Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Ultimate Hockey Card Set - Card #44

Wow, has it really been nearly two years since I last selected a card for my Ultimate Hockey Card Set?  Since it's been a while, I'll give you the quick breakdown on what this is.  The rules are simple, I'm building a virtual franken-set of all the best cards in my collection by number.  Today I'm going to look at all the card #44s in my hockey collection and pick just one for inclusion in the set.

Since 44 is a relatively low number, I had quite a few cards to choose from.  There were probably 5-6 that I think could easily have been selected, this Scotty Bowman Masterpieces card among them.  Boy do I wish Masterpieces lasted for more than one hockey release!

There were definitely a wide variety of #44s to be found within my boxes and binders, over 50 of them out of the 15,000+ hockey cards I have inventoried and cataloged.  In addition to standard cards there were autographs, like this fantastic Paul MacLean card...

...and even inserts.  20 years ago I wouldn't have imagined that we'd see insert sets with over 50 cards in them.  I'm not sure it's a good thing, actually.

Here's a #44 that I can't even read since it's Swedish.  This came from a pack I posted nearly five years ago now.

When I think of Brian Rolston I don't associate him with the Wild, but I like this celebration shot nonetheless.  The Wild logo has kind of grown on me over the years I think.

A nice mid-'80s Topps release of Joe Mullen, a very under-rated Hall of Fame player.  I like that the red Flames logo is almost the same size as the white logo on Joe's sweater in the photo.  It almost looks like Mullen was wearing a solid red sweater in the photo when the Flames logo up and left for the lower right corner, leaving him with a corresponding bare white patch on the front of his jersey.  I'm starting to think that I spend way too much time staring at hockey cards...

I like Mike Liut, but his only chance of making this set is wearing a Whalers sweater.  Next!

I have not one...

...but two Fedorov #44s.  Nice enough cards, but not quite up to par for The Ultimate Hockey Card Set.

I've only got one or two cards of Dit Clapper.  As a player he's certainly worthy of inclusion in my set, but this isn't going to be the card that gets him there...

Now we're getting to the really tough choices.  This '95-96 Upper Deck Claude Lemieux got some serious consideration.  It's one of those perfect "moment in time" photos; thanks to this card I'll never forget who won the Conn Smythe award in '95.  There's just something about seeing Lemieux, who I remember as a fairly tough customer, apparently crying as he hoists the trophy.

This one kind of hurt, one of the better cards that I've had to pass on since starting this series of posts.  It's from the set that most feel is the best looking of all the O-Pee-Chee WHA sets, and also features a forgotten franchise and a fantastic photograph.  I love me a good Nordiques card, whether it be WHA or NHL.

Here's the runner-up, a card I featured earlier this year.  I had wanted one of these original 1933 Ice Kings cards for a while and finally found Normie here at a decent price.  Unfortunately he was beaten out by a card that is worth much less (both sentimentally and monetarily), a junk wax card even!  Here's the winner for card #44:

 1990-91 Upper Deck - #44 - Mark Messier

Right now you might be asking yourself how someone who professes his love of vintage cardboard so often could actually choose a '90-91 Upper Deck card over an 80-year-old beauty.  Well, hear me out...

Even though I didn't particularly like or dislike Mark as a player, I really felt that Messier deserved to be included in this franken-set.  I mean the guy played for 25 years at the NHL level (and in the WHA before that!), was a 15-time All-Star (including 4 First Team selections), Conn Smythe, Hart and Lester B Pearson award winner, and captured 6 Stanley Cups!  Mark amassed more career points than anyone not named Gretzky!  Yes, I know longevity was a factor there, but you don't end up #2 on the all-time scoring list by chance.

As far as what Messier card would make the cut for my set, it wasn't the easiest decision.  I mainly collect Topps hockey and not O-Pee-Chee when it comes to the older stuff, and Topps inexplicably ignored Messier for the first few years of his career.  In '80-81 he was included on the O-Pee-Chee checklist (his true rookie card), but not Topps.  '81-82?  Same thing.  The next two years Topps did not release a hockey set, but when they returned for '84-85 they still left him off the checklist (other than a card in the All Star subset).  The following year, '85-86, same thing, no Topps card!

I decided on this particular card for two reasons.  First of all, the '90-91 Upper Deck set was a game changer in terms of the hockey card landscape, just like their '89 release was for baseball.  I hadn't selected a 1990-91 Upper Deck card yet so it was high time I did so. 

Secondly, and most importantly, this card depicts what I find to be the most impressive aspect of Messier's career.  After winning four Stanley Cups with Gretzky, I'm sure fans in Edmonton doubted whether they'd ever win another once he was dealt to Los Angeles.  Well it only took Messier and the boys two seasons to bring another Cup to Edmonton, this time sans Gretzky.  Not only that, but he went on to capture another one with New York in '94, and we all know the drama related to that one, including the famous guarantee in the Eastern Conference Finals.

All his points, trophies, All-Star selections and other accolades aside, those two Stanley Cups after the Gretzky days are what impress me the most about Mark.  I couldn't think of a better card to represent this than card #44 from Upper Deck's inaugural hockey release, which shows a smiling Messier in the locker room after that 1990 Cup win.

So, there's my choice.  If you want to view all 18 cards that I've selected so far you can see that here.  What do you think?  Should I have picked the Brodeur, Ice Kings, or any of the other cards over the Upper Deck Messier?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

7 comments:

Marc said...

Always gotta enjoy any card that depicts a player hoisting the Stanley Cup. Surprised you didn't mention that Messier is the only player in any of the professional sports to captain two different teams to a championship. I knew someone that disliked Messier so much he traded me a BAP Messier autograph card for a Scott Gomez rookie refractor. No, it wasn't the Captain either

shoeboxlegends said...

Great point Marc about Messier being the only guy to wear the C for championships for two different franchises. I don't know what it is about him, but he just seems to be really polarizing among fans, I'm sort of indifferent to him overall, leaning slightly towards liking the guy but certainly admiring his accomplishments. I know many people that seem to detest him for one reason or another though...

Hackenbush said...

I just saw the Seinfeld episode that references Messier. David Puddy, his face painted like a Devil (gotta support the team)is pounding on the glass yelling, "You stink, Messier!"

shoeboxlegends said...

Love that episode. I am among the many people that consider Seinfeld one of, if not the, best sitcoms of all-time.

Mark Kaz said...

This Rangers supporter and unabashed Messier devotee fully endorses your choice!

1967ers said...

I still think '90-91 is the best set Upper Deck ever made. The heart says Normie Himes, but I can't argue against the Messier.

shoeboxlegends said...

Thanks gents!

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