I've been so focused on both my Hartford Whalers collection and the start of the 2011-12 NHL season that I haven't selected a card for the Ultimate Hockey Card Set yet this month. Time to rectify that...
Today we'll induct card #67. Unlike my last selection, this one wasn't too difficult. There were two cards that made the final cut, but it was clear from the beginning which one was better. First let's build some suspense by looking at the runner up:
This card has a lot going for it. Hall-of-Famer rookie card? Check. From my favorite decade of hockey cards, the 1980s? Check. Sweet Quebec Nordiques jersey complete with fleur-de-lis shoulder patch? Check. Goulet was an absolute sniper, a 500+ career goal guy, including 4 consecutive 50 goal seasons. A welcome addition to my collection.
Despite everything I just said though, this card is far from perfect. For starters, the 1980-81 Topps/O-Pee-Chee design isn't one of my favorites. In fact, it's among my least favorite designs of the decade. The Topps version is especially irritating due to the scratch off material covering the player names. I'm so tempted to scratch it off because it drives me nuts, but pretty much my entire set is unscratched and the anal collector in me just can't do it. The other thing that hurts this card is the photo, it's just not a great choice in my opinion. Even an appearance by Robbie Ftorek as a background lurker isn't enough to save that picture.
These flaws aside, sometimes you just plain lose to a better competitor. Without further adieu, here's the card that bested Michel for a place in the set:
Like I said, a pretty easy decision. Another rookie of a Hall-of-Famer, but this one with a significantly longer and more successful career than Goulet had. As a player, Yzerman was the man. 10-time All-Star, 3-time Stanley Cup champion, 6th in career points (and unlikely to be bumped down any time soon). Served as team captain of the Red Wings for two freakin' decades. In this day and age, you have to respect a guy who sticks with one team for his entire career. It's easy to see why he is perhaps the most beloved figure in Detroit sports history. In his short time as an architect he has certainly turned the Tampa Bay franchise around. You have to think that Steve's got a different type of long successful career yet to come in the game of hockey.
In terms of the card itself, this is pretty close to perfection on cardboard. It's from one of the most universally loved hockey sets of the 1980s, or of all-time for that matter. I would argue that this is one of the iconic cards of the decade, along with the Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy rookie cards. There are some other great rookies from the 80s sets, including Bourque, Hull, Messier, Francis, Kurri, Stastny, Shanahan, Sakic and others, but in my mind the Yzerman, Lemieux and Roy cards are a cut above.
The back details Yzerman's incredible 1983-84 rookie season. I've had the Topps version of this card for years now, but this O-Pee-Chee one joined the collection this summer when I purchased an entire mint 84-85 O-Pee-Chee set from the hobby shop. I've mentioned before that I collect on a budget and keep a good record of what I spend on my hobby. The 84-85 O-Pee-Chee set was one of only three times in the last two years that I've spent more than $100 on a single item, but I think it was well worth it.
Finally, I have to tie this in to the Hartford Whalers. Did you know that Hartford had an opportunity to take Yzerman with their #2 overall pick in the 1983 entry draft? Do you know who they drafted instead? This guy:
The Ultimate Hockey Card Set, which is now up to 8 cards and counting, can be viewed here.
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