together professionally.  Three of his sons played in the NHL.

#50: Forbes Kennedy (RC) was a tough winger who had one of the more famous exits from the NHL.  His last NHL game came as a Maple Leaf in 1969 – a playoff game in which they were mauled 10-0 by Boston and famous as the game in which Pat Quinn flatted Bobby Orr.  In the third, there was a wild melee in which Kennedy wound up setting a record for the most penalties achieved in a playoff game: four minors, two majors, a ten-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. A write-up is here.

The Rangers make their appearance here and will make up the balance of the cards in the set.  I’ll talk a bit more about them in the preamble to part 4.  The old Rangers teams were often thought of as doormats, but this team actually finished second overall in 1957-58. The Habs were just too much that year.

#51: Harry Howell is one of the key defensemen in Rangers history and always notable as the last defenseman to win the Norris before Bobby Orr made it his personal property. He was rarely among the offensive leaders (though he found some offensive spark as he entered his 30s), but played a solid game that carried him through 24 seasons in the bigs. A Ranger until some back issues crept up in 1968-69, he served time with the Oakland Seals and LA Kings before heading over to the WHA.  He retired as a Calgary Cowboy in 1975-76.

#52: Guy Gendron (more often known as Jean-Guy) bounced back and forth between New York and Boston (with one year as a Hab) for the first eight years of his career, peaking at 24 goals in 1959-60.  Sent to the minors, he enjoyed a nice revival as a Philadelphia Flyer in the late 1960s, scoring at least 20 goals three times.  He’d retire from the WHA in 1974 at age 39.

#53: Lorne (Gump) Worsley had the best GAA of his Ranger career in 1957-58, posting a 2.32 over just 37 games.  The Rangers’ defensive woes generally placed his numbers a lot higher (when questioned by a reporter which team gave him the most trouble, his answer was “the Rangers”) and most of his best statistical seasons came after he was traded to Montreal in 1963.  Gump retired in 1974, just prior to his 45th birthday.

#54: Larry Popein was a rangers regular for six seasons in the ’50s, during which he invariably put up somewhere around 12 goals and 35 points.  He checked, killed penalties and even sometimes centered Andy Bathgate.  After 1959-60, he spent eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL, surfacing with the Oakland Seals for part of a season at age 37.  He retired in 1969-70.

1957-58 Topps Hockey cards 46-54 backs

The backs of these cards always offer something interesting.  On the Popein, it mentions that he’d never even seen an NHL game until he played in one, and in that game, his opponent was a kid he’d known from his small town in Saskatchewan – Merto Prystai.

Posted in Joy of Completed Things, Uncategorized, Vintage Hockey | Tagged | 5 Comments

Joy of a completed set: 1957-58 Topps Hockey (Part 2)

Part one covered cards 1-18, all of which were Bruins.  This next block is mostly Chicago. The Black Hawks were dismal through most of the 1950s, finishing last every year but one between 1946-47 and 1956-57.  In 1957-58, they would fire coach Tommy Ivan in midseason and hire Rudy Pilous and finish fifth – two points ahead of last-place Toronto.

The seeds, however, of the team that would win it all in 1961 are starting to emerge with this group here.  In 1958-59, this team would jump from fifth to third, and by 1961, they had their first Stanley Cup since 1938.

The last card in this post is of Guyle Fielder, who is probably the best scorer you’ve never heard of.

Page 3 – cards 19-27

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 19-27

#19: Bob Bailey  was what you would call today an “energy guy.”  A forward who really didn’t have the scoring ability to stick at the NHL level, he hit a lot and forechecked and brought a lot of fire.  1957-58 was the best year of his NHL career, scoring 9 goals and 21 points in 64 games (split between Chicago and Detroit).  Once his 150 NHL games were over, he played in the minors until 1968, scoring as many as 132 points in a season (1965-66 Dayton Gems).

#20: Glenn Hall (RC) was picked up from Detroit in July of 1957 in what is really a mind-bogglingly bad trade by Jack Adams.  Hall and Ted Lindsay – both of whom were First-Team All-Stars in 1956-57 – went to Chicago for a two-way winger, a grinder, a backup goalie and a minor-leaguer.  Hall’s crime was being in net for two failed playoff runs.  He would go on to backstop the Hawks for a decade, play 502 straight games (he’d played 140 by this point) and be a regular First-Team All-Star.  Detroit rapidly fell from contention and didn’t win another Cup until the 1990s.

#21: Ted Lindsay was coming off a 30-goal, 85-point season.  He was sixth in goals, first in assists and was the NHL’s second-leading scorer in 1956-57. Why was he sent to Chicago? This was his punishment for his role in creating the NHL’s first player’s association.  Ted was 32 and had a lot of miles on a fairly small frame, so his 1957-58 wasn’t one of his best seasons.  He’d have a strong ’58-59, retire after ’59-60 and make a one-year comeback in 1964-65.  As of the start of 1957-58, he was fourth all-time in goals and third in points.

