Sunday, November 15, 2020

From Ice Rink to Game Grid

Today's custom card takes a different route than many before it. In fact, you might say it takes a virtual route.

Here's the original card. Note the Cooper-brand helmet in particular:

1981-82 O-Pee-Chee #193, Doug Wickenheiser

When I look at these helmets—especially from certain angles like the one this 1981-82 card affordsI can't help but think of a science-fiction film from the same decade. Are you thinking of the same one?

If nothing is coming to mind, here are some hints:

The film featured groundbreaking computer animation. 

Instead of an ice rink, the characters in this film did battle on something called a "game grid".

From 1996 to 1998, the NHL used a special puck that left a glowing trail on television screens when shot hard enough. More than a decade earlier, this film had Light Discs that left a glowing trail when thrown.

Got the film?

Here's the custom card:


Suddenly Doug Wickenheiser has found himself digitized into a computer world, his bleu, blanc, et rouge replaced with a Tron uniform. But don't worry. He's a professional hockey player. He'll do just fine on the game grid.

As for the other design elements, I changed the team name to Tron and the position from center to user (in English and French, just like the original O-Pee-Chee card). I also changed the Canadiens logo on the bottom right to a stylized Light Disc, or "Identity Disc" as it's also called.

With those elements out of the way, look at that helmet once again. There's not much doubt that the Tron props department modified some Cooper helmets for actors to use in the film. It's just an unmistakable shape, and it makes for a cool hockey connection. See?


And there's even one more connection to be made.

Tron appeared in theaters during the summer of 1982. At the very same time, hockey-loving kids were probably still sorting through their new 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee cards, including Doug Wickenheiser's #193 up there at the top.

I wonder if any those kids watched the film in theaters, recognized the helmets from their hockey cards, and yelled out, "Hey, that guy is wearing a Cooper hockey helmet!"

Regardless, the film may have inspired Mr. Wickenheiser, because he put up his finest offensive numbers the following season: 25 goals, 30 assists, 55 points, and a 15.6 shooting percentage.

His career totals: 10 NHL seasons, 556 GP, 111 G, 165 A, 276 PTS, 286 PIM, 16 GWG, 11.2 S%.
But right now it looks like he's ready for his next game on the grid.

And that raises a fun question: Which hockey player, past or present, would make the best Tron competitor? 

It would have to be a player with a combination of speed, skill, and smarts. Excellent offensive and defensive abilities would be a plus. A working knowledge of physics and geometry would also help. 

Wayne Gretzky? Pavel Datsyuk? Sergei Fedorov? Jaromir Jagr? Gordie Howe?

I might choose Gordie. He'd probably just walk onto the game grid, derez his competitor with one punch, and walk right back out.

Leave your choices in the comment section.


  1. Sweet custom. I totally surprised myself and thought of Tron immediately. As for your question... I'll leave that up to the hockey experts. But I like your choice of Howe.

    1. Nice job guessing correctly, Fuji! And yes, Gordie Howe is a good choice for the game grid. I don't think you could go wrong there.

  2. That is an awesome Tron custom! I haven't seen the movie but I'm familiar with the reference and images.

    Off the top of my head I'd say Connor McDavid would be great at Tron. But since you chose Gordie it makes me think that a more physical player would be ideal - such as Alex Ovechkin.

    1. Thanks Chris! You made some good choices there. McDavid excels just about everywhere, and has a very high hockey IQ that would probably translate to Tron. As for Ovechkin, I know I wouldn't want to face that beast on the game grid. Yeesh!

  3. Classic! Nice work on that custom. I know I've said it before but if you ever find a method of printing yours sign me up for a few!

    Like Fuji, I can't argue with your choice of Gordie Howe. Just the right combination of toughness and elite skill...

    1. Thanks shoebox! Seems like Gordie will have lots of fans cheering him on whenever he steps on the game grid.

      As for printing these custom cards, I've been working on that idea, so stay tuned.

  4. Your imagination is wild. Not sure how you do it but I can totally see Tron on Ice. The movie didn't do much for me but I loved the arcade game. I'd forgotten all about it! Guess that's giving away my age a bit. I just spent 20 minutes on You Tube watching the game play. Seems so cheesy now but good memories!

    1. Thanks very much, Julie! You know, I still haven't seen the film from beginning to end, and even if I were to watch it today, I'm still not sure I'd completely follow all the computer-talk. But that Cooper helmet was all the inspiration I needed to create the custom card.

      As for the arcade game, a friend of mine was a good player back in the 1990s. It was fun watching him advance through the levels. I might have to search YouTube later today for some of those same videos.