Sunday, April 14, 2019

From the Favorites Box: Terry Ruskowski, 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee WHA #37

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.

I find that when people use the word "interesting" to describe something, it can mean quite a few different things.

Q: How did you like that movie?  

A: It was interesting.

Q: What do you think of my new green Hawaiian shirt with the orange palm trees and purple ukuleles on it?  

A: It's interesting.

Q: How was the weekend retreat with your coworkers? 

A: Sunday was interesting.

See what I mean?

Well, to continue that theme, the 66 cards that comprise the 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee WHA hockey set are also . . . interesting.

First off, I enjoy the design. It's basic, but the hockey stickinspired color bars do zoom across the card with all their neon glory. That's cool. And neon colors were more of an '80s thing. So maybe this card's design was even a little ahead of its time. Regardless, it's interesting.

Secondly, it's a WHA set, so it features some teams that no longer exist (Cincinnati Stingers, Indianapolis Racers, Quebec Nordiques, New England Whalers, Houston Aeros, Birmingham Bulls). That, by itself, is interesting.

The set also features a few players wearing uniforms of the Calgary Cowboys, Minnesota Fighting Saints, Phoenix Roadrunners, and San Diego Mariners—WHA teams that had folded the year before (or in the case of Marc Tardif and the Los Angeles Sharks, four years before!). These teams did not even exist when packs of the cards were on store shelves in 1977-78. That certainly is interesting.

Many images in the set are dark, or poorly framed, or weird. (Check out Anders Hedberg, card #3, and tell me it's not . . . uhhm . . . interesting.)

There is a checklist—at card number 58. A location in a 66-card set that you might find . . . interesting.

The first card in the set celebrates Gordie Howe's 1,000th professional goal, and has a completely different design on the front and back than the other 65 cards in the set. Also interesting.

And in the news during the summer of 1978? A 17-year-old kid named Wayne Gretzky signed with the Indianapolis Racers. So unfortunately, this set just missed out on being a lot more interesting.

But let's turn away from the vagaries of that word, and move to something more definite:

Terry Ruskowski's card.

Now that's a specimen. Ruskowsi is caught in motion, swooping in from the wing and crystal clear while his teammates on the bench behind him are a blur. You even get a good look at the team colors and the classic design of those "Aeros" letters running diagonally across the front of his jersey. (And he's the team captain, look.)

The back of the card? Also cool.

Considered to be one of the better fighters in the WHA, Terry gained that reputation on the strength of his quick right hand and on his not backing away from any challenge. 

Man, what a cool era it was for that kind of information to be considered pertinent.

And thanks to the modern era, we've got some proof of the 5'10", 168-lb. Ruskowski's pugilistic prowess.

Watch here, as Buffalo's Paul Cyr gets rough with a young Mario Lemieux off-camera, and Ruskowski steps in to unleash some schoolyard justice. 

Aside from that quick right hand, Ruskowski also put up some respectable numbers throughout his WHA and NHL career, his best seasons coming with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1979-80 (15 G, 55 A, 70 PTS, 252 PIM) and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1985-86 (26 G, 37 A, 63 PTS, 162 PIM).

For the little guy stepping up to protect his teammates, and for the great image on the front of the card, 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee WHA #37 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.


  1. Interesting post! Lol. Seriously... it was awesome! Love this card's design (well... at least the card front). The colors, great action shot, and Houston Aeros logo combine to form a terrific trifecta. The back is interesting as well... but more in a green Hawaiian shirt with the orange palm trees and purple ukuleles sense ;)

  2. That Hawaiian shirt really does sound like it would be interesting!

  3. I've seen/have a handful of cards from this set, but none that look as cool as this Ruskowski. The in-action photo is perfectly framed, and the logo actually matches his jersey, which was rare since so many WHA teams were folding/relocating in '78.

    1. Right? Must have been a strange time to be a hockey fan.

  4. Awesome photo on that card.

    1. Makes you wonder why Topps/OPC couldn't have done it more often for that set, right?

  5. I have the Aeros out of this set and I may go chase the crest of it one day when I have less on my plate. The Ruskowski card is terrific. He was among my favorite guys on those Aeros teams. I miss the fun of those games.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Commish! There must be game footage out there, right? I might look into that tonight.