A follow-up to the 2014 national bestseller Hockey Card Stories, Ken Reid’s new offering presents 59 more stories about your favorite hockey cards from the players themselves. Hockey Card Stories 2 will take you all the way back to the 1960s and right up to the Hockey Card Boom of the 1990s. How did Eric Lindros handle being at the center of the 1990s rookie-card craze? Ever wonder why one tough guy’s Upper Deck card looks more like a High School yearbook picture than a sports card? Of course, once again, there are glorious mullets, errors, and broken noses. There’s even the story of how a rhinoceros and a Hall of Famer ended up on a card together. And as a special bonus, Ken Reid reveals the story behind the chase for his greatest hockey card.
About the Author
Ken Reid is co-host of the prime-time edition of Sportsnet Central. He is also the author of three previous books the national bestsellers Hockey Card Stories and One Night Only, and Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man. A small-town boy from Pictou, Nova Scotia, he currently lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.
Read an Excerpt
STRIKE A POSE
1991–92 Upper Deck #62
"I hate that friggin' card." Those are Bob McGill's first words to me when I get him on the phone. I'd left him a voicemail about five minutes earlier, mentioning that I wanted to chat about his 1991–92 Upper Deck card. Apparently, I didn't have to leave such a detailed message: "I knew which one you wanted to talk about as soon as you called."
I first met McGill in the summer of 1985, and I'll never forget it. When I was a kid, the NHL seemed like a far-off place, but on one glorious day a real-life NHLer appeared right in front of me. It was a typical summer day. As per usual, I was at the Pictou Golf Club, a little nine-hole overlooking the harbour. My brother and I were sitting in the clubhouse when our friend Kris Cooper ran in. He was holding a Maple Leafs postcard in his hand and screaming frantically. We calmed him down enough for him to tell us that Bob McGill, a Toronto Maple Leaf, was on the first tee. Kris had just gotten McGill's autograph. We sprinted out of the clubhouse. It was true. A large man with a Toronto Maple Leafs golf bag was about to tee off.
After McGill crushed the ball, we all headed his way. He was as friendly as he was big. He reached into his golf bag and pulled out a few more of his Maple Leafs postcards and signed them for us. McGill was married to a woman from our area. That postcard was soon tacked onto my bedroom wall. I still have it. From that day on, I was a Bob McGill fan.
I got my hands on his Maple Leafs rookie card but soon discovered a problem. That was the only Bob McGill card out there. Throughout his days with the Leafs, Bob McGill was in hockey-card purgatory: "I played seven years in the Leafs' organization, over 300 games, and I have one card as a Maple Leaf. You got your rookie card, but if you weren't one of the top seven or eight players on a team, you never got another card."
But McGill's patience finally paid off. When the card boom hit, his cards were everywhere. He's quite fond of his 1990–91 Pro Set: "It looks like I've got the puck on my stick and I'm coming around the net. I've got the head up; it's a nice shot." But as we both know, that's not what I really want to talk about.
I need to know about the pure beauty that is the No. 62 card in Upper Deck's 1991–92 offering. We're talking hockey hair, a half grin, and a high school photo half-turn pose. For some reason, the lighting even made Bob's hair look orange. So, yes, this card is wonderful — to me at least. The photo was taken at a hotel while McGill and several of his new teammates were in San Jose for a press conference promoting the NHL's newest team. "They were taking all kinds of different shots. From that same day, I think I got two or three other cards that are regular, straight-on shots. There were a couple of different background colours. It's kind of weird that my hair looks orange on the Upper Deck and on other cards it doesn't. I always get grief whenever anybody sees that card. I hate that card."
Grief? How could anyone give McGill grief over this gem?
"Someone will bring it out and go, 'Oh my God! You had orange hair! Did you dye your hair? Oh my God — you had hair!' Whatever."
So let's do a deep dive here. For the record, McGill's hair was never orange. The mullet — or as my brother and cousin Brandon and I used to call it, the Number 7 haircut — was all Bob. He wasn't alone. Circa 1990, this look was pretty much a basic requirement for an elite hockey player. "That's pretty tame right there. I had way longer hair than that before and it was shorter on the top ... I had the whale tail going. It was hockey hair. Everybody had it, especially if you were a tough guy. To have the hair flowing was always kind of cool."
