Sunday, May 23, 2021

Wrestling with a Custom Card

Have a look at smiling Ralph Klassen here:

1976-77 O-Pee-Chee #282, Ralph Klassen

When I first saw that face, it reminded me of a big name from the 1980s sports and entertainment world. Any idea who? 

Here are some hints on the look-alike:

Instead of shouldering opponents into the boards, he flung them into the ropes.

He performed body slams, not body checks.

When I say he was a big name from the 1980s, I mean that figuratively and literally. The guy was huge. You might even refer to him as a giant.

Okay, that last hint probably gave it away, so here's the custom card:

Now that I see both cards together, I'm really not sure there's much of a resemblance. But a few weeks ago, when I first saw Ralph Klassen up there, it did remind me of Andre. So I'm going with it.

At first I couldn't figure out what position to list for the big guy. Probably defense, right? Or even a goalie? But then I thought, "Duh, he's a Giant!" Problem solved.

Before we get to Mr. Roussimoff, though, let's talk about the man on the original card. Here are some career NHL numbers for Ralph Klassen:

497 GP, 52 G, 93 A, 145 PTS, 120 PIM, 7 GWG

Doesn't seem like much to write home about, especially because Klassen was a talented player who put up some good numbers in juniors—so good, in fact, that he was selected 3rd overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft. 

But there's something important to keep in mind here: He played for some awful NHL teams. Have a look at these win-loss records.

1975-76 California Golden Seals (27-42-11)
1976-77 Cleveland Barons (25-42-13)
1978-79 Colorado Rockies (15-53-12) 

Oof. Three straight seasons of cities that were barely hanging onto their franchises. That's got to take a toll on a player. And it didn't end there. After the 1978-79 season was over, look at this two-day transaction roller coaster that Mr. Klassen experienced:

June 13, 1979: Claimed by Hartford from Colorado in the expansion draft. (i.e., goes from an NHL cellar dweller to a WHA transfer team. Not fun.)

June 14, 1979: Traded to the Islanders by Hartford. (Wait! Glory is ahead!)

June 14, 1979: Traded to St. Louis by the Islanders as part of a three-team transaction. (Back to the cellar. The previous season, St. Louis went 18-50-12.) 

Klassen would stick around in St. Louis for a few seasons though, and the team did put up some decent win-loss records in that time, including a first-place Smythe Division finish in 1980-81. For Klassen, that must have felt great.

His best individual season was 1976-77, when he put up 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points—placing him in the top 10 for team scoring. Not too bad, all things considered.  

As for Andre Roussimoff (a.k.a. Andre the Giant), it's likely you know a bit more about him.

If you were an '80s kid, the guy probably amazed you. Not only was he part of the cast of characters in the World Wrestling Federation, but he also played the loveable role of Fezzik in the 1987 film The Princess Bride

And can you picture Andre on skates? Playing hockey? If you've been a hockey fan at any point over the past 20 years, just picture big, tall defenseman Zdeno Chara, but then add even a few more inches and about 200 extra pounds. There you have it.

I mean, imagine you're a forward carrying the puck. If a guy like Andre is actually mobile on skates and has quick reflexes on defense, you don't have many options. Can't go around him. Certainly can't muscle yourself through him. Just avoid his half of the ice, I guess. Or maybe hope you're traded to his team.

In any case, it'd be a sight.


In the original 1976-77 set, card #264 depicts the Montreal Canadiens celebrating their Stanley Cup championship in a design inspired by the sports pages, complete with black and white image and newspaper-style caption running across the bottom.

I thought Andre's wrestling championship victory in 1988 would make for a good parallel, so I revised the text and swapped out the NHL logo for that classic WWF design. Here's the card:

I had even more fun than usual designing these two cards. And I still chuckle when I look at Andre as a Cleveland Baron up there and picture him skating around, opponents bouncing off his bulk in various directions.

Hope this gave you a chuckle, too. Thanks for reading, as always.


  1. Although I drew a blank before seeing your custom... I can see the resemblance now. Great job on both of these customs!

    1. Thanks for verifying the connection I made when I first saw Klassen's card, Fuji!

  2. Unlike Fuji, when I saw the thumbnail for this post, even before I clicked on it, I thought 'is that a young Andre the Giant'? Fun stuff.

    1. Glad you made the connection too, DK! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Actually, the hair made me think of Kerry Von Erich!

    1. That was my first thought too!

    2. Heh. Maybe I'll have to do a "variation" card featuring Mr. Von Erich. And now that I look at the original card again, I think with some trademark face paint Klassen would also resemble The Ultimate Warrior.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Brett and Matt!