Monday, April 9, 2012

ONE SHEET, ONE SET - 1980/81 Topps

It was a pretty sweet weekend in the world of sports.  I caught my fair share of baseball (Toronto looks like they might have something in the tank this year....especially with the additional wild card spots; and 0-3 for the Yankees....nice) the Masters was awarded to Bubba Watson (in a pretty dramatic final day of competition) and the NHL is gearing up for my favorite time of year.....playoffs.

The playoffs always shoot me back to a time when I was a kid.  Elementary school and a feeling of invincibility.  The Flames had just come to town and hockey fever was truly in the air.  Back then though, it was the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers showcasing their dominance.  Oh how I miss those days.

So I pulled a set out of the binder to show off and bring a smile to my face.  But I bonus points for nostalgia.

1980/81 Topps

The 80/81 season was my introduction to hockey cards.  Buying packs, trading singles, learning more about the players in the league.  Building that 396 card set was a daunting task (after all....I was 7) but it was fun to hunt them all down.

At the time, I had never heard of Topps.  To me, it was OPC all the way (I thought that was all that existed).  It was years later that I learned down in the States, they went with the Topps brand name.

Even longer after that, I found out that the Topps product had a neat variation to the 80/81 release.  In addition to being a smaller sized set (264 cards), the player names were covered up.

That's right.  Like a 'Scratch 'n' Win' ticket, you had to take a penny and scrape the black off the puck to reveal the player's name.  As much as I think that's odd....I find it pretty cool.  Especially when you find some singles (just a year ago in a quarter bin) that are unscratched.

But let's take a look at the design of this iconic (in my eyes) set.

It's basic.  Real basic.

A colored border coupled with the team nickname along the bottom leads your eye to the puck which has the player's name in it.  Hey, I just realized....I have no idea who this guy is.  The position sits just underneath.  It's weird not seeing any french on the card (I'm so used to that).

Other than that, you have a photo.  Unfortunately, in the late-70's, early-80's there was an abundance of player shots consisting of warmup laps, pre-faceoff stances and 'in between whistle' "action".  Boring!

I'm amazed I hung on to this ridiculous hobby with that kind of first impression.

At least the back of the card had some appeal.  The good ol' green on yellow looks as good as ever.  Interesting note....I still have no idea who this guy is.  There are a lot of cards like this.  I guess they wanted you to scratch the puck to reveal the name.

I really like the design and feel of the back.  My eye is immediately drawn to the card number inside the puck.  I'm a sucker for stuff like that.  But there's also a ton of information including personal bio, complete stats and even a tidbit or two.  I really liked the comic as a kid and still enjoy them (that nostalgia thing is popping back into play).  I prefer them when they are specific to the player though.

Very little in the way of logos and 'mice type'.  Now that I think of it, a logo on the front would have been nice.

I do remember one beef  about the back of these cards as a kid.  The font style they used wasn't consistent throughout the entire set (noticed specifically on the team nickname and position).  It's always bugged me.

Overall, this set is simple and boring to look at.....but I love it.  I love seeing the Messier rookie from this year (yes....I said it).  I love seeing the Bourque rookie from this year.  I love seeing the Gartner rookie (underrated!!!!) from this year.  I love seeing the Gretzky All-Star card where he's chewing his glove, his team leader card and all of the league leader cards.  I love the card celebrating Billy Smith scoring a goal.  I love the Liut, the Potvin and even a no-name like Blaine Stoughton (ok, he's not really a no-name....but I'm guessing not too many of you know who I'm talking about).

There is a lot I like about the set.... just not the design........ and photo selection.

Definitely a product for the nostalgic ones or those of you building vintage sets.  Otherwise, you're best off picking up singles.  And when you do pick them up, you'll have to decide - to scratch or not to scratch.

1.5 out of 5

(bonus points to those of you who know the player in the single card's a hint - he's still in the league).


  1. Cool article! As you mention, this was the first year for the Calgary Flames...what did Topps do for the Flames cards? OPC just coloured over the Atlanta logo as I discussed in this post. Anyway, there were a couple of important Flames rookies (Nilsson, Reinhart) in this set, so I guess there is a lot I like about this set too.

    As for the "mystery Colorado Rockie," I originally thought it was Ron Delorme, but I wasn't sure of his current NHL job. So, I had to pull out the #19 card from my OPC set to figure out who he is; no bonus points for me. I guess I just didn't recognize him without his moustache!

    1. Not sure what Topps did. I would assume the same. But with the reduced checklist, maybe they got rid of players that had the wider shots (I could find the Nilsson, Reinhart, Bouchard and Russell and they are all head shots). But I remember my Pekka Rautakallio and Willi Plett cards looking weird at the time.

      Good times. Great times.

      And another reason why I loved the set.

  2. Blaine Stoughton: Ye of two 50+ goal seasons!

    One of the reasons I dig this set is that has rookies of some of the Miracle on Ice guys; maybe not a huge deal to my neighbours in the North, but having a Jim Craig rookie is about as good as it gets!

    1. Nicely done. I always liked him and thought he would have had more hobby love.

      Alas, no such luck.

    2. And an excellent note on the US Olympic team guys. Yet another plus.

  3. I believe that is Joel Quenneville...

    I totally agree that the Gartner rookie in both sets is underrated and I love the look on his face. Just a cool card in general.

    I just picked up a complete 80/81 set unscratched which allowed me to take one of my "doubles" and scratch the black ink off...Not as satisfying as I hoped. But at least there isn't black in on the Checklists! :P

  4. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner. Nicely done.

    I like the team leader cards. Lots of scratchability there.

    It is a fun set.

  5. I was in Calgary that year, too - Grade 5. It was a fun time, for sure. Did a player come to your school? We had Brad Marsh.

    First hockey set I ever collected seriously was also '80-81 OPC. I never did pick up any Topps from that season.

    1. No, we didn't have any Flames players come to my school.

      I do remember Lanny McDonald coming to my school when I lived in Medicine Hat (in 1981 or 82). He was playing with the Colorado Rockies at the time and it was just before his move to the Flames.

      I ended up getting an autographed postcard from him. I thought that was pretty cool.

    2. I guess you had to have been in Calgary itself. Marsh had had a pretty nasty own goal a number of days before the visit, so you can be sure he got asked about it. :)

      A visit from Lanny would have been pretty cool.

      That sort of thing never happened when we moved East.