The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a national treasure for many reasons and the people there have a deep love for the game of hockey. However, one of their local heroes to making it all the way to the NHL is a somewhat rare feat. Luckily, though, most of them have been featured on a major issue hockey card.
Newfoundland did not become a Canadian province until 1949, but that does not mean that the game of hockey did not have cultural significance to its residents. Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts made their way over the airwaves and the local amateur scene was strong, but a Newfoundland native did not play in an NHL game until the early 1960s.
Hockey Pioneer Alex Faulkner
Senior hockey was beginning to decline in parts of Canada in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but it still occasionally produced a few talents that would make it to the NHL. In Newfoundland, Bishop’s Falls native Alex Faulkner was a superstar-level player that starred for his hometown clubs before having an epic 1958-59 campaign with the Conception Bay Cee Bees. That year as a remarkable one as he scored 103 goals and added 49 assists in just 25 games.
By 1960-61, Faulkner was ready to turn pro and moved over to the AHL’s Rochester Americans, who were a farm team for the Toronto Maple Leafs that signed him in December, 1960. His first year there saw him struggle a little bit, but a good start in 1961-62 earned a one-game trial with big club on December 7, 1961 against the Montreal Canadiens. He finished the rest of the season in Rochester and averaged over a point per game
That caught the attention of the Detroit Red Wings, who claimed him in the 1962 NHL Intra-League Draft and he cracked the lineup with ease for 1962-63. He appeared in all 70 games for Detroit, recording 10 goals and 10 assists along the way. On the road to the Stanley Cup Final against his old club, he lit the lamp five times and three of those tallies were game-winners.
With all that momentum behind him, Parkhurst naturally decided to include him in its final set in 1963-64 and the timeless design with the American flag in the background makes for an impressive rookie card that can be found for $150-$250 in good shape. This was the first time Newfoundlander appeared on a hockey card and would have been a hit among kids in his home province at the time, but he only played in 30 regular season games with the Red Wings that year. After splitting his time between Detroit and its minor league affiliates, his NHL career came to a close in the playoffs as he skated against Toronto in the Stanley Cup Final on April 11, 1964. He also had two Beehive photos during this era and was part of the octogon-shaped food premium set from York Peanut Butter.
In the decades that followed, Faulkner’s only card from his playing days continued to be a highly-desired item – especially once the hobby began to boom. Copies in any condition are strong sellers and graded copies can sell for hundreds of dollars. One of the hobby’s true cult cards, he did not appear on cardboard again until the 2004-05 season as part of In The Game’s US West edition of its NHL Franchises product. He had both a base card and certified autograph in that release (and you can thank your humble author for signing him to the deal, too!).
Those Who Followed
After Faulkner’s NHL career ended, the league would not see another Newfoundland native hit the ice until Joe Lundrigan made it to the Maple Leafs in 1972-73. A product of the Canadian University system, he did not get a card until 1974-75 after he was picked up by the woeful expansion Washington Capitals. He did have some team issues during his career, but O-Pee-Chee included him in their set despite the fact that he only played three early games for the Caps before being sent down to the minors.
In that same set though, was a 1973-74 debut in goaltender Doug Grant of the Red Wings. As a rookie, he was the number one man in the crease for a struggling club for much of the year before Jim Rutherford was reacquired from Pittsburgh. The odd man out for the next two years, his rookie card is exclusive to 1974-75 O-Pee-Chee like that of Lundrigan. After a trade to St. Louis, he was primarily used as a backup but did make it into two more O-Pee-Chee sets.
The third native of Newfoundland to get a card in the 1970s was Tony White, who can be found in a couple of OPC hockey sets. Another member of that original Capitals team, he was also the first Newfoundlander to make the transition from draft pick to NHL player. While he only had a five-game trial in 1974-75, he did manage to show a lot of promise on a dismal 1975-76 squad as he scored 25 goals -seven of which came on the power play to lead the team. White appears on two cards in 1976-77 O-Pee-Chee – one of which is the Capitals team leader card that closes the set. He had one more card, but good luck getting him to put ink to any of them today as he is apparently very reluctant signer.