#22: Pierre Pilote (RC) was entering his second season in 1957-58 and would register his first 30-point season.  Through the mid-sixties, Pierre was the top offensive defenseman in the league, won three Norris trophies and set a single-season points record with 59 in 1964-65.  Then a kid named Orr came along….

#23: Jim Thomson had been captain of the Maple Leafs and the key to their blue line until he, too, decided to take part in the formation of the players’ association.  As with Lindsay, he was punished by being sent to Chicago, where he would play just a single season before retiring. Thomson holds an odd record.  He has the most points in a single season (29) by a player who didn’t score a goal.  His 1947-48 stat line read 59-0-29-29.

#24: Eric Nesterenko was expected to be a big scorer with the Leafs, but this never materialized.  Dispatched to Chicago in 1956, he became instead one of the league’s best penalty killers and defensive forwards, though he would actually pot 20 goals in ’57-58. He did score 250 career goals, but it took over 1200 NHL games to get there.  His last recorded action came in 1975-76 with the Trail Smoke Eaters.

#25: Gus Mortson was another ex-Leaf defenseman. In the late 1940s, he and Thomson were one of the top pairings in the game and he was a First-Team All-Star in 1949-50. Mortson had been in Chicago since 1952 and was a tough defender with some offense.  He was sixth in scoring by defensemen between 1946-47 and 1956-57 and 17th all-time entering 1957-58.  After 1957-58, he would spent half a season in Detroit, and then play the balance of his career in the minors and senior hockey, finally retiring in 1967.

#26: Ed Litzenberger (RC) was a big centre who had been buried in Montreal.  In 1954-55, he was dealt to Chicago, emerged as a near point-per-game player and won the Calder.  He would score 30-plus goals three times in the late 1950s, but a car accident in 1959-60 derailed him.  He became a useful role player and won four straight Cups between 1960-64.

#27: Elmer Vasko (RC) was a giant of a defenseman known to the fans as “Moose.” Surprisingly mobile for his size, he’d be a force on the Hawks’ blue line until 1966.  If he’d had more of a mean streak, he would have been as fearsome a defenseman as anyone.  As it was, he was effective for a decade-plus between Chicago and Minnesota.

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 19-27 backs


Page 4 – cards 28-36

1957-58 Topps Hockey cards 28-36

#28: Jack McIntyre was coming off the best season of his career entering 1957-58. This season, though started poorly.  After just four assists in 27 games, Jack, Bob Bailey and Hec Lalande were sent to Detroit for Bill Dineen, Lorne Ferguson and Billy Dea. This trade, just 8 days before Christmas, sparked Jack and he rebounded with 15 goals in the back half of the season.  His last NHL action came in the 1959-60 season, but he played another nine seasons in the minors and in senior hockey.

#29: Ron Murphy was an excellent two-way forward who put together an 18-year NHL career, starting in 1952-53 with the Rangers and finishing with the 1969-70 Bruins.  He scored 21 goals for Chicago’s Cup-winner in 1961 and was a key veteran pickup as the Bruins came back to life in the late 1960s.

#30: Glen Skov was another excellent checker, though he came to prominence with the Cup-winning Detroit teams of the early 1950s.  A Hawk since 1955, Glen would match his career high with 17 goals in 1957-58.  He’d spend the next two seasons in Chicago and Montreal almost exclusively as a penalty killer and spare forward before spending one season as a player-coach in Hull-Ottawa.

#31: Hec Lalande was an excellent scorer in junior who never really was able to replicate it at the highest levels.  I would guess some of this might have been his size, as he was only 150 pounds. His last NHL action would come in 1957-58, but he would go on to a lengthy and prolific minor-league career – particularly in the Eastern League, where he would twice break 100 points.  As an aside, this card was a complete pain to acquire.  It’s rarely centered and decent versions go for stupid amounts on eBay.  I found one at a good price at a show.

#32: Nick Mickoski was a pretty decent winger who gets forgotten because of the teams he played for.  He played over 700 games between 1948 and 1960 but only saw playoff action in three seasons.  He was a good skater with some size and scored 19 goals or better four times – good production for the era. When his NHL days were done, he played in the minors through the mid-60s and senior hockey un Newfoundland until 1969.

#33: Wally Hergesheimer burst on the scene with the Rangers as a 24-year-old in 1951, scoring 26, 30 and 27 goals.  A broken leg slowed him up in 1954-55 and his production began to decline.  Traded to Chicago in 1956, a broken collarbone wrecked his first season there.  He would not see any NHL action in 1957-58 and only limited in 1959. When his rights were traded to Buffalo of the AHL for ’57-58, the Hawks picked up a young Ken Wharram in return.  After a brief return to the Rangers in 1958-59, he would finish in the minors in 1962.

