Monday, October 3, 2011

In Celebration of the Hockey Season

Here's a neat set I was just writing about as part of my gig with the Cardboard Connections Website:

This is the only hockey set Topps issued in its larger-size format. The set was released in 1954-'55 and consisted of 60 cards. Due to territorial issues and the presence of another company issuing hockey cards in Canada (Parkhurst), the set contained only players from the four NHL teams them playing their home games in the United States: the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers.

The backs reflect the American origin of the teams:

The backs are printed in red and blue ink on a white card stock. One thing that may seem odd to long-time collectors is the lack of any French translation, unusual for many sets of the pre-O-Pee-Chee era.

After this set, Topps stepped back from the hockey card market for two years, opting instead to watch the market and learn from the competition. In the meantime, Parkhurst issued a set in 1955-'56 that utilized a front design that resembled what Topps had featured in this set.


  1. What made that Rollins MVP so interesting in '54 was that he had set a record for most losses in a single season (46, I think, since surpassed by Gary Smith of the Seals with 47). Chicago was that bad.

    I'm not sure how it worked precisely in '54-55, but the battle for the next nine seasons would be over licensing. This was the last time you'd ever see any of the teams represented in two sets.

    In baseball, the fight was at the player level as players signed individual contracts with the companies. In hockey, the rights were secured by team. Parkhurst would never make another card of anyone from Chicago, Boston or New York, and they wouldn't make another Red Wing until 1960-61, when they snatched the rights back from Topps. (That was a coup.)

    In 1955-56, the Parkhurst set contained only Toronto and Montreal, the teams they still had the rights to. Topps sat the season out. In '56-57, there were no cards at all. It has never been clear why, but licensing squabbles probably played a part.

    In '57-58, both companies were back and all teams were again represented. There had been no cards of American-based players since '54-55.

    After the '59-60 season, Parkhurst was in a far better position in hockey. They had Montreal, Toronto and Detroit, three of the top four teams. Topps had Chicago, New York and Boston. Chicago was the only team worth mentioning. All the star power (other than Hull and Mikita) was in the Parkhurst sets.

    All of a sudden, after '63-64, Parkhurst simply walked away from the whole thing and ceded the field to Topps. Parkhurst was into a number of other fields (margarine, for one) and it's thought they made more profit with less effort in those other areas.

    All Topps sets from '57-58 onwards had French on the backs and were distributed in Canada by OPC. After '60-61, OPC took over the actual printing as well. Only the name was Topps. I don't think there was a card aimed at the US market until Topps made a US-specific test set in 1966-67. In '68-69, you finally saw the distinct Topps/OPC lines.

  2. Somehow, I knew you'd add a comment on this one. Thanks for the info, I enjoy when I can learn something new. I'm planning of tossing some more hockey entries out in the future, feel free to let me know if I've gotten it right or failed miserably.

  3. They're always fine. I just get excited. :)