Once the 1980s were around the corner, Corner Brook-born Keith Brown was taken seventh overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft and was the first person from Newfoundland to be selected in the first round. He went on to have a very respectable career, mostly with the Chicago Blackhawks, and was the first player from the province to appear in both a Topps and O-Pee-Chee set in 1980-81. For over a decade, he was a reliable talent in the Windy City and did not leave until being traded to the expansion Florida Panthers. He has plenty of cards to collect and has a pair of autographed ones on the market from 2004-05 Upper Deck Legendary Signatures – including one with former teammate Doug Wilson.
The other Newfoundlander to get cards leading up to the boom was Dave Pichette. A free agent signing by the Quebec Nordiques, he debuted in 1980-81 and earned a spot in the next year’s O-Pee-Chee set and a few others along the way. He remained with the team until late in the 1983-84 season and played briefly for the Blues before being shipped off to the New Jersey Devils. During his first year there, he posted career high totals (17-40-57), but never recapture the same magic after that and ultimately finished his playing days in the AHL with teams based in Nova Scotia.
The Boom Years
Once the hobby began to boom in the early 1990s, collectors of Newfoundland-born players finally had a little more to choose from. The first of these was 1991 IIHF World Junior Championship hero John Slaney, who had a pair of cards in 1990-91 from Score Upper Deck as both a first round pick and a member of Canada’s team. While he bounced between the NHL and the minors for most of his career, he has a lot of cards to collect and was a fan favorite wherever he went. The only product that has a certified autograph from him is 1996-97 Pinnacle Be A Player and there are two versions to collect (regular and foil).
Perhaps the most popular player from Newfoundland among fans in the past two decades, though, is retired tough guy Darren Langdon. He has eight rookie cards in 1995-96 sets and is among the first from the province to have a game-used memorabilia card – the most recent being in Enforcers products from In The Game (see them all here).
There were also a pair of strong prospects coming from The Rock in the late 1990s as well in the form of Dan Cleary and Terry Ryan. Both were incredibly promising and first round selections in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Ryan went first (7th overall) to the Montreal Canadiens, while Cleary was taken at the 13th spot by the Chicago Blackhawks. Ryan proved to be a bit of a bust and only played a handful of games (writing a very enjoyable book about his experiences many years later), but Cleary played in over 900 NHL games – winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2007-08. Each of them have plenty of cardboard, including autographs, but Cleary also has lots of memorabilia cards, too.
Other boom and post-boom era skaters from Newfoundland include Chad Penney, Dwayne Norris, Jason Morgan, Harold Druken, and Brad Brown.
Recent Newfoundlanders to Collect
Jason King was a short-lived hobby sensation thanks to a strong start with the Vancouver Canucks, but his cachet with collectors quickly faded in 2002-03. Michael Ryder had a long career with decent numbers and was a collector favorite during his first full season with Montreal in 2003-04 as he finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy. Ryan Clowe worked hard to make it to the NHL and spent several years with the San Jose Sharks, scoring 101 goals before retiring. Teddy Purcell also scored the same number of times, and was playing over in the KHL last year.
The rest of the Newfoundland natives that have made cardboard appearances in the last decade or so are Doug O’Brien, Pascal Pelletier, Dan LaCosta, Adam Pardy, Colin Greening, and Luke Adam. The only NHL players from the province that never appear on a major issue card are Don Howse and Darryl Williams.
No discussion of hockey and Newfoundland would be complete without mentioning former Toronto Maple Leafs star and Hall of Fame broadcaster Howie Meeker, who has a long-standing connection with the province. A longtime resident that splits his time between there and British Columbia, he is the last living member of the late-1940s Stanley Cup dynasty and won the Calder Trophy back in 1946-47. In the 1970s, he had a hockey school in Newfoundland and filmed episodes of a CBC television program from there to spread his knowledge across the land. He has a few certified autographed cards and his rookie card from 1951-52 Parkhurst is a must-have.
Collecting players from Newfoundland does not have to break the bank outside of finding a copy of Faulkner’s rookie card and it makes for a great focus for those wanting to put together something special – especially if you are from there!