It was great to see the Pittsburgh Penguins again wear the powder blues with the circular logo on the chest last night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And just like the old days from the late 1960s and early ’70s, the Penguins lost big as well, 7-3, but those powder blues had me scrambling for the old hockey card collection. Out came the O-Pee-Chee hockey card set from 1970-71 featuring players in posed positions, sometimes just standing there looking stiff. The backdrop was a waxy yellow with circular flash bulb marks for three-dimensional effect.
Bryan Watson, Jim Morrison (not from The Doors fame), smilin’ Bob Woytowich, Duane Rupp, an ancient-looking Val Fonteyne, a young Jean Pronovost, Wally Boyer, Bryan Hextall, a weathered 34-year-old Les Binkley, handsome Andy Bathgate, big-headed Wayne Hicks. They’re far from mint condition, but boy did I have fun trading them at the time. Hockey cards were the best way for fans to identify with players.
The only hockey we got on TV back then was from Toronto or Montreal Saturday night and it was a rarity to see the Penguins and their baby blues in action. For sure I didn’t appreciate the team, the players and those colors. So it’s nice to see them back again, if only in limited edition.
Wait, there are more OPC cards from 1971-72 and the powder blues look even better. This time the backdrop is poppy red and there are full year-by-year stats on the back. The big bonus in this year’s hockey card set? For sure it had to be the personal aspect, complete with a campy drawing that came to define the insider information we knew about the players. My set, dug up for the first time in 30 years, includes:
Tim Horton: Wearing full equipment and chomping on a jumbo-size doughnut and coffee, “Tim owns a chain of donut stores.”
Darryl Edestrand: Emerging from a lady’s purse, “Darryl was obtained in a cash deal.”
Les Binkley: Smiling and staring at a human-size No, 1, “Les was Penguins first player.”
Ron Schock: Standing shoulder to shoulder with identical-looking players, “Ron’s 3 brothers play hockey too!”
Roy Edwards: Standing tall in his net with a bow on his chest and holding his stick backwards, “Roy is what coaches call a ‘standup goalie.’ “
Ken Schinkel: Wearing a top hat and swatting three pucks with one hand on his stick, “Ken scored a ‘hat trick’ while shadowing Bobby Hull.”
Keith McCreary: Standing arm in arm with a smiling man wearing a ballcap and ‘coach’ emblazoned on his cardigan, “Keith’s brother is also in hockey.”
Sheldon Kannegiesser: Struggling to hold a long flagpole with an extremely long surname banner, “Sheldon has one of the longest names in the NHL.”
Greg Polis: A wry-looking dog wearing skates slaps a puck with a stick, “Greg’s dog fetches practice pucks.”
Nick Harbaruk: A hand emerges from a baby carriage waving a two-tones flag, “Nick was born in Poland.”
Keep the powder blues Pittsburgh. These cards have never been so memorable – or valuable.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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