The 1992-93 season is regarded by many to be one of the most memorable in NHL history and hockey cards were still on fire as the boom years for the hobby were about to go bust. The arrival of players like Eric Lindros and Teemu Selanne resulted in plenty of headlines while Felix Potvin, Scott Niedermayer, and Joe Juneau were thrilling fans as well.
There was one problem, though, as all of these players and many other debuting talents had already appeared in hockey card sets licensed by the NHL and NHLPA in the two previous seasons. What this created was a situation where the new sets could not include true rookie cards of them and it took years for the powers that be to recognize and remedy in the form of a rookie card deadline.
Collectors breaking open the early releases in 1992-93 did not have a ton of carryover rookie cards to track down. Players such as Lindros, Niedermayer and Potvin had first appeared in 1990-91 sets. The 1991-92 rookie card class was augmented by a larger selection of junior talent and draft picks along with a late-season Parkhurst Series 2 that included post-Olympic debuts like Juneau. Selanne, who set a rookie record with 76 goals in 1992-93, could have already been found in packs of 1991-92 Upper Deck as part of the Canada Cup subset.
Underwhelming Rookie Card Class?
What this essentially created was a brutal selection of rookie cards compared to what could have been incredible under today’s standards for a player to appear on a licensed hockey card. Today, we need to wait for players that debut from early January forward each year and the carryover classes tend to include strong names – something which helps the sale of early releases leading up to Upper Deck’s flagship set that comes out about a month after the season begins.
Here’s a look at the best rookie cards that can be found in 1992-93 hockey card sets:
After two releases that could be best described at the time and even today as “meh” Topps incorporated the same twist employed by its 1992 Baseball release by cutting back production, making the base cards much more attractive and UV coated, and adding a small chase element with gold foil subset cards. The supposed short printing of some gold cards and no mass-market retail distribution in Canada created some buzz for 1992-93 Bowman for a while. However, the sad reality is that it had a considerable failure in the fact that it contained virtually no notable rookie cards.
How bad was it? Well, there were only four debuts here. Granted, Guy Hebert did have a solid career, and Bill Lindsay was a part of Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996. However, does anyone recall John LeBlanc of the Winnipeg Jets or original San Jose Sharks member David Williams? No, not Dave “Tiger” Williams… the other guy with the same name. Yep, that’s it.
While the lustre for this product has softened over time, there was a period where it was a hobby giant without having much in terms of rookie cards. How times have changed!
1992-93 Fleer Ultra
The big new arrival in the hockey card market in 1992-93 was Fleer Ultra. Copying the successful design format that made it the baseball card set to collect for many in 1992, the company finally entered the NHL arena and created some magic thanks to a strong insert program, lots of great photos, and over 40 rookie cards, it still holds up to this day.
Even though the first series only had seven debuting players, there was an important one to collectors at the time in Roman Hamrlik of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The top pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, he went on to have a long career. The only other truly notable rookie card in the initial release was Philadelphia Flyers goalie Tommy Soderstrom, who is remembered by many for his odd-looking helmet and cage combo.
Later in the 1992-93 season, the second series of Ultra finally arrived and there was much more rookie card content to get excited about then. However, the passage of time leaves modern collectors only really hunting a few names like Sergei Zubov and Bill Guerin. Zubov has started to get a groundswell of support among those who believe he should be a Hall of Famer. Guerin, on the other hand, had his first appearance in the 1991-92 Parkhurst Update Set dubbed an XRC in some circles – a fact that is quite debateable. Others that did get a little hobby love at various points include Nikolai Borschevsky of the Toronto Maple Leafs, high-scoring Boston Bruins flash-in-the-pan Dmitri Kvartalnov, and Martin Straka of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Today, you can buy a hobby box of ’92-93 Ultra on eBay for $10-$20.
Deciding to do its own thing in 1992-93, O-Pee-Chee departed from using the same design as Topps for its flagship release, which sold well due to the presence of 25th Anniversary insert cards in each pack. Where it ultimately fails is is in a design which many found to be somewhat flat, uninspiring photo choices, and a true lack of rookie cards and box prices today that sit at $10-$20 on eBay. How bad was the freshman selection here? Put it this way, at least they had Hebert and Guerin.
