Even with recent expansion, there were just 14 teams in the National Hockey League when the puck dropped on October 8, 1971. While going deeper into rosters for the O-Pee-Chee brand, Topps’ 1971-72 hockey set remained at just 132 cards.
1971-72 Topps Hockey Basics
The 1971-72 Topps hockey cards maintained the standard 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ size. However, the cards were much different than that of past issues. Fronts again featured a specific player but they were now enclosed in an oval shape. Player names and positions also remained, but the team names were now shown at the top instead of the bottom where they had been in the previous few releases.
Backs were printed in both green and yellow ink. As in past years, the reverse included a card number, player statistics, and a brief biography. In addition, a small cartoon was added, which gave an additional fact of the player in question. Backs were also compartmentalized a bit with boxes separating out all of the key sections.
For the sixth consecutive year, the set included a total of 132 cards.
1971-72 Topps Hockey Stars
The 1971-72 Topps hockey set included more of the same when it came to big name players. At the top of the list were Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and Bobby Orr. They were surrounded by a host of other Hall of Famers and All-Stars, such as Jacques Plante, Phil Esposito, Alex Delvecchio, Johnny Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers, Gil Perreault, Tony Esposito, Henri Richard, Stan Mitkita, Bernie Parent, and more.
And while it is not a star card, per se, a key card is No. 111, which is the checklist for the set.
One of the excellent additions to the release was the first presence of the League Leaders subset in Topps’ hockey sets. A total of six League Leaders cards were included representative of the NHL’s best in goals, assists, scoring, wins, shutouts, and goals against average. The first three cards pertained to the position players while the last three were dedicated for the goalies.
These cards were important for several reasons. First, they allowed Topps to add an interesting subset to help break up the monotony of strictly creating base card sets. The subset also meant that some of the game’s top stars would be featured in the set more than once allowing collectors better chances of finding their favorite stars. It was also significant since the League Leaders cards were not found in the O-Pee-Chee set and were exclusive to Topps that season. Orr, Hull, Esposito, Bucyk, Cheevers, Plante, and others were all included among these cards – some more than once.
Ken Dryden’s card No. 45 isn’t only the top rookie card here – it’s easily the best card in the entire set. The Hall of Fame goalie made his first appearance in a Topps set here and is the key card.
Aside of Dryden, another important card is the first Topps issue of Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke. Clarke’s card, mind you, isn’t considered his true rookie card by most collectors. That distinction is saved for his 1970-71 O-Pee-Chee card, which was released a year earlier. However, it is Clarke’s first Topps card since he didn’t appear in the 1970-71 Topps set and is a noteworthy issue for that reason.
Three other significant rookie cards are found here. First, there are those of All-Stars Bob Berry and Syl Apps, Jr. Also included is card No. 132 in the set, Dunc McCallum. McCallum’s card is particular important since, as the final one in the set, it is difficult to find in top condition.
1971-72 Topps Hockey Prices
Ungraded 1971-72 Topps hockey commons can be had for only a few dollars. Stars vary by player and condition. Starting at under $50 for mid-grade copies, the Dryden rookie card is a relative steal. The Orr card can usually be found for under $100 in very nice shape. Decent quality sets start at a few hundred dollars but higher grade sets can run over $1,000.