The annual announcement of new inductees by the Hockey Hall of Fame always creates discussion among fans – especially in years where there are some controversial choices made by its Selection Committee. This year, there has been plenty of uproar over the talents that are being enshrined in November. No matter how they feel, many hobbyists are already on the hunt for rookie cards, autographs, and even memorabilia cards to add to their collections.
It should be stated that the Hockey Hall of Fame selects inductees after its Selection Committee meets. Much different than baseball’s process, there is no input from a larger base of voters – there are 18 members plus a chair and include former players, broadcasters, journalists, and executives. Each year, they choose as many as four players along with up to two Builders and two women who played the game. The general rule is that a player should be retired for at least three years before they can be considered by voters.
The Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 drew a heavy mix of praise and criticism from media and fans alike. Let’s take a look at the newest members and examine their impact in the hobby as well:
Back in 2010, the Hockey Hall of Fame began inducting some of the greatest women to make an impact on the game. At that time, many fans were already speaking of Hayley Wickenheiser as a future member as she had arguably made a greater impact than anyone at that point or since.
There is no denying that she is one of hockey’s all-time best. She made her international debut at the 1993 Women’s World Championship and earned her first of what proved to be seven gold medals at that tournament. She made her cardboard debut in the 1994-95 Classic Women of Hockey insert set, but her rookie card is generally regarded as the one which came in packs of 1997-98 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice.
Following the release of that card, the market for women’s hockey cards was tremendously under-served until In The Game released a boxed set called Going For Gold in 2006-07 which saw the first certified autographs and game-used memorabilia cards for Wickenheiser and many of her peers. Most can be found on eBay and are inexpensive. They would be featured heavily once again in the company’s 2007-08 O Canada release.
After the disappointment of taking silver at the 1998 Winter Olympics, she played an integral role in leading her country to gold at the 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014 events. A dominant offensive performer, she also starred for the University of Calgary when not representing Canada internationally. Even as the Hockey Hall of Fame tried to call her to inform her of the news that she was selected, she could not answer as she was writing an med school exam. On top of that, she also works for the Toronto Maple Leafs as their Assistant Director of Player Development.
Since the 2009-10 campaign, Wickenheiser has had cards in several products issued by Upper Deck. The majority have been part of the company’s annual Team Canada Juniors product and include a solid mix of base cards, serial-numbered cards, autographs, printing plates, and game-used memorabilia cards. With her collectibles already in strong demand, it should be expected that they may see an up-tick now that her accomplishments have been recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Quite possibly the most controversial selection by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019, Guy Carbonneau is sparking a lot of debate among fans and reporters alike. The best defensive forward of his era, he learned that aspect of the game while playing alongside the legendary Bob Gainey and won the Conn Smythe Trophy on three occasions. On top of that, he captained the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup in 1993 as he stifled Wayne Gretzky over the last four games of the final round. In the latter stages of his career, he was a veteran leader for the Dallas Stars and won a third championship in 1999.
Carbonneau’s first card came in 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee and earlier this month, I wrote about it being one of the more underrated hockey rookie cards of the 1980s. Carbonneau was a mainstay in hockey card sets until the end of the next decade. His certified autographs are certainly affordable and he signed for releases before and after his retirement. There are also plenty of game-used memorabilia cards out there for him as well.
Some folks were scratching their heads at Sergei Zubov’s selection as well. While he never won a Norris Trophy, there has been momentum growing in recent years making a case for him having a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Originally a member of the New York Rangers, he broke out with an 89-point effort as a sophomore and helped take that club to its first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
After spending the 1995-96 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he became a fixture with the Dallas Stars for the remainder of his career. Among the highlights of that era were a Stanley Cup victory in 1999 and a spot on the NHL’s Second All-Star Team in 2005-06 – a year where he finished third in voting for the Norris.
Zubov’s legacy in the hobby, however, has not been amazing – but that could soon change. His rookie cards from the Parkhurst, Fleer Ultra, and Upper Deck releases from 1992-93 can be obtained cheaply – even when slabbed and in top grade. He also has a pre-rookie issue that was part of the insert set of Russian stars in 1991-92 O-Pee-Chee. Interestingly, there are not a ton of autographed cards of him on the market – and none issued since 2005-06. The most affordable will be the ones from the 1998-99 and 2000-01 Be A Player releases, but those could rise a bit in time if he does not ink a deal with a trading card manufacturer.
While some fans in North America are not necessarily aware of Vaclav Nedomansky’s incredible legacy, international hockey enthusiasts and historians have been singing the praises of “Big Ned” for years.
A dominant force for Czechoslovakia during the 1960s and early 1970s, he represented his country at the Winter Olympics in 1968 and 1972. He defected in 1974 along with Richard Farda and joined the WHA’s Toronto Toros. While he had cards during his time in Europe, his first North American card was part of the 1974-75 O-Pee-Chee WHA set. Although they’re fairly inexpensive, finding a well-centered copy of this card in high grade is a challenge and his Hall of Fame selection will certainly help it going forward.
In his second season, 1975-76, he recorded an impressive 56 goals – a total which remains the highest single-season total for a pro player in that city. The team shuffled off to become the Birmingham Bulls in 1976-77 and he was dealt away to the Detroit Red Wings in a rare trade between an NHL and WHA team early in 1977-78.
A bright spot for some brutal Red Wings teams, his best NHL campaign came in 1978-79 thanks to potting 38 goals and he stayed in Detroit until the end of the 1981-82 season. In 1982-83, he split his time between the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers before calling it a career at the age of 38. Collectors should note that he does not have any certified autograph or game-used memorabilia cards.
The Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed two Builders in 2019 and Jim Rutherford’s selection was long overdue. After hanging up his pads following a lengthy career of protecting the crease for Detroit, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, Rutherford stayed in the game as an executive.
He was heavily involved at the junior level for many years in the Detroit and Windsor, Ontario area. In 1994-95, he became a minority owner of the Hartford Whalers while taking over as that team’s President and General Managers. He followed the club to Carolina in 1997 and guided them to their first Stanley Cup in 2006. In 2014-15, he shifted over to the Penguins in the GM’s role and back-to-back championships came in 2016 and 2017.
On cardboard, Rutherford debuted in the 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets and I recently had them on my list of the most underrated rookie cards of the 1970s. Before that, though, he was part of the iconic 1970-71 Esso Power Players stamp collection. His last card as an active player came during the 1980-81 season, but he has made occasional appearances on cards since. He was featured in the 7th Inning Sketch OHL set in 1991-92, but was never shown in a mask until the 2006-07 Parkhurst set. In that product, you can also find his first certified autograph. There were also signed cards in 2013-14 Between The Pipes depicting him with multiple teams in addition to game-used memorabilia cards.
The other Builder selected in 2019 was Jerry York, who spent 47 years coaching at the collegiate level for Boston College, Bowling Green, and Clarkson. He does not have a major issue card, but that may change at some point.