The hockey card world was turned upside down in the mid-1950s. Canadian kids had a difficult choice to make as they could check out the new competition from Topps or stick with what they already liked with the 1954-55 Parkhurst collection.
1954-55 Parkhurst was the last set to feature all of the Original Six together in one offering. Topps made deals with the teams based in the United States, but Parkhurst decided to go for all of them one last time before focusing on just the two Canadian-based teams (and eventually stealing away the Detroit Red Wings in 1960-61).
Coming in at 100 cards, ’54-55 Parkhurst would also be the largest one for years to come. Most of the cards featured game action from Maple Leaf Gardens, conveniently in the same city where Parkhurst was located.
While previous sets had a bit of a painted or illustrated look by comparison, this was legitimate in-game photography which was surrounded by a simple border and a small box on the front noting the card’s place in the set. The cards also had facsimile autographs – something that the company would not utilize again for several years.
The backs had stats for the 1953-54 campaign along with descriptive biographies which often gave an indication of what the players did in the off-season. There is a bit of outdated and questionable language, but you have to wonder what the writer had against Toronto Maple Leafs defender Leo Boivin as he was described as “chunky”.
New for 1954-55 Parkhurst was the Lucky Premium promotion. As kids opened packs and flipped over their cards, they would have found backs without biographies or statistics. Instead of all this key information, there was instead an off where they could send in the card and either cash or a money order to get a great item. For $4.75, you could get a pair of leather hockey gloves, or $1.50 would get you a miniature camera which boasted the ability to take 16 photos, timed exposure, and a 50 mm lens.
There was also a third offer for a gift list featuring other items. It had a spot on it for a postage stamp, much like a postcard, and kids filled in their mailing address to see what else they could potentially buy from the folks at Parkhurst.
All told, 57 different Lucky Premium cards have been discovered over the years. The number seems a bit odd when considering that the regular set’s production sheet likely had a total of 100 cards on it. A total of 20 players feature the Lucky Premium catalog offer on the back while 18 have the offer for gloves, and 19 of them showed off the camera.
Action Cards Arrive
It should be noted that action cards officially come into the hockey card hobby with 1954-55 Parkhurst. A total of 12 different shots were included in this set and some feature the cardboard debut of Hall of Famer Jacques Plante before his official rookie card came in the 1955-56 Parkhurst collection. In fact, he appears on three of them! Card #99, which shows the innovative netminder foiling Maple Leafs legend Teeder Kennedy, has been dated by your humble author as being from the February 13, 1954 game at Maple Leaf Gardens. Plante had been called up to fill in for the injured Gerry McNeil and gave a solid showing during the 2-2 tie. The date was determined by the fact that Kennedy did not skate during Plante’s second, and final, appearance in Toronto that season.
It appears that almost every card in the entire set was shot in Toronto outside of two action cards (#97 and #100) that were taken during the Stanley Cup clash between the Canadiens and Red Wings.
The backs on all of the action cards contain vivid descriptions of the play and it is interesting to note that none have ever surfaced with the Lucky Premium back. This was the first full-fledged attempt to include action cards in a major hockey card release, but there was a lone action card three years earlier in 1951-52 Parkhurst that displayed Bill Barilko’s Stanley Cup-winning goal. Parkhurst would make action cards a regular feature over the next four releases. Another winner here is card #92, which has Leafs netminder Harry Lumley making a stop on Gordie Howe.
Solid Rookie Crop
While Plante’s action cards are not considered to be rookie cards in the conventional sense, there are still some solid debuts in 1954-55 Parkhurst. Most notable is one of Plante’s greatest rivals in Johnny Bower. Shown as a member of the New York Rangers, he was back in the minors by the time this card arrived and he would return to cardboard as a member of the Maple Leafs with the 1958-59 Parkhurst set. Both his first and second cards are uncorrected errors as he is called “Bowers” on them.
In addition to Bower, there is another Hall of Fame member debuting in this set with Keith Allen. While his NHL playing career was brief, it is likely that the photo on his only card was taken during his second game with the Red Wings as they paid a visit to Toronto on March 6, 1954. He went on to become the first coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1967-68 before transitioning to general manager and building the Broad Street Bullies into Stanley Cup champions.
The remaining rookies include plenty of Hall of Very Good candidates – several of which are underrated in the hobby considering what they accomplished on the ice. Doug Mohns spent over 20 years in the NHL and excelled as both a forward and a defenseman. He stuck around until 1974-75, when he served as the first captain of the Washington Capitals. The 1953-54 Calder Trophy winner, Camille “Eel” Henry debuts here along with New York Rangers teammates Dean Prentice and Ron Murphy.
Also debuting in 1954-55 Parkhurst is Aboriginal hockey legend Fred Sasakamoose. His legacy in the game is incredibly important and his legacy has been covered here.
Rounding out the rookie card class in this set are Earl Balfour and Bob Bailey of the Maple Leafs, Bob Chrystal of the Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks duo of Lou Jankowski and Ike Hildebrand. Interestingly, the Hildebrand card shows him playing with the Broadway Blueshirts as he had been acquired in a mid-season deal by Chicago.
All-Star Cards Debut
One of the neatest aspects of the 1954-55 Parkhurst set is that member of the NHL’s First and Second All-Star Teams from the previous years get special cropped background with a large star. This was a feature that Parkhurst only utilized once and it would not return to a hockey card set until Topps got its monopoly in 1964-65. First All-Star Team members have a red star in the background, while Second Team have a blue star.
When looking at the Terry Sawchuk card, it seems somewhat familiar to those who may have the basic Bob Goldham card. It appears likely that the set designer was trying to save a few dollars and it seems like both cards have the same shot, with the Goldham showing all of the action.
The rest of the All-Star cards are an impressive bunch with legends like Howe, Maurice Richard (who is shown with Jean Beliveau on the display box), Kennedy, Doug Harvey, Lumley, Tim Horton, Bill Gadsby, Red Kelly, and Ted Lindsay. That’s 10 Hall of Famers along with Canadiens center Ken Mosdell and Bruins left winger Ed Sandford.
You can see 1954-55 Parkhurst cards on eBay here.