Sunday, March 31, 2013

Whaler Ink - Gordie Howe!

Today is the 85th birthday of one of the best players to ever lace up a pair of skates, Gordie Howe!  To celebrate, today's post features a Howe card, and represents one of the best new pieces to enter my hockey card collection so far in 2013.

When I was a youth hockey player back in the day, I was afforded the opportunity to meet Mr. Hockey at a card and memorabilia show in Connecticut.  I even got a nice Red Wings puck signed by him, which I still have to this day.  Since I got back into collecting in 2007, I've wanted an autographed card of Gordie to go with it.  Prices are generally high though, as you'd expect for a Hall-of-Famer and one of the all-time legends of the game.  If I was going to shell out $60+ for an autographed card, I wanted to really make it worth it.  Recently I stumbled upon a card that fit the bill, and after some haggling back and forth with the seller this gem arrived in my mailbox:

Not bad, huh?  As you'd imagine, the majority of the Howe autos out there depict him with Detroit, but I wanted one showing him in Whalers jersey instead.  I was drawn to this card, which was distributed by Upper Deck at the 2011 Canadian Spring Expo, by the fantastic photograph as well as its relative scarcity.  With just 15 hand-numbered copies in existence, and having only ever seen this particular example myself, it was entirely possible that I'd never have another chance to own one of these.  The auto is a sticker, but it doesn't bother me in this case just because this card met all of my other criteria.

Here's the back, with a paragraph authenticating the autograph and a nice big Whalers logo.  I think it's safe to say this immediately becomes one of my best Hartford Whalers cards.  Right now it sits proudly displayed on the bookshelf in my office/card room, where I'll hopefully enjoy it for many years to come. 

Happy 85th Gordie!!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Roster - 1990-91 Score

1990-91 was the season the hockey card market expanded, much like what happened to the baseball card landscape in 1981.  O-Pee-Chee and Topps were back as usual, but joining them were newcomers like Upper Deck, Score and Pro Set.  "High-end" sets, like O-Pee-Chee Premier, appeared for the first time as well.  I've always thought that Score's inaugural release that season is an under-appreciated set that often gets lost in the shadow of Upper Deck.  In all, there are 20 Whalers cards on the checklist:

#21 - Scott Young

I didn't really pick up on it as a kid, but the photography in this set is actually pretty solid.  I think the design is creative too.  I would have changed just one thing about the cards, but I'll get to that in a minute.

#35 - Pat Verbeek

#46 - Peter Sidorkiewicz

I was watching last night's Bruins/Canadiens game as I got the images ready for this post, and I just had to laugh at the difference in goaltender equipment between the netminders in that game and Peter here.

#70 - Ron Francis

1990-91 Ron Francis cards are always kind of sad for a Whalers fan.

#83 - Sylvain Cote

 #99 - Brad Shaw

#134 - Ray Ferraro

#152 - Ulf Samuelsson

#172 - Dave Babych

#192 - Dave Tippett

#212 - Kevin Dineen

Kevin is the only horizontal Whalers card in the set.  I wish Score had gone with all horizontal cards for this one, I feel like the hockey rink design is much more effective in this format, and most of the horizontal cards that they did put in the set have really great photos.

#237 - Todd Krygier

#259 - Dean Evason

#276 - Randy Cunneyworth

#302 - Yvon Corriveau

#325 - Brad Shaw All-Rookie Team

Brad's the only Whalers player to be featured on multiple cards in the set.

#370 - Adam Burt

#402 - Kay Whitmore NHL Prospect

#419 - Terry Yake NHL Prospect

#431 - Mark Greig First Round Draft Choice

I've always found this card comical, because it almost seems like Mark is in disbelief and shock that he landed with the Whalers.  It was the Whalers who would be disappointed in the end though, as Mark spent more time with their minor league affiliate than he did with the NHL team in three of his four years with Hartford.  Ultimately the team dealt him to Toronto.