The team switches to Detroit here – I’ll talk more about them in the next post.  Detroit was still strong in 1957-58, but iffy player moves (and the emergence of Montreal and Toronto) spelled the end of the dynasty days.

#34: Alex Delvecchio spent his entire career (1950-74) with Detroit.  A natural athlete and great skater, Alex had the good fortune to spend most of those years on a line with Gordie Howe.  He was the Wings captain for over a decade and an easy pick as a Hall of Famer.  He looks rather young here and maybe kind of familiar.  The reason for this is that this is the same picture Parkhurst used for his 1952-53 card and it wasn’t new then.  I think it dates from his 1950-51 season with Omaha.

#35: Terry Sawchuk has his name misspelled on this card. One of the consequences of there being no Topps sets in 1955-56 and 1956-57 is that Sawchuk’s time as a Boston Bruin is completely flushed down the memory hole. Terry, after being the best goalie in the game in the early 1950s, was pushed aside by Glenn Hall and found himself a Bruin.  His nerves went on him in the middle of ’56-57 and he left the team. Detroit reacquired him for 1957-58.  He would play all 70 games that season (the last time he would play a full season), but his 2.94 GAA was the highest of his career to date.  He would don a mask and claimed it added years to his career.  He retired as the all-time leader in wins and shutouts.

#36: Guyle Fielder (RC) has one of the more interesting cards in this set, because on the back, he has the highest stat total of any player to appear on a card pre-1969.  The NHL record for points at this time was Gordie Howe’s 95-point effort from 1952-53.  Fielder’s 122 points, scored for the WHL’s Seattle Americans, are the most ever shown on an NHL card until Phil Esposito’s 126 for the 1968-69 Bruins.  Fielder only played 9 NHL games and never recorded a point, but he scored 1771 of them in the Western League plus 85 in the AHL and 75 in the PCHL.  In total, his minor-league career reads 1487GP – 438G – 1491A – 1929PTS. Truly one of the great minor-league players of all time.  I don’t know why it didn’t work at the NHL level. Usually, when you see something like that, it’s about foot speed, but that’s just a guess.

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 28-36 backs

This ends the next two pages of the set.  Part 3 will mostly deal with Detroit and start to introduce the Rangers.

This is also post #200 on this blog.  It has taken entirely too long to get here.


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Joy of a completed set: 1957-58 Topps Hockey (Part 1)

1957-58 was the second Topps hockey set and the first since the 1954-55 season.  As Topps had managed to secure the rights to the four American-based teams but had not actually produced any cards, this is the first time that any player from Detroit, New York, Boston or Chicago had seen the light of day in three years.  As a result, the set has a bucketful of RCs in it – four of which are notable Hall-of-Famers: Bucyk, Hall, Pilote and Ullman.

As with 1957 Topps baseball, this set marks the beginning of the standard 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 card size.  It’s also the last hockey set based entirely around painted black-and-white images.  Topps went to full-colour photography in 1958-59, though the occasional painted shot still appears as late as 1963-64.  The set was printed in the States, but distributed in Canada by OPC.  I am not certain whether it had any US distribution at all.

As with the ’52 Parkhurst set I posted my first full page from, I’ve been working on this set since the 1980s.  A number of cards I bought at that time have been replaced, but a few survived the cut for this set.  The Howe still needs upgrading.  I’ve filed this under “not right now.”

Just because these things tend to get really, really long, I’m breaking this into a few pieces. Today will cover cards 1-18.

PAGE 1 – cards 1-9

1957-58 Topps - Cards 1-9

Just a note – my scanner is greying out these cards a bit.  They’re extremely bright in person.  It’s one of the things that make this set fun.

The set starts out with Bruins.  Boston finished fourth, a game under .500, but still made it to the Final.  The early 60s were bad times for Boston, but at this point, they were a pretty solid team.

This is the last set Topps organized by teams until 1961-62.

#1: Real Chevrefils was coming off a 31-goal season, which would be the best of his career.  He would score just 10 more goals in the NHL over the next two seasons, dropping to the minors at age just 26.

#2: Jack Bionda (RC) was best-known in Canada as a lacrosse player, in which he was a big star.  He would play just 93 NHL games but carry on in the minors until 1967.

#3: Bob Armstrong was a respected stay at home defenseman who played parts of 11 NHL seasons.  1957-58 was a poor one, though, and a third of it was spent with Springfield of the AHL.

