It’s probably fair to say that almost every collector retains at least one program in their collection, regardless of their overall hobby preferences. Unlike some collectibles, programs are sort of interactive, with a little something for everyone inside: interesting articles, unique pictures, statistics and great advertisements. Some programs are even known to contain inserts. Unfortunately, these types of premiums are generally removed or tend to be lost or discarded through time.
One particular group of hockey programs that can lay claim to an insert premium are the Toronto Marlboros Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) programs for games played at Maple Leaf Gardens from 1963-64 to 1966-67. More like a scorecard, the 25-cent programs came in a tri-fold or sometimes bi-fold, design. The front cover sported some OHA and or NHL notes on the front. Inside, they display team rosters, advertising, schedules plus past and future game information, along with assorted other details.
The interesting part of these minor league programs is that they also contained a different Toronto Marlboro player photo inserted on one of the pages. Mounted between two die-cut slits, in the center or right-side of a page, they look and feel like a trading card.
This design would fit two corners of these 4” x 5” photos, which are often found crudely cut and vary somewhat in size. To my knowledge, no other OHA team during this timeline utilized anything like it within their hometown programs.
Interestingly, only two Memorial Cup championships were played at Maple Leaf Gardens in the four years these cards were issued: the first being 1963-64 Toronto Marlboros vs Edmonton Oil Kings. However, in 1965-66 the Oil Kings played the Oshawa Generals, a team which featured a very young Bobby Orr and the programs included cards from those two clubs. Below is an example of one of these Memorial Cup programs that has surfaced, with a Ted Hodgson Oil Kings photo-card. Another example housed Danny O’Shea. Thus, we believe they were issued for that particular Cup series.
There was also a very recent find from a woman who inherited the two 1965-66 programs below. She stated that her brother had attended hockey games at Maple Leaf Gardens to watch Bobby Orr and the Generals. Inside the programs were Oshawa Generals photo-cards of Bill Little and Ian Young. Unfortunately, there was no program with an Orr card but the new discovery leaves little doubt that this is where the few that exist would have originated. It’s likely why it is so hard to find today, with fewer than five known to have survived, according to collector Andy Baran, who provided help with the photos and information for this story.
These photo-cards are finally getting some long overdue recognition, especially now that we can document them fully or at least to the degree this article is able to convey.
Since the photo-cards were available in Toronto Marlboros programs issued over the course of multiple seasons, there are many other players and coaches that were issued but we’ve listed only eight notable ones here, including some recognizable names who went on to enjoy solid NHL careers. The known Oil Kings and Generals cards are also listed:
Regarding a similar Bobby Orr pre-rookie card known to advanced hockey collectors, it has been said that the CKLB-Crown Life cards (measuring about 4.25 x 6.25”) were inserted into Oshawa Generals programs, but as of this writing we have not found any evidence to support this theory. Those cards are generally found in complete sets, suggesting a team issue that may have been sold at souvenir stands or through another method of distribution.
While also extremely rare, they’re still not quite as scarce as the one that was inserted in the Cup programs in 1966. The photo on both cards is essentially the same, but as you can see below, there’s no sponsor listed on the cards that originated in the Cup programs.
It all leaves us wondering how many players may have been issued beyond the list above. Any addition to the checklist would be considered a rare find indeed.