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Wolf Pack Fans Have a New Set to Chase

by Paul Angilly
May 18, 2004

With Pacific Trading Cards’ new 2004 Pacific Prospects Hockey set out this month, fans of the Hartford Wolf Pack and other AHL teams will have a chance to collect cards of their favorite players in their Wolf Pack uniforms.

There are five players in the new set pictured with Hartford: Jason LaBarbera, Dominic Moore, Fedor Tyutin, Layne Ulmer and Chad Wiseman. Also, there are two players in the set that are pictured with other AHL teams, but who are now playing for the Wolf Pack as they continue their run through the playoffs: Jozef Balej and Stephen Valiquette.

Unfortunately, there’s also some disappointing news for Wolf Pack fans. Although autographed and game-worn jersey cards are a featured part of the Pacific Prospects set, no Hartford players are pictured on any insert cards (except for a parallel gold variation set).

For players like Tyutin and Ulmer, the Pacific Prospects set will mark the first time they have been featured on a nationally released trading card (although Tyutin was pictured with the Wolf Pack in this season’s limited-distribution Choice AHL Top Prospects set).

Other players who have already played at least one game in the NHL, such as LaBarbera, are already familiar names to collectors. For instance, LaBarbera’s first nationally-issued cards were in the 1998 Bowman CHL Prospects set. His rookie cards came in various 2000-01 NHL sets and he has continued to have NHL cards issued through this season.

Boxes of the 2004 Pacific Prospects set are selling in the $60 to $70 range. There are five cards per pack and 24 packs per box. Gold variation parallel cards are found in every other pack. There are also autographed cards from six players (Kari Lehtonen, Pascal Leclaire, Ari Ahonen, Ryan Miller, David LeNeveu and Wade Dubielewivz), with 500 serial-numbered copies each, inserted approximately one in every two boxes.

Six AHL All-Star game-used jersey cards are also randomly inserted, with one in every box. Players included are Dubielewicz, Jeff Hamilton, Tomas Plekanec, Denis Shvidki, LeNeveu and Matt Murley. Other insert sets are "Crease Lightning," an eight-card goalie set inserted 1:10 packs, and "Destined for Greatness," featuring 10 top offensive stars inserted 1:5 packs.

The last time that AHL players were featured in a nationally-distributed hockey card set, the Hartford Whalers were still playing at the Civic Center. During the 1995-96 season, Collector’s Edge -- a now-defunct company known primarily for its NFL football card issues during the 1990s -- issued a pair of sets depicting top prospects from both the AHL and the now-defunct International Hockey League, which had several of its teams join the AHL beginning in 2001-02.

The first and best of those issues was the 200-card Edge Ice set, which included about five players per team and had regionally-issued parallel inserts. Another Edge Ice "Future Legends" set was issued shortly after the season, including 50 cards in the base set. Collector’s Edge also issued several individual team sets during the 1995-96 season.

Classic Games dabbled in the minor league hockey market from the 1992-93 through 1995-96 seasons. In addition to its annual hockey draft picks sets, Classic introduced a 150-card Pro Prospects set (including AHL and IHL players) in 1992-93, then followed that with a 250-card Pro Prospects set in 1993-94 and a 100-card Images set in 1994-95. The company also issued some team sets in 1994-95 and included minor league hockey players in several other sets through 1995-96, including its 4-Sport and 5-Sport issues and its various multi-sport Visions and Assets sets.

While Classic issued its first hockey draft picks set in 1991, its was attractive young female goaltender Manon Rheaume that would eventually spur on sales of the company’s minor league products.

After being invited to try out for the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, Rheaume was included almost as an afterthought in Classic’s 1992 draft picks set. But when Rheaume impressed enough to earn a minor league contract to play in the IHL, her card became by far the most valuable single from that set and Classic sought to take advantage of that intense demand with its first Pro Prospects set, issued in early 1993.

Of the 150 cards in that set, eight pictured Rheaume -- a regular card and a seven-card subset detailing key moments in her career. She was also featured on an autographed card and two other limited insert cards.

Rheaume and other women’s hockey players continued to be featured prominently in Classic’s hockey sets and multi-sport issues through the mid-1990s. Classic even included a 40-card "Women of Hockey" insert set with its 1994 draft issue, featuring members of the USA and Canadian women’s national teams.

Even today, despite the presence of several prominent players who went on to successful NHL careers, Rheaume’s cards remain the most valuable and actively traded singles from just about every base set or insert set in which she appears.

Perhaps the "Golden Age" of minor league hockey card collecting was from the 1988-89 through 1991-92 seasons, when ProCards issued large series of team sets for both the AHL and IHL. The company made 14 AHL and five IHL team sets in 1988-89; 14 AHL and nine IHL team sets in 1989-90; 15 AHL and 11 IHL sets in 1990-91; and 15 AHL, 10 IHL and one Colonial League team set in 1991-92.

Many other companies have produced cards for minor league hockey teams over the years, including such names as Split Second, Roox, TCMA and Choice.

The Hartford Wolf Pack have issued their own card sets through their Kids’ Club each year since they moved to Connecticut in 1997-98. Those sets have proven to be extremely hard to find unless you have children that actually join the club.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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