Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Love the '90s - Wave of the Future

After three straight days of trade package posts, let's take a look at some hockey cards I actually picked out for myself.  Not just any cards either, but inserts from the glorious decade that was the '90s!

Having started collecting in the fall of 1989 as a 7-year-old, the '90s are my bread and butter when it comes to nostalgia in this hobby.  Yes, the cards were overproduced, but this decade in particular is responsible for some of the loudest, shiniest and most obnoxious cards ever to be printed.  Now that the years have passed and most of these can be had for pennies on the dollar, it's a lot of fun to go back and complete some of these insert sets at long last.

Today's post focuses on the Wave of the Future inserts from 1993-94 Fleer Ultra.  These were inserted into Series 2 packs, though I'm not sure what the exact odds were of pulling one.  There are 20 total cards in the set, which as the name implies showcases some of the up-and-coming young talent in the NHL at the time.

The design is straight-forward, Ultra logo in one of the two upper corners with player name and Wave of the Future logo in the two lower corners.  The cards are full bleed, with a ripple effect applied to the background behind the player.

The backs are all about the write-ups, with very little statistical data presented for the subject.  You do get a nice portrait photo though, which differs from the front.  As you'd expect from a set trying to predict future stars, there were some definite hits (even a couple HOFers), some total misses, and just about everything in between.

I would venture to guess that the most "valuable" (a relative term for sure!) card in the set is #2, Marty Brodeur.  The folks at Fleer certainly nailed it with this one, I don't need to waste words telling you all about the impressive career that Brodeur went on to enjoy.  Martin is one of just two HOFers found within the 20-card set.

Of course Alexandre Daigle was going to be included.  Though he's generally viewed as a bust in hindsight, this guy was a big name in the hobby at the time after being taken first overall in the 1993 entry draft by Ottawa.  I would have been ecstatic to pull this card back when it was new, nowadays it's kind of comical.

His younger brother Chris is more well-known, but Ted Drury saw over 400 games of NHL action with a few different franchises after wrapping up his collegiate career at Harvard.

Chris Gratton was taken 3rd overall in the 1993 entry draft.  I actually had no idea, or had completely forgotten, that he returned to Tampa for a second stint in 2007, and actually played in the NHL as late as 2009 with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here's the first real head-scratcher, Milos Holan.  Milos was taken 77th overall by Philadelphia in the 1993 draft, and played a grand total of 49 NHL games (most of those with the Mighty Ducks) before finishing out his career over in the Czech Republic.

Greg Johnson had been picked up by the Wings in trade from the Flyers not long before this set was printed up.  Sort of an under-the-radar guy, I was surprised to learn that he appeared in over 700 NHL games and recorded an even 350 career points.  Far from the worst career of the twenty guys in this set.

The younger brother of Dmitri Mironov, Boris was a mediocre defenseman who also saw action in just over 700 NHL games before hanging up the skates.  Interesting to see him in a Jets uniform as he didn't last long in Winnipeg; he was dealt to the Oilers towards the end of his rookie season.

Jaroslav Modry was drafted back in 1990, but made his NHL debut with New Jersey in '93-94 which is why he's included here.  Modry was pretty much a stay-at-home defenseman, and really found his groove with the LA Kings, with whom he'd play on again off again from 1995 through 2008.

Markus Naslund is better known as a Vancouver Canuck.  After being traded to Vancouver in 1996 he spent twelve seasons with the club, including eight as team captain.  He's one of the more popular Canucks of all-time, and still ranks third in career points for the franchise behind the two Sedin twins.

Though overshadowed by his older brother Scott, Rob Niedermayer carved out an impressive 17-season career for himself at the NHL level.  He came straight to the NHL without playing in the minors at all, and was a key member of the improbable '96 Stanley Cup Finals Panthers team.  He and brother Scott got to hoist the Stanley Cup together in 2007 with Anaheim, which is pretty awesome!

I recently read an article (though I can't seem to locate it to link it here) that claimed Chris Osgood was one of the more under-rated goaltenders of all-time, though I'm sure some would argue he was the beneficiary of the fantastic teams playing in front of him.  I guess you can make a case for him though, his 401 career wins are still good for 10th best in the history of the league, and he did capture three Stanley Cups with Detroit (two of which he was the starting netminder for).  I will always remember him as being the last NHL goalie to rock a standard player's helmet.

I don't have a whole lot to say about Derek Plante.  He did last a few years in the league, and won a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999, so there's that...

My obvious (and completely biased) choice for best card in the set is Chris Pronger of my hometown Hartford Whalers.  Chris joins Martin Brodeur as the only other HOFer in the set.  In retrospect, the Whalers clearly knew what they were doing when they selected Chris with the second overall pick in the 1993 draft.  Among his many career accolades, the one I find most impressive is his MVP season of 1999-2000.  He was the first defenseman to win the Hart Trophy since the great Bobby Orr.

It's hard to say any player who lasted 13 years in the NHL is a "bust", but I'm sure the Sharks expected more out of Mike Rathje when they took him third overall in the 1992 draft.  He may have lasted even longer if back and hip problems hadn't forced him from the game earlier than planned.

I've said this a few times now, but I always had a thing for Mikael Renberg when I was a kid.  Aside from playing on those awesome '90s Flyers teams alongside the great Eric Lindros, it was impossible not to be impressed by his 82-point rookie season!

To me, the most surprising name in this set may be Jason Smith.  I had nearly completely forgotten about this guy, but he played in over 1,000 NHL games!  He also served as team captain for both the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers.  A worthy choice for inclusion here indeed!

Jocelyn Thibault was taken 10th overall in the 1993 draft.  He was involved in the trade that brought Patrick Roy to the Avalanche, and went on to be the top goaltender for the Blackhawks for a few seasons there in the late 1990s/early 2000s.  All told, he played in close to 600 NHL games and finished with a career save percentage a hair over .900.

The other big question mark on the checklist has got to be the penultimate card on the checklist, Jarkko Varvio.  If his name doesn't ring a bell, it's probably because he played just 13 NHL games over the course of two seasons before returning to Finland.  I don't think there's any way to put it other than Fleer just flat out whiffed on this one.

Closing out the set is well-known Russian star Alexei Yashin.  Taken second overall in the 1992 entry draft, I'm sure the Senators envisioned he and Alexandre Daigle as the cornerstones of their team for many  years to come.  Alexei clearly eclipsed Daigle as the better player, going on to serve as team captain and even finishing second in MVP voting later in the decade.

I hope you enjoyed this walk down junk wax memory lane!  I'm close to completing a few more insert sets from this era which I hope to post here in the near future...


Brad Parsons said...

Love these 90s cards. I enjoy seeing the photos of the now retired guys when they were young, it brings back a lot of memories. From first glance, nothing against the design but seeing the Jason Arnott card, the design made me kinda queasy (those swirls!).

Dave H said...

One thing comes to mind seeing those cards....Donnie Darko!

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