There you have it, your 1990-91 Score Hartford Whalers!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Whaler Ink - 2010-11 Panini Dominion Brass Bonanza

I will be showing off all of my Hartford Whalers autographs here over time under the heading Whaler Ink, and adding each of them to the inventory/checklist in the sidebar as well. After all, what would a good Whalers collection (or reference site) be without some autographs!

To kick things off, I'm going to showcase what is currently the pinnacle of my Whalers autograph collection, the 2010-11 Panini Dominion Brass Bonanza set.  This 10-card autograph set was a really great concept, based on the theme song that the Whalers used to play at home games (Brass Bonanza).  I knew I wanted these as a cornerstone of my Whalers collection, and my collection in general, and luckily this set hit shelves at a time when I had some disposable income burning a hole in my pocket.  I was lucky enough to track down all 10 within just a couple months of the set hitting shelves, and I'm glad I did as I don't stumble across these too often anymore.

#1 - Bobby Hull - #'d/24

The first two cards in the set are serial numbered to a scant 24, and they're also two of the bigger names as far as what an average collector would be seeking, so it's no surprise they were the toughest two to nail down.  Bobby Hull could be seen as an odd choice, as he played just 9 games with Hartford at the tail end of his career, but I'm glad he was included.

I won't show them all, but here's a look at what the backs look like.  Very nice design front and back in my opinion, and even a different photo, well done Panini!

#2 - Brendan Shanahan - #'d/24

The other more scarce card was Brendan Shanahan, another guy who wasn't around in Hartford too long.  On top of that I think we can say there was a "mutual dislike" between Shanahan, the team, and the fans during his time here, so this is a strange selection.  When I posted this card on my other blog a long while back it was noted in the comments that it seems like Panini chose the players who skated with Hartford that average hockey fans would recognize most, rather than the players who fans of the team really identified with.  I agree with that wholeheartedly.

#3 - Keith Primeau - #'d/50

From here on out the rest of the cards are serial numbered to 50 copies...

#4 - Nick Fotiu - #'d/50

A much more fitting selection for the set, Nick played with both the New England Whalers of the WHA and the Hartford Whalers of the NHL.

#5 - Paul Coffey - #'d/50

Another guy chosen for his recognizable name only, given that he played just 20 career games with the Whalers.  Still an on-card autograph of a Hall-of-Famer though!

#6 - Ray Ferraro - #'d/50

 #7 - Tiger Williams - #'d/50

#8 - Daryl Reaugh - #'d/50

#9 - Ron Francis - #'d/50

Ron is one of the select Whalers that gets hobby attention from Upper Deck as well, so he's actually got a few certified autographs out there in a Whalers sweater.  Can't argue with that, he is the all-time best Hartford Whaler as far as I'm concerned.

#10 - Pat Verbeek - #'d/50

In closing, another very fitting selection, one of the under-rated players of all-time.

So there you have it, the 2010-11 Panini Dominion Brass Bonanza set!  You can gripe a bit about player selection, but I applaud Panini for this set.  I'm obviously heavily biased, but I think these cards have a fantastic design, front and back, an interesting premise that's a bit different than your average insert set, and best of all the autos are on card.  I don't deny that Panini has its share of issues, but they get one mark in the 'Pro' column as far as I'm concerned for having a wider focus when they look back to hockey's past in their releases.  Sets like this one, or 2012-13 Panini Classics Signatures, give collectors a chance to score some autographs of players who are often overlooked or forgotten by Upper Deck...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oddballs - 1985-86 7 Eleven

Time for the first oddball card to be featured here on Whalers Hockey Cards.  This one's from the 1985-86 7 Eleven hockey set.  I've sometimes seen these referred to as "7 Eleven Credit Cards", I'm guessing based on the fact that they have rounded corners and a horizontal layout, but in truth these are a bit smaller than a credit card.  There are 25 total cards in the set, if you're interested you can read a writeup and see scans for all 25 cards on my other blog (it's worth checking out for the photo of Ron Duguay alone!).  The Whalers, like all teams, have just a single card in the set:
#7 - Ron Francis/Mike Liut