Now on to the pose: once again, McGill is not alone. A quick look at my high school yearbook reminds me that the pose was common at the time. The back turned, the head tilted — it happened. A very professional photographer had to be working with McGill in that San Jose hotel room, right? "They had guys doing all different kinds of poses. Guys were turning or standing with the stick held in front of them. They had guys with their stick up over their shoulder and their arms up over the top. It was one of those things where you get led into a room and they start taking all kinds of different shots.
"Craig Coxe had a stick over his head, with his wristwatch on. They had a pair of shoulder pads for us and a Sharks jersey for us to wear with number 91, because that was the first year. So that's what that was all about. I have a shirt and tie on underneath. So it's kind of weird."
Weird but fantastic — kind of like hockey in San Jose in the fall of 1991. I asked Bob how wild that first Sharks training camp was. San Jose loaded up with a lot of tough guys for their expansion season: guys like Bob, Craig Coxe, a young Jeff Odgers, and, of course, Link Gaetz. I thought it must have been a gong show. Wrong. "There wasn't really any fighting in camp. The coaches came in and said we don't really want any fighting going on. Some of the guys got pissed because that's how they thought they were going to make the team ... We had some toughness, though, that's for damn sure."
Like most expansion teams, McGill's Sharks struggled. McGill had spent his previous four seasons in Chicago. The Blackhawks were a good team — they won the Presidents' Trophy under Mike Keenan in 1990–91. A few short months later, Bob McGill was a Shark, and it was so long, Chicago Stadium, hello, Cow Palace; so long, Iron Mike, hello, George Kingston. "I just finished playing for Mike Keenan for three years, and the first words that came out of Mike Keenan's mouth on day one of training camp were 'You think you know what hard work is? You have no idea what hard work is.' And he was right. I went to San Jose and it was a country club; it was a joke. Was Keenan an asshole sometimes? Sure, he was. But the bottom line was I wanted to win a Stanley Cup. And there was a lot of winning when I played for Mike Keenan. He was the best coach I ever played for. And then you go to San Jose, and the coach never got mad. He never swore. He used to come in and say, 'I don't get mad. I just want to get better.' He never yelled at anybody."
The guy who did get mad in San Jose was Bob McGill. It seems he took a little bit of that Mike Keenan fire to Northern California. One night in Toronto, Bob let loose. "Suddenly, you're 30 games in and it's the same guy making the same mistake over and over, and Kingston never got mad, never benched the guy. I snapped on the coaches. We were playing the Leafs, and the Leafs were shitty. And, remember, we were playing my old team. Well, we had a screw-around practice the day of the game. We used to do this thing where if you shoot right and I shoot left, we switch sticks, and you have a little game, where everyone is really awkward, to warm up. We did it at the morning skate the day of the game! What? Anyway, we lose and the coach came in and it was the same old thing. We'd just lost something like 11 in a row and it's 'Okay guys, we tried.'"
The guy with the grin on his 1991–92 Upper Deck wasn't smiling anymore. The San Jose honeymoon was about to come to an end. "I just had it. I still had all my gear on and I stood up and I threw my helmet on the ground, and I said, 'This is f@#$ing bullshit. We lose to that f@#$ing horseshit Leafs team?! We have a f@#$-around practice and so we f@#$ around in the game!' I went on for about a minute and a half, and then I just sat down."
The coaches left the room in silence. McGill had to apologize to the coaching staff: "I didn't want to apologize because what I said was the truth."
McGill was scratched for the next game. He was traded at the deadline a few months later. His tenure in San Jose lasted 62 games. "Needless to say, it was a great experience, to see what being part of an expansion team was like. The owner, George Gund, was unbelievable. He treated us great. At Christmas, he took the whole team — wives, girlfriends, and your kids if you wanted — to Sun Valley, Idaho, for New Year's. Gund chartered a plane and flew everybody there. We were there for three nights. We practiced every day, we partied. He treated us great. But they had the wrong people in place to start that franchise. You had a coach who never coached in the NHL before. It was a big mistake."
