Sunday, November 15, 2009

Completed Set - 1989-90 Topps Hockey

I would have to say that 1989-90 Topps (or O-Pee-Chee) hockey is probably my single favorite hockey set of all time. It's not the best set design ever, it's seriously over-produced, and there aren't any rookies (or any cards at all for that matter) that are worth anything. The reason the set holds significance for me is that these are the very first hockey cards I ever collected as a kid.

My two brothers and I each had a white 3 ring binder full of 9 pocket sheets, and a couple of nights each week my dad would arrive home from work with a brown paper bag containing a few packs of this stuff. I have fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table and opening packs, sorting the cards into our binders by team, trading our doubles, etc. Those were the days. Looking at almost any card from the set brings me back to that kitchen table in Connecticut, but let's look at a few of my favorites:

#1 - Mario Lemieux - Pittsburgh Penguins - The Penguins really developed into a powerhouse in the early 90's, but the 80's were tough for the team, and 1989-90 was no exception. Lemieux put up impressive individual numbers as usual (45 goals, 78 assists, 123 points), but the team floundered and ended up 5th in the Patrick Division.

#7 - Lanny McDonald - Calgary Flames - This is Lanny's final base Topps card.

#11 - Peter Sidorkiewicz - Hartford Whalers - One of the cards I remember most vividly from the set, which is why it's been in my banner for a few months now.

#15 - Cam Neely - Boston Bruins - Cam had one of his best seasons in 1989-90, notching career highs in goals with 55, and points with 92. 12 of those goals were game-winners, and when you tack on 117 penalty minutes, that's a hell of a season by any standard.

#17 - Patrick Roy - Montreal Canadiens - 1989-90 was another stellar year for Roy. He led the league in save percentage, and was tied for league lead in wins and goals against average. The Canadiens were ousted in the second round of the playoffs by the Bruins.

#32 - Pat Verbeek - Hartford Whalers - Verbeek also had a career campaign in 89-90 with career highs in assists and points (45/89). There was some horrendous air-brushing taking place during this era, and I think this Verbeek card may be an example. He spent his career with the Devils prior to 1989-90, and the folds in that Whalers jersey just don't look right.

#41 - Dino Ciccarelli - Washington Capitals - Dino was one of my favorite players growing up, and I had to include at least one Washington Capital because the jersey is classic.

#60 - Pat LaFontaine - New York Islanders - LaFontaine amassed 50+ goals and 50+ assists in 1989-90, a feat he would accomplish again a few years later with the Buffalo Sabres. LaFontaine always seemed to manage at least decent offensive numbers, but was plagued by injuries. He suffered a career-ending head injury in 1998, and had 3 seasons before that in which he managed to appear in fewer than 25 games.

#61 - Kirk McLean - Vancouver Canucks - McLean was the NHL's busiest netminder in the 89-90 season. He led the league in games played, shots against and saves. Unfortunately he also led the league in goals against and losses. I love the Canucks jerseys from the late 80's early 90's. I see quite a few Canucks games every year on NHL network, but I've never seen them bring these back. Anyone know if the team's worn these in recent years?

#63 - Randy Cunneyworth - Winnipeg Jets - Another horrible attempt at air-brushing, probably the worst in the whole set. The logo looks like it was drawn by a 5th grader, and even the stick and glove look fake. I could've sworn Sal at Puck Junk wrote about this card at some point, but I couldn't seem to find it? If you have send me the link Sal!

#65 - Mark Messier - Edmonton Oilers - This was a huge season for Messier as he finished second in scoring and led the Oilers to another Stanley Cup, this time sans Gretzky!

#70 - Ray Ferraro - Hartford Whalers - Ray is now broadcasting for TSN in Canada.

#74 - Doug Gilmour - Calgary Flames - This card has always stuck out to me because it's so odd. You can clearly see a teammate's face in the background, but why it's washed out in green is beyond me.

#83 - Steve Yzerman - Detroit Red Wings - Here's the first of the 4 recent Hall-of-Fame player inductees, all of whom are featured in this set.

#88 - Luc Robitaille - Los Angeles Kings - And here's the second!

#92 - Sean Burke - New Jersey Devils - I included this scan for one reason only. Look at the size of that net! That just doesn't even seem right.

#97 - Mike Liut - Hartford Whalers - Old school Whalers jersey and brown goalie pads. What's not to like about this one?

#110 - Ray Bourque - Boston Bruins - I wonder what Ray's thinking in this picture. Probably not that it would be another 10+ years before he would finally take home a cup.

#113 - Joe Sakic - Quebec Nordiques - This is probably the card from the set that collectors chased most back in the day, Joe Sakic's rookie. The Nordiques jerseys were fantastic, I really hope the NHL ends up with a team back in Quebec someday.

#122 - Dale Hawerchuk - Winnipeg Jets - Here's another Canadian team that no longer exists. I always felt bad for the folks in Winnipeg, as a Whalers fan I can certainly relate.

#124 - John Anderson - Hartford Whalers - The current head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers. I'm a big fan of bench shots on hockey cards.

