Fresh off a year that featured the debut maybe the greatest hockey player ever — Wayne Gretzky — the 1980s had little hope of delivering the same type of impact players that the 1970s had. Nevertheless, as these 10 great hockey rookie cards of the 1980s demonstrate, the new decade more than held its own in terms of breakout talent.
1980-81 O-Pee-Chee Ray Bourque (#140)
Talk about going out on top! After 21 years with the Boston Bruins with no hardware to show for his efforts, defenseman Ray Bourque moved to the Colorado Avalanche in 1999 and finished the next season, and his career, with a Stanley Cup championship. A perennial All-Star and 1980 rookie of the year, Bourque holds the all-time records for goals, assists, and points by a defenseman.
Bourque’s rookie card can be found in the 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee set with nicer examples selling for $30 and up. Since OPC cards were bought by Canadian collectors, many will be graded by KSA.
1980-81 O-Pee-Chee Mark Messier (#289)
Left winger Mark Messier may never have gained quite the public acclaim of his teammate with the Edmonton Oilers (Gretzky), but the Hall of Famer was an indispensable member of six Stanley Cup champions. Five of those trophies came with Edmonton, but the last one, with the New York Rangers in 1994, elevated Messier to legend status and earned him the nickname of “The Messiah”.
Messier’s rookie card is also part of the 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee set and is also fairly easy to find on eBay with prices ranging from $30 for near mint to a few hundred for graded, mint copies.
1981-82 O-Pee-Chee Jari Kurri (#107)
A six-time All-Star, right winger Jari Kurri was another member of the vaunted Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s, picking up five Stanley Cup championships. When he hung up his skates after a 19-year career, the native of Finland held most offensive records for European-raised players, though Jaromir Jagr has since eclipsed him in that regard. Kurri also represented his home nation in international competition for two decades.
His 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee rookie card sells for around $30 in ungraded, near mint condition up to around $300 for a mint, graded example.
1981-82 O-Pee-Chee Paul Coffey (#111)
At almost the same time fellow blueliner Bourque was toiling in Beantown, Paul Coffey was basking in the limelight of Edmonton en route to becoming the second-most prolific scorer among defensemen in NHL history. During a 25-year career, Coffey was an All-Star eight times and won three Norris Trophies as the league’s top defenseman. In all, he would play for nine different teams and contribute to four Stanley Cup championships.
Coffey’s rookie card in the loaded 1981-82 OPC set usually ranges from $30 to $150 in nice shape.
1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Grant Fuhr (#105)
The list of standout Oilers continues with goaltender Grant Fuhr, who minded the net for four Stanley Cup champions from 1984-88. Sharing duties with Andy Moog and Bill Ranford, Fuhr helped make Edmonton nearly untouchable and developed a reputation as one of the most “clutch” players in NHL history. He was also something of a trailblazer as the first black player inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame (2003).
While a PSA 10 sold in April 2015 for $260, you can grab a pretty solid one for no more than $50.
1984-85 O-Pee-Chee Steve Yzerman (#67)
Center Steve Yzerman first suited up for the Detroit Red Wings as an 18-year-old in 1983 and was named captain three years later. Over the next two decades, Yzerman became the face of the franchise and the longest-tenured team captain in major sports history. Along his path to Hall of Fame induction in 2009, Yzerman made ten All-Star teams and helped Detroit land three Stanley Cup Championships. Today, he is the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After being selected in the first round of the 1981 NHL draft by the Calgary Flames, it took Al MacInnis a few years to get his skates under him. Once he did, though, he embarked on a 21-year run that included seven All-Star appearances, the 1999 Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, and a Stanley Cup trophy. During his career, MacInnis was generally thought to have the hardest shot in the NHL and in 1990-91 became one of just a few blueliners to score 100 points in a season.
1985-86 O-Pee-Chee Mario Lemieux (#9)
If it weren’t for the presence of Wayne Gretzky and a mid-career battle with lymphoma, Mario Lemieux might very well have been a run-away winner as the greatest hockey player who ever lived. As it stands, the center made nine All-Star appearances in a 17-year career spent entirely with the Pittsburgh Penguins and took home three Hart (MVP) trophies along the way. He was a big but agile playmaker, who scored more than 100 points 10 times and led the Penguins to two Stanley Cup championships.
Lemieux’s 1985-86 O-Pee-Chee rookie card is a hobby classic. You’ll spend at least $125 for a good one; several hundred for a highly graded example
1986-87 O-Pee-Chee Patrick Roy (#53)
Speaking of the best ever, in 2004 a panel of writers named Patrick Roy as the greatest goaltender in NHL history, and for good reason. In 10 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and eight with the Colorado Avalanche, Roy was a six-time All-Star who regularly finished among the league leaders in fewest goals allowed each season. He also picked up three Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s top goalie and helped each of his franchises to two Stanley Cup championships. He is currently the head coach and vice president of hockey operations for the Avalanche.
1988-89 O-Pee-Chee Brett Hull (#66)
Along with standouts in other sports like Ken Griffey, Jr., in baseball and Ken Norton, Jr., in football, Brett Hull was part of a new generation of professional athletes who followed their fathers to the upper reaches of their games in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Even with all the pressure and hype that came with being the hockey-playing son of the great Bobby Hull, though, Brett delivered on his tremendous promise. Over a 20-year career split among five franchises, “The Golden Brett” earned a reputation as one of the greatest scorers in history and tallied 50 goals (or more) in each of five consecutive seasons. Though most fans associate Hull with St. Louis, neither of his Stanley Cup championships came as a member of the Blues. He did, however, win his lone MVP (Hart) award with St. Louis in 1990-91.
Hull’s 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee rookie card has been in demand since the day it was issued. Luckily, there are plenty of them out there so even a nice graded PSA 9 can still be had for around $50.
While the 1970s paved the way for the great hockey teams of the next decade, the 1980s also delivered a whole new roster of all-time greats. These 10 rookie cards represent the best young players of the 1980s and remain hobby staples 30 years later.