The San Jose Sharks have come a long way since Bob McGill and a few other players posed for those cheesy photos in the summer of 1991. The Sharks won 17 games as an expansion team. They are now one of the premier franchises in the National Hockey League, proof that hockey can work almost anywhere.
As for McGill, he makes his living as a broadcaster at Leafs TV in Toronto. The mullet is gone — in fact, all of his hair is gone — but the card lives on. Not that long ago, someone gave him a case of that particular San Jose card. McGill just shrugs it off. He ends our conversation with the familiar refrain of more than a few NHLers: "I wish I could find them all and burn them."
Here's hoping he doesn't.
Trevor and Jamie Linden
1992–93 Upper Deck Bloodlines #38
"That was at Kits Beach in Vancouver in the summertime," says Jamie Linden. "We had a bunch of different stuff on. We had Rollerblades. We had pictures taken where we were on Harleys. We did a whole bunch. Trev and I were like, 'We're not really Harley guys. We don't own Harleys so maybe that's not really appropriate.' We ended up picking that picture. It's a really great picture of my ass."
Big ass and all, Jamie Linden hit the NHL card market before he ever earned a spot on an NHL roster. A lot of people think he's wearing a Montreal Canadiens sweater when they see the card, but it's his Spokane jersey. "They had to block out the junior hockey crest because of their licensing agreement," he explains.
"I'm no card expert but Upper Deck was it at the time. They sent us Upper Deck jackets that were kind of cool. They got into doing deals with junior hockey players. Guys were getting some pretty good money on card deals. When you're 17 or 18 years old, it's a big deal."
When his card hit the market, Jamie Linden was trying to cut it in junior while his brother was a star in the NHL. Jamie was a high-ranked prospect but a bout of mono knocked him out for a large part of his draft season. No one picked him and he ended up playing as an overager in the WHL. He got an invite to the expansion Florida Panthers training camp in 1993. "I picked the Panthers because they were an expansion team. I thought that would be a better opportunity. I had a really good training camp and signed a three-year contract. I went to the minors and spent that whole year there."
That was year one of the deal; year two was something the kid on the card never envisioned. The NHL locked out its players, but Roger Neilson, the Panthers head coach, made Linden a promise. "I got called in. They said, 'We don't want to lock you out.' I was 22; they wanted me to play. They said, 'You're going to go down and play. And when the season resumes, we'll call you up.' And they did."
On February 9, 1995, Jamie Linden played his first NHL game at the Spectrum, but it was not the dream he envisioned. "It was just brutal," he says.
"I was skating around and they were playing 'Welcome to the Jungle' for warm-up ... great. Dave Brown was skating by and his ass was like four feet wide. I'm thinking, Oh my God. This is the biggest thing I have ever seen on skates — the ice is breaking! And Philadelphia had a good team — Lindros and LeClair."
So if the Panthers and Linden were going to run away with a win at the Spectrum, they'd likely need a big night from their goaltender, John Vanbiesbrouck. "So I go in and take an easy slap shot from between the blue line and the top of the circle, and I hit John Vanbiesbrouck right in the nuts. And he spent the whole warm-up bent over in the corner. I hit him right in the balls. I felt so bad."
That groin shot to Vanbiesbrouck was foreshadowing. Pain would be the theme of the night for Jamie, and for the first three games of his NHL career. "My first shift in the Spectrum, I got all my bottom teeth knocked out. I spent a period and a half getting stitched up. My bottom lip was hacked to pieces.
"I ended up in the dressing room and I'm thinking, This is going to be easy. This is the NHL." But that Spokane jersey Jamie is wearing on the card would have fit right in with the medical room that night in Philly. Jamie Linden may have been in the NHL, but he was in for the junior treatment. "I'm in the Spectrum in a little room. There's a light hanging from a wire, and the doctor comes in with a suture kit, the portable ones like in junior hockey. There's no assistant. There's no nothing. The doctor is making the loops and I'm holding his forceps while he's clipping off the strings. I'm thinking, This is the NHL? This is bizarre. I thought they'd have a really fancy medical room. It's changed now, but back then it was just like junior hockey."
That was game one. Next up, game number two, two nights later, at home against Hartford. "I got hit and I ripped open my top lip. In two games, I had 130 stitches in my mouth."