#128 - Larry Murphy - Minnesota North Stars - I always liked this card because it looks like there is a trail of stars going from the North Stars logo up the side of Murphy's pants.

#134 - Dave Tippett - Hartford Whalers - Here's another former Whaler who's also a current head coach. He's done a pretty decent job so far, his Coyotes are sitting at 8th in the West at 11-8.

#136 - Brian Leetch - New York Rangers - Here's the third of four 2009 Hall-of-Fame inductees. This is actually Leetch's rookie card and was probably the most sought after card in the set aside from the Sakic rookie.

#138 - Joe Nieuwendyk - Calgary Flames - Joe must've been on top of the world in 1989, after winning the Stanley Cup at age 22! He recorded 50 assists for the only time in his career this season.

#147 - Brendan Shanahan - New Jersey Devils - I'd say Shanahan is done for good, but it's not completely inconceivable that he'll suit up for somebody making a playoff push in the second half of the season. If he did I think he'd be the only player from this set still active in the NHL.

#151 - Marc Habscheid - Detroit Red Wings - Habscheid has one of the worst air-brushed cards in the set. Did they think they were fooling anyone with this?

#156 - Wayne Gretzky - Los Angeles Kings - Not one of Gretzky's finest cards, but it's his first base Topps card that shows him on ice in a Kings jersey. While the OPC card from the previous year shows him donning the Kings sweater, the Topps card simply has him in a shirt and tie holding it up in his hands.

#163 - Mike Vernon - Calgary Flames - It's amazing to me how much smaller the goalies seemed in this age. The players and the pads were just so much smaller back then.

#170 - Clint Malarchuk - Buffalo Sabres - Clint is now the goalie coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. If you don't know how close Malarchuk came to dying in the 1989 season when his neck was slashed by a skate, it's an amazing story.

#174 - Chris Chelios - Montreal Canadiens - You gotta love that this guy is still hanging on!

#175 - Ron Francis - Hartford Whalers - Just a couple of years after this photo was taken Francis was dealt to the Penguins in one of the worst trades in NHL history. The Penguins became a powerhouse in the NHL and the Whalers franchise was done within a few years.

#184 - Walt Poddubny - New Jersey Devils - Another unfortunate air-brushing. Sadly, Walt passed away far too soon earlier this year.

#186 - Brett Hull - St. Louis Blues - Here's the final member of this year's Hall-of-Fame class sporting an insane mullet.

#189 - Guy LaFleur - New York Rangers - One of Guy's final cards. He's sans helmet of course, as he was grandfathered in when the helmet rule was enforced.

This set will always be a classic to me, it was so much fun scanning in all the cards and taking a trip down memory lane. One of my collecting goals is to complete every hockey set from 1980-81 through 1989-90, and this is a good start.


Unknown said...

Topps did not make 1982-83 and 1983-84 versions. They only made O-Pee-Chee cards those 2 years. I always thought the 1984-85 Topps Set was the best of the 1980s. The 1985-86 set was also a classic with large photos and the Lemeiux rookie. The rest of the sets from the decade were kind of non descript.

Sal said...

Great set. You always feel that the one you started collecting is the best one. For me, it was the 1988-89 set...that was the first year I bought hockey cards.

For the 1989-90 set, I paid a whole $18 (36 packs x 50 cents) to get a box. I miss those days. I got the entire 198-card set and 32 out of the 33 insert stickers.

My sister, on the other hand, bought 4 packs and got the 1 sticker that I needed. I had to make a lopsided trade to get that one sticker from her.

Chuck's Used Cards said...

What a great look at a hockey set we don't usually get to see.

Makes me wish there were still teams in Hartford, Winnipeg and Quebec.

And ... only topps and O-Pee-Chee to choose from. The 1990's would screw hockey card collectors with enough card junk to fill 20 arenas.

It was also a great year that had the 4 former WHA clubs still alive in the NHL.

nice post.

Mike11 said...

At that point being from a small western town in the middle of Oregon Hockey was about as far away from anyone’s minds. But we had open campus lunches and almost that entire year after spending my money I had for my lunch I'd always have enough to buy a pack. Now I can't really remember why I wanted the Wayne Gretzky Card at all! Hockey wasn't defiantly something I had ever played nor followed on TV. I guess there was some hoopla about someone getting it and it was worth $5000 or something LoL.

So for months I continued heading to the mall with my friends, eating and grabbing a pack or two of cards. This took a few months but I finally got it and was so proud to have gotten it, and still have it (thought it's pretty much worthless now). The best thing that came about was all of the other player’s cards that I sometimes got 5-6 of each. And all I did was save them. I moved onto basketball and a bit of football but after school ended me buying cards stopped. And now for around 20 years they have set in boxes. I’m having a great time going them, I even found some un chewed gum and I took a gamble, it still worked (pretty damn hard though and didn’t last to long.

I'm going to have my first son her in a few months I look forward to giving them to him when he's old enough. Thanks for the article

shoeboxlegends said...

Mike11, that is a great story! Thanks for the comment, I'm glad that someone else enjoyed the 1989 Topps set as much as I did!

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