During the 1956-57 season, Canadian kids were probably pretty disappointed to discover that there were not going to be any new cards of their hockey heroes to collect. While the reasons for this situation are a bit murky due to the ravages of time, the cards and Zip Hockey Gum returned the next year with the 1957-58 Parkhurst set – one of the hobby’s underrated gems.
Reducing in size to just 50 cards compared to the 79 that came out two years earlier, this collection once again featured only players from the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs – ensuring that it would have broad appeal with youngsters north of the border. Gone were the Old-Time Greats and the cards featuring the legendary Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens, but there were plenty of stars to be found.
At the time, the Canadiens had won two straight Stanley Cups and were well on the way to winning a record five in a row. The Leafs, though, were in a rebuilding phase with plenty of future stars on the way that ensured they would win four titles in the following decade.
Basically split into two 25-card sets, there were an equal amount dedicated to the Leafs and les Habitants. There is speculation that the first five cards for each club were short printed, but this is up for debate without the presence of a full uncut sheet circulating around the hobby.
Regardless, the possibility of this does make some sense. Looking at the first five Canadiens players, they are all Hall of Fame legends. Leading off the set is then-reigning Norris Trophy winner Doug Harvey, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, and Jean Beliveau. They are followed by the brother combination of Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Henri Richard – the latter of which appears on cardboard for the first time here.
The rest of the Canadiens cards are quite impressive as well. Not only will you find Hall of Famers like Tom Johnson, Dickie Moore, and Bert Olmstead – but you also get some strong rookie cards from Andre Pronovost (grandfather of current Detroit Red Wings star Anthony Mantha), original New York Islanders coach Phil Goyette, first Masterton Trophy winner Claude Provost, and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Charlie Hodge. On top of that, there is one of the most impressive-looking cards of the era featuring the legendary Jacques Plante making a faux kick save.
Side Action, Short Prints and a One-Timer
Cards 21 to 25 are horizontal action cards – something that Parkhurst dabbled in from time to time. Here, we get a wild collection that features the only cards a one-game wonder in Canadiens goalie Len Broderick. An emergency replacement for Plante at Maple Leaf Gardens on October 30, 1957, he prevailed in a 6-2 win and earned a spot in NHL history.
As for the Maple Leafs, the alleged short prints are a solid bunch as well. Starting it off is quiet leader George Armstrong and he is joined by Dick Duff, and Tod Sloan. The second card in the set is a neat horizontal pose from goaltender Ed Chadwick and the fourth is a seriously underrated Hall of Fame rookie card of Bob Pulford.
Rounding Out the Set
A quick examination of the rest of the checklist shows a mix of legends and obscure talents. There is the rookie card for two-sport athlete Gerry James as well as future coaches in Al MacNeil and Mike Nykoluk that ultimately did not last long with the team. The real gems are first issues of hard-checking Bobby Baun and “The Big M”, Frank Mahovlich – giving the set another Hall of Fame rookie card.
While the set is aesthetically similar to the sets that proceeded and followed it, 1957-58 Parkhurst is a neat little anomaly that deserves more recognition from collectors. Complete sets, even in mid-grade, often run over $1,500 with higher end sets stretching into five figures. It is not an easy one to build thanks to the perception of unproven short prints and the Mahovlich and Richard rookie cards are must-haves for vintage hockey collectors. Throw in a bevy of stars, some strong first cards, and a few intriguing action cards and it really is a winner.
You can see 1957-58 Parkhurst hockey cards on eBay by clicking here.