Game three was the very next night. The New Jersey Devils were in Florida to take on the Panthers. The Panthers were kind enough to outfit Linden with a football face shield to protect his mouth. It didn't protect the rest of his face however. "I was on a line with Billy Lindsay and Rob Niedermayer. We hit a guy behind the net, my own guy's elbow came up and cut me over the eye. In three games, I had my bottom teeth knocked out, my lips looked like footballs, and I got cut over the eye."
This may be the toughest three game stretch to start an NHL career ever. Jamie was on the trainer's table for the third game in a row. "Roger Neilson had seen enough. I was sitting in the dressing room, and I could look down and see my lips. That's how massively swollen they were. Roger looks at me and says, 'You're going to take some time off.'"
Linden took some time off but eventually came back and played. After his return to the lineup, the Panthers told Linden he was staying with the team for the rest of the season. All he had to do was go back to Cincinnati, where the minor-league team was, pack his stuff, and return to Miami. But before he was able to return to Miami, he got a call. "They said, 'Look we're going to call up David Tomlinson for Stu Barnes,' because Stu had a bad eye injury. They wanted me to play that night in Tomlinson's place and go to Miami the next day. So I played ... and I blew my knee out." Jamie's knee was dangling from his leg. He had to have reconstructive surgery and spent months rehabbing.
He never played in the NHL again.
"This is where Trev and I are polar opposites. My brother was the current NHL ironman at that time. The crazy part about it was when I blew my knee out, Trev got hurt the same night. The whole thing was really challenging. I was 22. I came back when I was 23. I struggled with the knee reconstruction. I was also in the last year of my contract. And by the next year, the team's new draft picks were starting to mature. I'm sure management was sitting there, going, 'Well, we're not going to invest time in a 24-year-old when we got 19- and 20-year-olds.' You become an old man pretty quickly."
Jamie Linden eventually retired at 27. He now runs a construction company in Vancouver that is responsible for building massive homes. We're talking 30,000 square feet. This card and other old photos are just a reminder of a life that was. "Trev and I went to a Florida Georgia Line concert at GM Place, and we were walking through the building and there are so many old photos. I see the ones of Trev, and they look old now. I remember as a kid going in there when Trev was playing and you would see old photos and now that's us.
"I have some friends that say, 'Hey, I came across your hockey card. You're standing backwards with your ass in the air.' I always say, 'Well, you know who picked that photo? Trev.' And when people ask me, 'How long did you play in the NHL?' I say, 'Long enough to get a hockey card.'"
1992–93 Upper Deck #625
In the early months of 1992, I dug through my boxes of Upper Deck cards looking for card number 448. When I had ripped open my Upper Deck packs a few months earlier, I had set aside the usual suspects: Gretzky, Lemieux, Selanne. But, like thousands of other collectors, I'm sure, I found myself going back through my cards looking for number 448: Gilbert Dionne's rookie card. It was the hottest thing going at the Highland Square Mall flea market every Sunday morning; his cards were being purchased at a remarkable rate. And why wouldn't they be? Dionne came out of nowhere and was a scoring machine for the Montreal Canadiens.
