It’s been called everything from a fad to a hobby to a lifelong passion but hockey cards can leave a lasting impact on collectors.
For some, there’s nothing better than opening the newest pack of hockey cards. Others haven’t experienced that feeling since they were a kid. From displayed binders updated monthly to shoeboxes in corners of closets untouched for years, everyone’s hockey card collection is different but each hold a unique meaning.
Ken Reid, co-anchor of Sportsnet Central, has been a huge sports fan and hockey card collector since he was a kid growing up in Nova Scotia. After accumulating 40,000 hockey cards and filling a closet at home in Toronto, he became interested in the stories behind those hockey cards. The result was his first book Hockey Card Stories where he speaks to a number of former players on everything from the photo used on their cards to the facts on the back of them. His newest book, One Night Only, brings the stories of 39 men who lived the hockey dream — only to see it fade away almost as quickly as it arrived.
He reminisced on the Breakaway Podcast about being an avid collector growing up, a passion that was reignited as he grew older and settled down in Toronto.
“I think my key was I kept the ones from when I was a kid. They were never thrown away,” said Reid. “When I was a kid, it coincided with the hockey card and baseball card boom. I was a dealer, I used to set up at shows. My parents never threw them away when I left home. As I criss-crossed the country, I always kept them at my dad’s house.”
Reid got his collection back once he established himself on Sportsnet. He’s slowly come back to the hobby and enjoys the nostalgia of it all. The trips down memory lane are highlighted by his favourite card, the 1979-80 Wayne Gretzky rookie card. His mom came back from an auction in 1987 with a box of hockey cards that included the Gretzky card and Reid remembers fighting with his brother over who got to keep it. They still share the card today.
“It’s just a special card because Wayne Gretzky was one of my favourite players and the memory that that card created for my brother and I. We will laugh about it.”
A Gretzky rookie card may be on the Mount Rushmore for hockey collectors but Reid admits it’s not the most expensive card he owns. That doesn’t matter to him.
“For me, it’s not the value. It’s the sentimental story behind it and that Gretzky card for me has a great story behind it and it’s a card I’ve just always wanted.”
The cards take Reid back to his childhood and has no intention of selling them. He will continue to grow his collection but admits that the cards aren’t the same as they are today. His favourite era of cards was from 1980-85.
“They are little pieces of cardboard history for me. We grew up without the internet and if we wanted to know what a guy looked like, chances are we could only know through the hockey card and we only knew the stats from the back of the hockey card.”
“I remember as a kid getting cards of Jack Valiquette from the Colorado Rockies and I would just be amazed at these Colorado Rockies uniforms because we never saw the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night. I didn’t know what they looked like. I just thought this was this amazing team from this far off place.”
From bad hairstyles to players wearing jerseys of trades that never ended up happening, there are plenty of moments in history that are etched permanently in hockey card history.
For those who come across an old collection, Reid advises to try to keep the condition of the cards as good as possible and keep them in a dry space. It’s a great piece of history to share with kids.
“There’s no one rule on what you should do with it. You should do with it whatever you want. If it means a lot to you there’s absolutely nothing wrong with holding onto it and collecting it.”
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