I'll grant you that this is never going to stand out as one of my more aesthetically pleasing Whalers cards.  It is a unique item that you don't see every day though, and given that the entire set cost me just $1 it was a no-brainer to add to my Whalers collection.  Each card depicts portrait shots of two stars from the team on the front, and getting the call for the Whalers were Ron Francis and Mike Liut.  Liut is a notable selection for a couple of reasons.  First, there are only 2-3 goalies featured in the set, and secondly he is pictured in St. Louis Blues sweater since he had come to Hartford in a trade just the season before this set was released.

The back of these cards doesn't focus on the players depicted on the front, but instead gives a brief write-up on the team in general.  I think 7 Eleven did a pretty good job summarizing the Whalers in so few words.  They managed to get in some examples of the team's futility (Civic Center roof collapse and failure to make playoffs), but also noted the loyalty of the fans despite the team's lack of success.  Not a bad synopsis of the franchise if you ask me.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Roster - 1991-92 Score Young Superstars

A quick post today, featuring the 1991-92 Score Young Superstars set.  This was released as a small, 40-card boxed set by Score, highlighting some of the game's brightest young players.  With such a small checklist, this one's an easy target for team collectors (the Red Wings have the most players featured in the set, with four).  Two players from Hartford made the list:
#5 - John Cullen

Cullen was unfairly criticized by discouraged Whalers fans upon his arrival, since he came to the team in one of the worst transactions in NHL history, which I will refer to here only as "the trade".  In the end, he didn't stick around long, but he was basically a point-per-game scorer in his 109 total games with the team.  He was no Ron Francis, but let's face it, very few players in the league could fill those shoes and John was a very good (All-Star even) player during his brief time with the team.

#36 - Bobby Holik

Speaking of trades, the Whalers took Bobby with the 10th overall selection in the 1989 NHL entry draft, yet dealt him to the Devils after just two seasons (along with the draft pick that became Jay Pandolfo, who is still in the league and has suited up for 10 games with Boston this year!).  He went on to really blossom with New Jersey, and won two Cups there.  Unfortunately, if you're following this blog you're going to be subjected to a lot of this type of stupidity.  In this case though, at least the Whalers received Sean Burke in return, who would become their mainstay between the pipes for the duration of their stay in Hartford...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Roster - 1989-90 Topps

It seemed only appropriate that I start off this new blog with the very first hockey cards I collected as a kid, 1989-90 Topps (I collected the O-Pee-Chee set as well).  The 1989-90 Topps set contained just 198 cards, typical of the smaller Topps hockey sets of the era.  The Whalers were represented on 12 cards in the base set:

 #11 - Peter Sidorkiewicz

#20 - Kevin Dineen

#32 - Pat Verbeek

My first post here, and already the first instance of airbrushing, seems only fitting...

#46 - Dave Babych

#70 - Ray Ferraro

#91 - Brian Lawton

#97 - Mike Liut

#124 - John Anderson

#134 - Dave Tippett

#162 - Sylvain Cote

#175 - Ron Francis

#183 - Paul MacDermid

Included in packs of '89-90 Topps were the standard team sticker cards that were packaged in with many of the '80s Topps hockey sets.  The Whalers were not represented within the first 12 stickers, each of which depict one of the league's stars.  They do however, like all teams, have a team sticker in the set:

Team Stickers #25 - Hartford Whalers

So, that's a complete 1989-90 Topps Whalers team set, the first of many I'll be featuring here on Whalers Hockey Cards.  Eventually I hope to complete a Whalers master collection of every card from every year (excluding 1/1s, etc), but it's going to be a while if it ever happens at all.  In the meantime, if there's a particular team set you'd like to see leave me a comment!
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