Sunday, March 14, 2021


The year 1993 marks an interesting point in the trading card timeline. Special inserts in packs of cards and various "limited edition" sets were becoming the trendy thing, as were cards produced using new, fancy materials.

It was a pretty cool time to be a hockey fan, too. One year earlier, the Winter Olympics had given us a glimpse at the wave of Russian players who'd soon be leaving their country legally and freely for the NHL. Their gold medal-winning team featured super talents such as Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, Alexei Zhamnov, Darius Kasparaitis, Vladimir Malakhov, Nikolai Khabibulin, Andrei Kovalenko, and Alexei Zhitnik. (And that's just a partial list.)

Then, in the spring of 1993 the World Ice Hockey Championships were held, and they showcased even more international talent. 

A trading card company named Classic Games, Inc. saw that tournament as an opportunity to create an insert set to go along with their standard set of hockey cards. They selected a few stars from the Canadian team and froze them in new, cool-looking 2.5 x 3.5 acetate rectangles. (Limited edition of 25,000, whoa!)

Here's a look at each card in the set along with 1993 World Championship stats and some NHL history for each player. As you'll see, each card was assigned a letter that, when put together in order, spells out "Canada". 

Greg Johnson
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 1 G, 2A, 3 PTS, 2 PIM
Johnson would begin his NHL journey later that year in Detroit. The dependable, defensive-minded center played 785 total games over a very respectable 12-season career that also included stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Nashville.


Paul Kariya
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 PTS, 0 PIM
The 18-year-old Kariya was still a couple of seasons away from the NHL, but his performance in the World Championships helped to show everyone just how much of a star he'd become. He finished his NHL career as a point-per-game player, exactly (989 points in 989 games), and became a member of the Hall of Fame in 2017 alongside Finnish buddy and longtime teammate Teemu Selanne.

Brian Savage
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 1 G,  0 A, 1 PTS, 2 PIM
Savage would get his first taste of NHL action later that year, playing three games with the Montreal Canadiens. In 1994 he would again put on the national jersey, helping Team Canada win a silver medal at the Winter Olympics. Across his NHL career he put up quite a few solid 20-goal seasons.

Bill Ranford
1993 Tournament: 6 GP, 5 W, 1 L, 1.86 GAA, 0.933 SV%
Ranford got the lion's share of goaltending work for a slumping Edmonton team that missed the playoffs during the 1992-93 NHL season, which in turn made him available for Team Canada that spring. He performed exceedingly well during the tournament, posting two shutouts and averaging less than two goals allowed per game.

Mark Recchi
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, 2 PIM
Recchi was busy displaying his talents with the Flyers in 1992-93, putting up a whopping 53 goals and 70 assists for 123 points. The Flyers also missed the playoffs that spring, so the future Hall of Famer was quickly snatched up by Team Canada.

Geoff Sanderson
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 PTS, 2 PIM
Sanderson had a monster 1992-93 NHL season, potting 46 goals and adding 43 assists for 89 points. I'm sure Team Canada was happy that his Hartford Whalers didn't make the playoffs that spring so they could add him to the roster as well.

Adam Graves
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 PTS, 8 PIM
Graves had already won a Cup with Edmonton, and had started to exhibit his goal-scoring talents in 1992-93, putting up 36 goals for the Rangers. Good timing for Team Canada, as the following season Graves wouldn't have been available. He'd score 52 goals, helping to propel the Rangers into the playoffs and all the way to a Stanley Cup victory.

Here's an image of a card back. It features a simple stat line from the tournament, a player bio, some trademark info, and that's about it. The designers couldn't have done much more, because the translucent half of the card reveals the content from the front, in reverse. If you were to place content on that part of the card back, it would similarly show through on the front side, in reverse. And that wouldn't be good design.

Another thing you might have noticed is that the translucent areas on some cards have yellowed a bit more than others. Greg Johnson's card is looking clean as a whistle up there. It must have been stored in a more forgiving environment over the years.

Design aside, what's a little peculiar to me is that Classic only did this insert set for the Canadian team (which finished the tournament in fourth place, by the way). What about some of the other teams?

Well, the Czech team earned the bronze medal in the 1993 tournament, but they were a little bit light on players or prospects that anyone would have known, so I can understand leaving them out.

The talent on the silver medal-winning Swedish team would have looked spiffy on acetate, however. 

The letters S-W-E-D-E-N could have been Mikael Renberg, Michael Nylander, Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Ulf Dahlen, and Tommy Soderstrom. It would have been a "pre-NHL" card for Renberg, Nylander, Forsberg, and Naslund, all highly touted prospects at the time.
The gold medal-winning Russian team could have come out quite alright, too. 

R-U-S-S-I-A could have consisted of Alexei Yashin, Dmitri Yuskevich, Alexander Karpotsev, Vyacheslav Butsayev, German Titov, and Andrei Trefilov. Just as with the Swedish team, all these Russian players had either already started their NHL careers or were talented youngsters on their way to the big league.

Even the US team, which lost in the quarterfinals, had some players on their roster that card collectors would have undoubtedly clamored for. 

S-T-A-T-E-S could have been Mike Modano, Mike Richter, Derian Hatcher, Tony Amonte, Darren Turcotte, and Doug Weight.

But I suppose focusing on just one team from the tournament was probably better than doing an insert set for two or three of them while leaving the others out. And who knows? Maybe some NHL, NHLPA, or international licensing issues were involved. Classic made a lot of their bread and butter by releasing sets of cards that featured prospects and draft picks who hadn't yet reached the professional ranks of their particular sport, which meant the company could avoid using professional team names and logos.

Regardless, it was fun to acquire all seven of these cards so many years later. Back in 1993 I wasn't even aware that this Team Canada set existed, as I was in my early adolescence and I'd pretty much lost interest in collecting.

Anyone else have fun memories of the early "insert" days? Did you think cards made of acetate or metal or any other newfangled material were cool? Share in the comment section. And thanks for reading.


  1. At least the Canadian names were pronounceable! I've never been a fan of acetates but found some of Leaf Steel intriguing. I began collecting in 93 because of inserts. UD Then and Now lured me into the fold. I bought ONE card for a friend, the Nolan Ryan when suddenly...I needed one too.

    1. Heh. Just one card. This hobby can do that to you, can't it?

      And you know, I credit hockey with teaching me how to pronounce complicated last names from many parts of Europe and Scandinavia. The NHL is quite international!

  2. Well, now I know where Fleer EX got its ideas.

    I was still collecting in '93 but I wasn't all that aware of inserts. I believe the first inserts I pulled/knew were the Fleer Pro Visions. I was around 27 at the time, so they didn't have much of an effect on me.

    1. It's really something to compare those early days of inserts to everything that's produced now, isn't it? The definition of "limited edition" sure has changed!

  3. I'll always have a soft spot for cards made out of or with acetate or metal... especially the ones from the 90's.

    1. It was a wild time back then, wasn't it? Acetate cards, die-cut cards, and Topps Finest were some products that made big splashes.

  4. Kind of reminds me of the letter patches that they do these days, although these are considerably more interesting looking than those modern patches.

    1. I agree, Jon. Not a bad design on these. I'm trying to imagine the young version of myself finding one in a pack of cards back then...

  5. I think I have the Geoff Sanderson in my Whalers collection and yeah, it has yellowed badly!

    1. Ooh, that's a nice addition to your collection. And it makes me wonder even more why that Greg Johnson card I have is so pristine and clear compared with the others.