Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cardboard immortality: A visual history of women’s hockey cards (The Classic Years)

Although the number of women’s hockey cards issued over the years is considerably low, the potential for growth is encouraging. In recent years, female players have appeared in various sets released by Upper Deck such as World of Sports and Goodwin Champions.
Credit for the initial appearance of women’s hockey players on cardboard goes to the likes of the now defunct Classic Games. In later years, other companies such as Canadian-based In the Game and Upper Deck followed suit. Classic broke ground by featuring the likes of Manon Rheaume, Cammi Granato and Erin Whitten on numerous card issues.
While Rheaume opened doors for the awareness of women’s hockey, she would also help pave the way for women to appear on hockey cards. After signing a contract with the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning, Classic Games would feature a card of her in their 1992-93 draft picks set. It would mark the first time a woman appeared on a hockey card. Despite its low value (a common factor among many cards of that era due to their high print runs), the card holds a nostalgic appeal for many collectors.
As the demand for Rheaume’s cards grew, she would be featured in sets issued by Classic for the following two seasons. Perhaps the pinnacle for Classic came when they actually were a sponsor for the 1994 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Champions held in legendary Lake Placid, New York. The catalyst for this was the fact that Manon Rheaume was between the pipes for Canada.
Following the Women’s Worlds, the 1994-95 series of Classic Hockey Cards featured cards of competitors from both Team Canada and Team USA (numbered W1-W40). While the cards were randomly inserted in packs, it was a watershed moment in the growth of the game.
Every player in that set (except for Rheaume) was featured on cardboard for the first time, making their cards what collectors call rookie cards (a player’s first appearance on a card). While many of these cards can be found through online retailers for less than a dollar each
Some of the more notable names from the Canadian contingent included Therese Brisson, Cassie Campbell, Geraldine Heaney, Angela James and Hayley Wickenheiser. Superstars from the US side featured the likes of Karyn Bye, Cammi Granato, Shelley Looney, Gretchen Ulion and Sandra Whyte.

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