If a kid in Canada wanted to get a hockey card featuring a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s, they only had one option. The 1958-59 Parkhurst set was the place to get them and while the company did not need bells and whistles to grab those nickels from youngsters, a stick of gum was at least part of the offering.
While the 1958-59 Topps set handled the NHL’s four American teams, “Parkies” were all about the Leafs and Habs.
At the time, the Maple Leafs were a team on the rise after a few rough seasons. The Canadiens had just won three straight Stanley Cup titles and were on the hunt for a record fourth in a row. Toronto had some strong young stars and was developing into a serious contender, but the Canadiens were loaded up with Hall of Famers that knew how to win. By the end of this season and the next, both teams would clash for Lord Stanley’s mug – with Montreal prevailing on both occasions and setting a yet-to-be-broken standard of five straight titles.
Bring Home All The Action
When it came to the cards, 1958-59 Parkhurst is somewhat plain. However, it shines due to a combination of star power and action shots. Complete at 50 cards, the set is still a challenge to complete due to some big names like Frank Mahovlich, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, and Maurice Richard leading the way.
Packs featured red, blue, and white elements along with team logos. The brand was referred to as Zip 1959 NHL Card Gum and each card measures a slight bit differently than the modern standard at 2 7/16″ x 3 5/8″. This was also the first time the Zip name appeared on packaging.
The checklist begins with an action card that depicts Maple Leafs star Bob Pulford breaking in on Plante that was dubbed Pulford Comes Close. In fact, Plante is featured on a majority of the action cards. The shots were taken at Maple Leaf Gardens and there are eight in total.
One of the greatest things about the 1958-59 Parkhurst set is the amount of information that was packed into the back of each player card. They were well-written, but the only real complaints are that they are quite plain and the single stat line combines both regular season and playoff numbers. The action cards feature NHL or team records from the time or lineups for both teams. Both types are bilingual (English and French).
It should be noted that this is a set where cards can sometimes exhibit registration issues (photos are fuzzy due to shifting of the ink during printing) and environmental exposure can lead to brown tinting known as foxing. Foxing is a common thing in Parkhurst cards from throughout the company’s classic run.
Unique Goalie Cards
While all of the action cards are horizontal, three of the four cards featuring goalies alone are tilted that was as well. For the Canadiens, we get Plante and his perennial backup, Charlie Hodge. Toronto’s Ed Chadwick is the only one to get that treatment as Johnny Bower’s first card with the Leafs is vertical. It also has an uncorrected error is his last name is incorrectly spelled as “Bowers”.
Examining the rest of the player cards, it is a great bunch of talent. While they are all mixed up randomly on the checklist, there are some huge names here. For the Canadiens, we have some serious Hall of Fame talent in the Richard brothers (Maurice and Henri), Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, Beliveau, Doug Harvey, Dickie Moore, Tom Johnson, and coach Toe Blake. The Maple Leafs are just as loaded with Mahovlich, George Armstong, Pulford, Dick Duff, Allan Stanley, and Bert Olmstead. There is no coach card for Toronto, possibly because Billy Reay had been fired around the time the cards were printed and the designers could not get a photo of new bench boss George “Punch” Imlach in time.
Average Rookie Crop
When it comes down to rookie cards, 1958-59 Parkhurst offers up what could be called an average class at best. This is not to say that there were not any solid NHL talents here, but there is no one that is going to be enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Looking at the Maple Leafs, there are two rookie cards to collect and they are both strong cards for different reasons. Most collectors would opt for Bob Nevin’s first card if given a choice against that of Noel Price, but there are two very good reasons for that in the form of Nevin’s two Stanley Cup rings. Nevin was a mere prospect in the Leafs organization at this time and did not become a regular until 1960-61, when he finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy behind teammate Dave Keon. He enjoyed a solid career that saw him score 307 goals and appeared in four NHL All-Star Games.
Price, on the other hand, deserves some recognition for getting into 500 NHL games between 1957-58 and 1975-76. A dependable defender, he was a fringe player who did not appear in more than 28 games in a season until the league expanded in 1967-68. An original member of both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Atlanta Flames, he was a multi-time All-Star and Calder Cup champ at the AHL level in addition to winning the Eddie Shore Award as the loop’s top blueliner on three occasions between 1969-70 and 1975-76.
In the 1950s, it was tough to crack the lineup for the Canadiens, but there were four challengers for full-time roles that debuted in the 1958-59 Parkhurst set. First up, we have Albert “Junior” Langlois. A dependable defender for close to a decade, he had debuted during Montreal’s run to the Cup in 1958 and earned a card here as he was expected to see some action with the Habs going forward. He won three championships there before moving on to play in New York and Boston before finishing up in 1965-66. Ian Cushenan’s rookie card is the least important in this set among collectors, but he did manage to skate in one NHL All-Star Game (1958) since the format was for the defending champions to take on the best from the rest of the league.
Ab McDonald makes his cardboard debut in 1958-59 Parkhurst as well and he finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy this season. He won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens before being traded to Chicago and played an important part in the team ending Montreal’s stranglehold on the trophy in 1960-61. He was the original captain for the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA as well.
Finally, the rookie class ends appropriately enough with the 1958-59 Rookie of the Year in Ralph Backstrom. An eventual six-time Stanley Cup winner, he skated in over 1,000 NHL games and most of them were spent in a Canadiens uniform. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings during the 1970-71 season and while playing in California, developed a wheeled skate that could be used in dryland training – you might know them best as Rollerblades! After finishing out his career in the WHA, he remained close to the game as a coach for the University of Denver, founded Roller Hockey International, and founded the minor league Denver Eagles (now known as the AHL’s Colorado Eagles).
A Perfect Time Capsule
While the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs has been around for over a century, it can be argued that its greatest era occurred between 1958-59 and 1966-67. During that time, the clubs met for the Stanley Cup on three occasions on top of battling each other 14 times a season. There was no friendly banter between the teams, it was an all-out war. The 1958-59 Parkhurst set captures the beginning of this perfectly and while the cards are not exactly eye-popping, there is a quaintness to them which makes this collection a winner.
You can check out singles, lots and sets of 1958-59 Parkhurst hockey on eBay here.