Friday, October 2, 2015

1996-97 Upper Deck

Upper Deck. To some, the newly-crowned overlords of the hockey card market. To others, the industry standard for what a hockey card brand should be. To me, Upper Deck is the premiere brand of card in the hockey world. The base set, the Young Guns, the inserts - it has it all. Nothing, in my humble opinion, has been more iconic since 1990 than the Upper Deck sets that have graced the hobby.

Maybe with the exception of the mid-2000s, most Upper Deck base sets are absolutely superb with one of my favorites being the 1996-97 set. As much as I admired it, I never owned many of the cards. That changed a few weeks back when I stumbled upon a Series II box on eBay for $22.99. For that price, I couldn't pass it up, promptly pressed "Buy Now" and waited a little less than a week for this junky goodness to arrive at my doorstep. I decided to rip it open and now, I'd like to share some of my favorite cards from the 1996-97 Upper Deck Series II break!

One thing that I did not know prior to the box arriving is that there is a subtle difference between Series I and Series II; for Series II, the "ice" portion on the side of the card is dull while the thin area that has the name is shiny. This is reversed with Series I. Pretty neat and a great way to make the sets similar, yet differentiate them in a small, yet quirky way.

#211 - Teemu Selanne: Here it is, folks. The infamous Wild Wing jersey in all its beautiful glory! I'm an absolute sucker for teal in sports, and the Mighty Ducks pulled it off beautifully with this jersey. You may see an aesthetic disaster, but I see a modern art masterpiece.

#229 - Cory Stillman: From watching hockey for a good portion of my life, I always pretty much assumed Cory Stillman was a grizzled veteran since the moment he played his first NHL game, but even the most experienced of vets started somewhere as a baby-faced rookie! That's what we have here with a young Cory Stillman eager to leave the bench and join the game.

#234 - Ed Belfour: A base Belfour always seems like a card I can never get in a set and end up purchasing on Not to fear this time! I pulled this stellar Belfour card depicting The Eagle participating in the 1996 NHL All-Star game in Boston. Those Western Conference jerseys are a treat to see, as well!

#240 - Joe Sakic: Here is a card that says it all. Sakic and The Stanley Cup. No words necessary.

#256 - Curtis Joseph: One of the things that separates Upper Deck from the competition are their unique and amazing photographs. This is certainly the case here as we get an overheard view of CuJo and his teammates during pregame warmups.

#257, #258, #259 - Dean McAmmond, Ryan Smyth, Mike Grier: Speaking of the Oilers, there are three consecutive cards of the boys from Edmonton depicting a player celebrating a goal. Pretty cool!

#268 - Paul Coffey: Well, this is awkward. I can never get used to seeing a legend like Paul Coffey in a beautiful Hartford Whalers uniform. Granted, he only played 20 games for the Whale before being shipped out to the Flyers, but still. This is just...not right.

#291 - Todd Bertuzzi: A great shot of future superstar Todd Bertuzzi. This is another instance of a jersey so horrible that you can't help but love it. The Islanders fisherman jersey is a complete classic. In fact, the Islanders brought the logo back for their warmup jerseys for a game this past February!

#299 - Mark Messier: Mess is show here as part of some pregame ceremony honoring him scoring his 500th goal a couple of nights prior. A nice break from "in-action" shots to produce a base card that celebrates a Hall of Famer.

#331 - Al Iafrate: "The Teal Appeal" will never wear off of me. Absolutely classic shot of Mr. Iafrate here, though I don't think I've ever associated him with the San Jose Sharks.

#354 - Olaf Kolzig: What a way to wrap up our discussion on the base cards in Series II with a great shot of Kolzig's "Zilla" mask from days gone by. Close-up shots of goalie masks will never go out of style in the hockey card community, so I was happy to pull this little "gem."

#370 - Joe Thornton: There were a few insert sets in the box. The biggest one being the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence series. I got a few names you may remember and some you may not. Amongst the Thorntons, Patrick Marleaus, and Andrew Ferences, there was also a smattering of Adam Colagiacomos, Pierre-Luc Therriens, and Daniel Tetraults. Look at that Thornton mullet! He looks completely different now than he did when he was a fresh-faced rookie on the scene!

So there you have it. A brief recap of the 1996-97 Upper Deck Series II base set. A classic look from a classic company. With the exclusive license to NHL trading cards, I hope Upper Deck continues their rich tradition of bearing the industry standard.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! The Selanne, Sakic and Kolzig cards are particularly awesome. Looks like it was a fun box.