The idea of O-Pee-Chee doing its own set was abandoned a year later and the brand’s classic era began to fade out with a whimper rather than a bang.
1992-93 O-Pee-Chee Premier
Could O-Pee-Chee salvage itself in the eyes of the average collector with a strong Premier release in 1992-93? The potential was certainly there, but despite the company’s best efforts, they once again missed the mark. Premier was a hobby sensation when it debuted two years earlier and its sequel suffered due to a combination of heavy expectations and poor execution, so the third kick at the can had to hustle in order to win back increasingly fickle collectors.
O-Pee-Chee cannot be flawed for at least bringing their best when it came to putting plenty of rookie cards inside the 132-card Premier set. While many of the names were never hobby sensations, O-Pee-Chee gets full points for including names like the previously-mentioned Straka, Hebert, Hamrlik,
You also get Mikael Nylander (father of current Maple Leafs star William Nylander) of the Hartford Whalers, Robert Lang of the Los Angeles Kings, and even early Lightning star Chris Kontos. For those who may not recall, Kontos scored four times in Tampa Bay’s first NHL game – but he turned 29 that season and had been a first round pick of the Rangers back in 1982. Strangely, he never had a card up to this point – even after a great playoff run with Los Angeles in 1989 where he scored nine times over 11 postseason games.
O-Pee-Chee also dug fairly deep to add some borderline players that other companies missed out on in 1992-93 with Bruins tough guy Darren Banks, in addition to the obscure Bob Babcock.
Parkhurst enjoyed a sensational debut in 1991-92 as Dr. Brian Price produced the brand under license to Pro Set. With the Dallas-based company falling apart at the seams due to Lud Denny’s excess, Price was essentially left to build the set on his own and came through with one of the year’s best sets thanks to the Emerald Ice parallels and reprints of original Parkies.
Parkhurst got plenty of strong names into Series One packs such as Lang, Guerin, Straka, Ray Whitney, Hamrlik, and Borschevsky. Whitney is another example of a player who was part of that tough 1991-92 Parkhurst Update that was available by mail order and his card on that set was tagged an XRC.
Series Two did not have a lot of marquee names getting rookie cards, but the 1992-93 Parkhurst Update managed to get some late-season debuts which made it a hot commodity over the summer (but just a few bucks on eBay today). A certain publication calls some of the cards here rookie cards, but contradicts itself when you consider that the previous year’s Update does not get the same treatment. Making their first appearances here are Matthew Barnaby and Bryan Smolinski, along with some lesser-known lights such as Jesse Belanger and Denny Felsner. It is interesting to note that once Barnaby heard that this card existed, he traveled several hours in order to track down a copy for himself!
With both an American and Canadian release in 1992-93, Score made a few tweaks for Pinnacle’s sophomore season that saw many of the cards have different photos depending on which set it was from.
Each of the 22 players getting official rookie cards here have two variations which all have the same photos and the major difference is the difference in color on the bars on the back in addition to having English only or being bilingual. There are no names that are unique to the brand, though.
1992-93 Pro Set
In its death throes, Pro Set only produced a single series in 1992-93 and only contains nine rookie cards. The best of the bunch are Guerin and Whitney, but there is the intriguing inclusion of Jock Callander on the checklist.
A player who bounced back and forth between the Pittsburgh Penguins and their IHL farm team in Muskegon from 1984-85 to 1991-92, Callander was promoted to the main roster for the playoffs in 1991-92 and got his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. This card shows him as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning as he signed with the expansion club as a free agent.
For the third straight season, Score was produced in multiple versions and the 1992-93 edition featured mostly unique designs for each.
Due to its release before the season began, there were only carry-over rookie cards here and no update set would be produced this year. Hebert, Guerin, and Whitney lead the pack, but there was some buzz at the time among Toronto Maple Leafs collectors for the rookie issue of Yanic Perreault.
1992-93 Stadium Club
Like some other brands in this era, Topps decided to produce its 1992-93 Stadium Club product in two series. Likely built long before the season commenced, there is only a shocking two rookie cards in the first release (Guerin and Bret Hedican). However, the second series was likely put together around the same time as it contains just seven or so debuting players.
