The 2011-12 NHL season is just around the corner, and I'm giddy with anticipation. In case you couldn't tell by my recent posts, I've been on a bit of a hockey kick lately and baseball has sort of gone on the back burner. With pre-season hockey already underway, I thought I would dedicate these few weeks leading up to the regular season to my favorite hockey team of all-time, the Hartford Whalers! I'll be showcasing some of my favorite Whalers cards of old, as well as a few new gems I've added to the collection recently. To go along with that, I've got a new blog banner, new favicon, and have even set the Whalers theme song, Brass Bonanza, to play when you visit the blog. Yup, there's going to be a whole lot of Whale posted here in the near future. Captain Canuck, you may want to "unfollow" me now!
We'll kick things off with some 1996-97 Upper Deck Collector's Choice. These came from a huge lot of Whaler cards that I won on eBay a while ago. The 96-97 Collector's Choice base set is sorted out by team, and the Whalers are represented on cards 112-121. Here are all 10 in order:
The Whalers acquired Shanahan for Chris Pronger before the 1995-96 season. He was named Captain, but was unhappy about having to play in Hartford. He scored 44 goals and registered better than a point-per-game that year, but nonetheless made enough noise in the off-season that he was stripped of the C and was dealt from the team just 2 games into the 96-97 season. As for Pronger, well we all know what he went on to do (and is still doing to this day). Just another of Hartford's famed awful trades.
Sanderson was arguably the second-best offensive talent on the team at the time, behind Shanahan.
I have to say that for a cheap set released 15 years ago these cards aren't half-bad. The photography is good, and I think the backs are the best part.
In addition to the height, weight and other essentials up top, we actually get another large photo on the back. It's not the same recycled photo from the front either, which is a nice touch that many modern sets can't claim. I think the Chippy's Quiz trivia questions are a decent addition to the cards as well.
Cassels was a pretty solid player who ended up logging 16 seasons in the league. He played for quite a few different teams, but I always think of him as a Whaler. He was drafted by and began his career with the Montreal Canadiens, but was dealt to Hartford after a couple of seasons for a second round pick (which the Canadiens used on Valeri Bure). For once a half-way decent trade!
Nelson played for both the original Winnipeg Jets, and the Atlanta Thrashers, who are now the new Winnipeg Jets. I wonder how many guys can claim that?
For obvious reasons, Jason Muzzatti is my favorite Whalers card from this set. That mask is fantastic!
At 6'5"/6'6", the Whalers had their own Zdeno Chara back in the day. The only problem was he couldn't play all that well, and wasn't too physical either considering his size. He did sport a Class-A mullet though, just look at that thing:
Burke donned the Whalers sweater for more career games than any other goaltender, which is pretty sad given that he was only with the team for 5 seasons. At 6'4" he wasn't a whole lot shorter than Malik!
Brown came to Hartford mid-way through the 1995-96 season. Despite playing just 48 games for Hartford that year, he would lead all defensemen on the team in both assists and points. He would play just a single game for Hartford in 1996-97 due to back surgery, and then the franchise moved to Carolina.
Hartford's first-round pick in the 1994 entry draft. He would really blossom later in his career with the Hurricanes.
Those are the only 10 Whalers "base" cards, however there were a couple of other appearances by Hartford players in the set. They had a card in the 3 Star Selection subset:
Not a whole lot to say about these inserts, basically just three random stars chosen from each team. The back talks about how Shanahan can lead Hartford to the playoffs, but as I said earlier he played just two more games for the franchise after this card was released.
There is one more Whaler card in the base set, card #343. This one features Jeff O'Neill and is from the "Captain Tomorrow" subset. It's pretty cheesy, and unfortunately I do not have it to show here. I've added it to my Want List on the odd chance anyone out there has it.
As far as inserts go, the only one I have is this Brendan Shanahan Stick-Ums:
That's about it for the 96-97 Collector's Choice Whalers. I'll have some more posts up by the end of the week.
Team MVPs: 1984 Fleer - I'm offering another apology to 1981 Topps. I've promised twice now that the next set that I would profile in this Team MVPs series would be 1981 Topps. ...