Regarded by most vintage hockey card collectors to be one of the visually striking sets ever made, 1963-64 Parkhurst marked the end of the company’s run of releases which captured the imagination of Canadian kids who wanted to worship their heroes and chew plenty of gum along the way.
With the exception of the 1956-57 season, Parkhurst hockey cards and the closely associated Zip Gum was an annual tradition beginning in 1951-52. In its waning years, the sets depicted members of what were arguably the NHL’s most popular teams at the time in the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, and the then-reigning Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs.
It was a formula that seemed destined for perpetual success, even with the rise of Bobby Hull and the Chicago Blackhawks (then called the Black Hawks) that were part of the competing Topps product along with the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. By comparison, Parkhurst cards were slightly larger at (confirm measurement) and had much plainer backs, but the real advantage Topps seems to have is that the company was not afraid to add inserts such as stamps while Parkhurst was more apt to run contests or provide merchandise offers for kids.
At the time, trading card manufacturers did not have to deal with a player union and instead arranged deals with the teams individually for the right to make hockey cards featuring their players. In time, this would change to group licensing – especially with the emergence of the NHLPA by the end of the decade.
After years of releasing sets which contained anywhere from 50 to 61 cards, 1963-64 Parkhurst expanded to a whopping 99. All 20 players from the Canadiens had two cards apiece, with a few exceptions, while the Red Wings only got one per player. The reigning Stanley Cup champion Maple Leafs had 18 different players get two cards which King Clancy, Dave Keon, and John MacMillan only had one. It seems rather puzzling that Keon, who was one of the hottest young players in the game at the time, has just a single card.
Clancy, who was popular with fans as an executive for the Leafs, was a smart inclusion in the set. MacMillan, who made the rare jump from college hockey in the Original Six era, during gets his only card here and he was a part of two Stanley Cup-winning squads in Toronto.
All of the Toronto players and staff are shown in front of what was Canada’s flag at the time, commonly known as the Canadian Red Ensign. That flag was replaced the following year amid great national debate. The Maple Leafs appearing among the first 20 cards in the set feature portrait photos while the majority of those from cards 61 to 78 are full-length poses with the exception of coach Punch Imlach, who has a much more casual look in his second card compared to being formal for the first. The team checklist is a strong one loaded up with Hall of Fame members like Tim Horton, Frank Mahovlich, George Armstrong, Allan Stanley, Dick Duff, Bob Pulford, Johnny Bower, and Red Kelly. Throw in some fan favorites like Eddie Shack, Bob Nevin, Bob Baun, and Carl Brewer and it’s tough to find a true common card among them. Even backup goalie Don Simmons’ 1963-64 Parkhurst cards are popular with collectors to this day.
Next up, we have the mighty Montreal Canadiens. A team on the cusp of returning to Stanley Cup glory, it was adjusting well to life after Maurice Richard and there are 19 players featured along with coach Toe Blake. All of the big names are here like Jean Beliveau, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, and Henri Richard in addition to key contributors like Claude Provost, Ralph Backstrom, J.C. Tremblay, and Bobby Rousseau that were part of the Quiet Dynasty teams which won four Stanley Cups between 1964-65 and 1968-69. The design on these cards is simple, with multiple horizontal bars that come in several color combinations.
The Detroit Red Wings cards are arguably some of the nicest hockey cards ever made. With the American flag flowing behind each player, the look is classic and the one everyone wants is naturally that of Gordie Howe. The card is one of the most iconic in the hobby, but the reality is that most of the Red Wings cards look fantastic as well. On top of Mr. Hockey, the set has additional Red Wings that just happen to be Hall of Famers in Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, Norm Ullman, Marcel Pronovost, and Bill Gadsby.
Strong Rookie Class
After a few seasons where Parkhurst sets did not have superstar-level rookie cards (Keon in 1961-62 is by far the best from 1958-59 to 1962-63), the final Parkie collection does manage to at least have some strong ones – even if only one is a Hall of Fame member at this point. The Maple Leafs did have the NHL’s Calder Trophy winner for 1962-63 in the form of hard-rock defender Kent Douglas along with the previously-mentioned MacMillan.
The Canadiens give us an underrated Hall of Famer in blueliner Jacques Laperriere, and there are cult favorites in tough guy and future executive John Ferguson and Red Berenson, who rose to stardom with the St. Louis Blues during the expansion era and went on to be the force behind a successful hockey program at the University of Michigan. A case could be made for both to go into the Hall of Fame as builders at some point. Goaltender Cesare Maniago also gets two rookie cards here – one of which is the last card in the set and commands a premium. Longtime defenseman Terry Harper also gets a pair of cards and he stuck around the league until the 1980-81 season!
As for the Red Wings, we have discussed the rookie card of Alex Faulkner before. He was the first player from Newfoundland to play in the NHL and his card has long been desired by collectors. Other Detroit players of note that get their first card here include Floyd Smith, who went on to become the first captain for the Buffalo Sabres and spend time behind the bench, and Doug Barkley, who was a very promising defenseman before an eye injury cut his career short.
Special Offers Galore
All-in-all, the 1963-64 Parkhurst set was loaded with great content in terms of both rookies and established stars. The classic look has endured for over 55 years, but there is even more to consider today about this landmark collection as each wrapper and card featured a special offer that Canadian kids could take advantage of at the time.
The previous Parkhurst release had the distinction of offering consumers a chance to win a CCM bicycle, but the 1963-64 edition went a slightly different route with premium offers instead. First up is a special autographed puck and each one would run you 30 cents along with five Zip Hockey wrappers and kids could mail in to Parkhurst’s parent company, Grant Products, and choose between a pre-printed signature from either Keon, Beliveau, or Howe. Next up was a replica of the Stanley Cup that cost a nickel more and there was finally a home hockey game that would set you back a cool dollar and 10 Zip Hockey wrappers. All of these premiums are sought-after today and are relatively scarce.
Since uncut sheets of Parkhurst sets from this era are almost impossible to find, your humble author did view a partial sheet while visiting a headhunter’s office in downtown Toronto during the summer of 2000. There were some double-printed and triple-printed cards on the sheet, but it is hoped that it one day surfaces in the hobby to officially clarify which cards are more plentiful than others.
You can check out 1963-64 Parkhurst on eBay here.