For a brand that was meant to be so great, it just flopped with hockey card collectors early on and you can grab boxes for under $20 on eBay. The most intriguing of the bunch is a virtually unheard-of Detroit Red Wings goalie named Scott King who appeared in two games and has no other NHL cards.
Using the same design as its 1992 releases in other sports, 1992-93 Topps is an interesting departure from simply having the same look as the annual O-Pee-Chee set and had the added bonus of Gold parallels. Only 11 players get rookie cards here, but there are some unique names in Todd Nelson and Jim Thomson outside of the usual carry-over suspects.
The Gold set saw the checklists at the end replaced by exclusive players and two of them get a rookie-year card here as the company chose to drop in Philadelphia’s Al Conroy and Rob Robinson of the St. Louis Blues. Conroy got a regular card in 1993-94, but Robinson never got a sniff from a licensed NHL trading card maker again.
1992-93 Upper Deck
Saving the best for last, Upper Deck once again thought outside of the box to bring the world the best rookie cards possible. While the low-numbered series was naturally loaded up with carry-over talents, there are over 130 cardboard debuts once you factor in the high numbers.
How badly did Upper Deck blow away the competition this year? Well, even looking at the low-numbered series there were several international talents debuting which would not appear on NHL rinks for years to come. Since Sweden’s players from the 1992 World Junior Championship were missed in the high numbers for their 1991-92 release, the players found their way into this set instead.
There are debuts for Jonas Hoglund, Mikael Renberg, and Markus Naslund along with Nylander. The Russian Stars subset is a bit of a misnomer in retrospective, but there were a handful of eventual NHL players like Igor Korolev, Andrei Nikolishin, Dmitri Yushkevich, and Alexander Karpovtsev. Even the 1992 World Championship got a little bit of love on the checklist as well and the best debuting player here is Soderstrom, but we also get former Hartford Whalers player David Jensen on a card four years after he last played in the NHL. The low numbers boasted many of the usual carryovers that other sets had as well, like Whitney and Guerin.
Where Upper Deck took it to a higher level was with the high numbers. Here, we get some decent debuts like Corey Hirsch and Zubov on the regular design and there was an excellent Young Guns subset which focused on the season’s hottest rookies. Some of them were actual rookie cards, like Hamrlik, Borschevsky, and Straka – but there is no one truly unique to the subset.
The World Junior Championship offered up some of the hottest cards of the year and boasted a roster of players which made a big impact at the pro level. Starting with the gold medal-winning Canadian team, there were two future Hall of Fame members who have their only rookie card here in Paul Kariya and Chris Pronger. There were also some strong talents that spent time in the NHL like Manny Legace, Chris Gratton, Rob Niedermayer, and Mike Rathje, but there was a card that was white hot at the time in 1993 first overall pick Alexandre Daigle.
While books could be written on Daigle and his impact (and lack thereof) on the game, Upper Deck beat everyone to the punch in order to get the hottest prospect around before being drafted. Daigle would sign a deal with Score soon after, but their cards for the 1993-94 season could not be considered rookie cards by any reasonable collector. In the end, Daigle failed to meet expectations and his brash entry into the game quickly made him the butt of jokes from fans. The reality was that he still managed to stick around the game for a few years, but there was no way that he could live up to the hype.
The rest of the World Junior Championship subset managed to get some great names on cardboard for the first time as well. Sweden gave us the first cards of Kenny Jonsson and Niklas Sundstrom while the Czech Republic featured the late Pavol Demitra. Todd Marchant and Adam Deadmarsh were the biggest American prospects and Russia offered up Viktor Kozlov. Rounding out the rookies were future greats from Finland with the extremely popular Saku Koivu and defensive specialist Jere Lehtinen.
The Legacy of the Class of ’93
Looking back, there were some great names making their NHL debuts in 1992-93, but the manner in which the hobby changed in the early boom years took what could have been a great thing under modern rules and made it just slightly above mediocre when compared to the previous two seasons.
Sure, there are a couple of Hall of Fame talents who had rookie cards that year in Kariya and Pronger, but there are a lot of Hall of Very Good players in the form of Guerin, Koivu, Renberg, Whitney, Lehtinen, Kozlov, and Straka. On top of that, there are two names which could one day get the call to the Hall in the form of Zubov and Naslund.