"You got Burnsy [Pat Burns] behind the bench, and it just keeps you on your toes. I think I just kept it really simple," says Dionne. "Thanks to injuries, I mean, Mike McPhee — Spuds — would tell me I cost him his job because I came up and scored 20 goals, and Spuds couldn't get back in the lineup. I was playing with guys who told me, 'Hey, just keep it simple. Get to the net, put your stick on the ice.' So I did. Things were flowing. Shayne Corson and Mike Keane just couldn't believe it. They said, 'Holy shit. Everything you touch goes in!'"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Hockey Card Stories 2"
Copyright © 2018 Ken Reid.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
- Foreword by Sidney Crosby
- Foreword by Chris Carlin
- Chapter One: STRIKE A POSE
- Bob McGill: 1991–92 Upper Deck #62
- Trevor and Jamie Linden: 1992–93 Upper Deck Bloodlines #38
- Gilbert Dionne: 1992–93 Upper Deck #625
- Tod Hartje: 1991–92 Upper Deck #568
- Brent Gretzky: 1992–93 Upper Deck Bloodlines #37
- Gino and Paul Cavallini: 1991–92 Upper Deck Bloodlines #646
- Darren Rumble: 1992–93 Upper Deck #110
- Chapter Two: MAKING IT LOOK MEAN
- Cam Russell: 1989–90 ProCards #71
- Willi Plett: 1977–78 O-Pee-Chee #17
- Kerry Toporowski: 1991–92 Ultimate Draft Picks #48
- Troy Mallette: 1991–92 Upper Deck #326
- Chapter Three: EXPRESS YOURSELF
- Ken Sabourin: 1991–92 Upper Deck #417
- Doug Zmolek: 1992–93 Upper Deck #509
- Hubie McDonough: 1991–92 Upper Deck #138
- Tom Fergus: 1985–86 O-Pee-Chee #113
- Chapter Four: IT WAS IN AT THE TIME
- Garth Butcher: 1991–92 Topps Stadium Club #223
- Mark Napier: 1984–85 O-Pee-Chee #105
- Wilf Paiement: 1981–82 O-Pee-Chee #306
- Tom Tilley: 1990–91 O-Pee-Chee #498
- Al Iafrate: 1993–94 Upper Deck McDonald’s #16
- Chapter Five: YEAH, I HAD A CARD
- Jamie Matthews: 1991–92 Upper Deck #76
- Brent Tully: 1992–93 Upper Deck #592
- Dave Gagnon: 1991–92 Score #277
- Dean Kolstad: 1991–92 O-Pee-Chee 4s
- Mark Laforest: 1990–91 Upper Deck #81
- Chapter Six: THE 1970s
- Garry Unger: 1973–74 O-Pee-Chee #15
- Ron Plumb: 1979–80 O-Pee-Chee #328
- 1978–79 Assists Leaders: 1979–80 O-Pee-Chee #2
- 1975–76 Team Leaders Washington Capitals: 1976–77 O-Pee-Chee #396
- Blake Dunlop: 1974–75 O-Pee-Chee #308
- Doug Grant: 1974–75 O-Pee-Chee #347
- Chapter Seven: AIRBRUSH
- Rick Vaive: 1980–81 O-Pee-Chee #242
- Ken Solheim: 1983–84 O-Pee-Chee #131
- Harold Snepsts: 1984–85 O-Pee-Chee #108
- Gary Nylund: 1986–87 O-Pee-Chee #243
- Randy Cunneyworth: 1989–90 O-Pee-Chee #63
- Paul Harrison: 1978–79 O-Pee-Chee #123
- Chapter Eight: ROOKIE CARDS
- Kris Draper: 1990–91 Score #404
- Claude Vilgrain: 1990–91 Upper Deck #250
- Brad May: 1990–91 Score #427
- Lou Franceschetti: 1990–91 Upper Deck #396
- Lowell MacDonald: 1968–69 O-Pee-Chee #42
- Chapter Nine: ERRORS
- Don Nachbaur: 1981–82 O-Pee-Chee #138
- Joel Otto: 1986–87 O-Pee-Chee #247
- Highlights ’89: 1989–90 O-Pee-Chee #326
- Richard Brodeur: 1987–88 O-Pee-Chee #257
- Chapter Ten: GOALIES
- Olaf Kölzig: 1995–96 Pinnacle #134
- Darren Pang: 1988–89 O-Pee-Chee #51
- Tim Bernhardt: 1985–86 O-Pee-Chee #166
- Doug Favell: 1977–78 O-Pee-Chee #370
- Chapter Eleven: HALL OF FAMERS
- Eric Lindros: 1990–91 Score #440
- Doug Gilmour: 1992–93 Upper Deck #639
- Brett Hull: 1991–92 Upper Deck #464
- Paul Coffey: 1982–83 O-Pee-Chee In Action #102
- Mike Modano: 1990–91 Score #313
- Dino Ciccarelli: 1998–99 UD Choice #93
- Gerry Cheevers: 1974–75 O-Pee Chee WHA #30
- Guy Lafleur: 1975–76 O-Pee-Chee #126
- Wayne Gretzky: 1979–80 O-Pee-Chee #18
- About the Author