#4: Fernie Flaman was captain of the Bruins.  Tough and a hard hitter, Flaman would score just 15 assists in 1957-58 (no goals) yet still earned a spot on the 2nd All-Star team and was third in Norris voting.

#5: Jerry Topazzini scored 25 goals in 1957-58, the best total of his career.  He’d add 9 more in 12 playoff games as the Bruins lost to Montreal in the Final.  My favourite story of Topazzini was the time he and Henri Richard were at a golf tournament and someone asked them whether they’d ever won a Stanley Cup.  “We’ve won ten of them between us,” Jerry said (I’m paraphrasing), not mentioning that Richard had all ten.

#6: Larry Regan (RC) was the Calder Trophy winner in ’56-57, but never again matched that level of production.  He’d lose 11 games to injury and score just 11 goals in 1957-58.  In the middle of the following season he’d be dealt to Toronto, with whom he’d play the balance of his NHL career.

#7: Bronco Horvath (RC) was a terrific find for the Bruins.  Picked up in the 1957 Intraleague Draft after having spent most of 1955-56 in the minors, he scored 30 goals (fifth in the NHL) for the Bruins and led the team with 66 points.  He, Stasiuk and Bucyk made up the “Uke” line – a name that certainly would not be used today.

#8: Jack Caffrey only played seven games for the Bruins, scoring one goal.  This was the end of his NHL career, even though he was just 23.  He scored well in the minors until his retirement.

#9 Leo LaBine had been a decent scorer but would only score 7 goals for the Bruins this season. A noted trash-talker and pest, “the Lion” played 11 seasons in the NHL and continued in the minors until 1967.

1957-58 Topps - cards 1-9 backs

PAGE 2 – cards 10-18

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 10-18

#10: John Bucyk (RC) was traded from Detroit to Boston (with cash, even) for the rights to Terry Sawchuk.  Bucyk has been painted into a Boston uniform.  The picture was taken while he was still with Detroit.  Bucyk would be the only member of the Uke line to survive the bad times in Boston and would score 545 goals as a Bruin, retiring in 1978.

#11: Vic Stasiuk is the only member of the Uke Line who was a Bruin prior to this season.  A guy who didn’t really find his place in the NHL elite until he was 26, Stasiuk would score 21 goals and 56 points.  His 35 assists were 9th overall.

#12: Doug Mohns spent the first 11 years of his career as a pretty good puck-moving defenseman, became Stan Mikita’s winger for half a dozen years in Chicago, then turned back into a blueliner again for the last part of his career – 22 seasons in all, finishing with the expansion Captials in 1974-75.

#13: Don McKenney (RC) gets forgotten when top centres of the 1960s get discussed, but he was a fixture at the all-star game, had four top-ten finishes in points, won a Byng and was in the running a bunch of other times.  A shoulder injury in the 1964 Stanley Cup Final took the steam out of his career, which ended with the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues (and in the minors a year later).

#14: Don Simmons (RC) would play the bulk of Boston’s games this season and the next, then settle into a backup role with Toronto and New York.  He was the second goalie to regularly wear a mask, after Plante.

#15: Allan Stanley is rarely thought of as a Bruin, but it was here that his career was reborn after things went poorly as a highly-touted Ranger prospect.  He was considered a major driver behind Boston’s trip to the Final and was about to get a new lease on life as Tim Horton’s partner in Toronto, starting in 1958-59.  He was Boston’s top-scoring defenseman with 31 points.

#16: Fleming Mackell was Bostons’s second-leading scorer with 20 goals and 60 points.  He led the league in playoff scoring with 14 assists and 19 points in 12 playoff games.  Sadly, injuries would cut into his next two seasons, which would be his last in the NHL.  He would play in the minors and in senior hockey until 1968.

#17: Larry Hillman (RC) played his first NHL games in 1954 as an 18-year-old, retired in 1976 at age 39 (in the WHA), but really only established himself as a regular after about 1966 (he really was a victim of the six-team league).  During the entirely of the 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs, he and partner Marcel Pronovost were on the ice for only one even-strength goal against.  Hillman played all 70 games in 1957-58, scoring 22 points.  His next season in which he played every game came in 1969-70.

#18: Leo Boivin was a veteran blueliner who hit like a ton of bricks despite being only 5’7″. He would succeed Don McKenney as Bruin captain between 1963 and 1966.  Boivin only played 33 games due to injury in 1957-58, but dressed for all 12 playoff games and led the league in playoff penalty minutes with 21.

1957-58 Topps Hockey - cards 10-18 backs

Had sort of hoped to do a third page, but in the interest of getting posted, I’ll cut it here. as it happens, that’s also the end of the Bruins.  Next up – Chicago.

Posted in Joy of Completed Things, Vintage Hockey | Tagged | 3 Comments