Sunday, June 9, 2024

Board Advertisements on Cards, Episode 6: Amtrak

Way back in 1978, the NHL allowed teams to start selling advertising space along the boards of their rinks. By the time I was a hockey card–collecting kid in the late 1980s, the trend had caught on. From snack foods to car manufacturers to banks to fast food restaurants, board advertisements really ran the gamut—and they still do.

This series will explore some of the advertisements that also managed to make their way onto hockey cards.
Previous entries are available here.

1991-92 O-Pee-Chee #201,
Wayne Gretzky Highlights

Here's Wayne Gretzky in that classic Los Angeles Kings uniform, sporting that silver Easton aluminum hockey stick. He's positioned along the boards, no doubt ready to receive a pass and set up yet another scoring opportunity.
The card commemorates Gretzky scoring his 2,000th NHL point. No one has done it since. (Jaromir Jagr is the closest, with 1,921.) The feat was accomplished against the Winnipeg Jets on October 28, 1990. However, the photo on the front of the card is not from that game. How can we tell?

Have a look just over Mr. Gretzky's right shoulder. I see a little piece of a New York Rangers jersey there, to the side of the mustachioed guy's face.

Additionally, have a look at the advertisement on the boards behind Mr. Gretzky.

It's for Amtrak. And I know for certain that an Amtrak advertisement was plastered on the boards at Madison Square Garden back then. You see, the Garden is right on top of Penn Station, which offers Amtrak train service to various parts of North America. (Winnipeg does not.)
I wonder if the folks at MSG were kind enough to cut them a deal on the advertising fee.
Even if they didn't, let's talk about Amtrak. 
In theory, it's great. Ride by rail. See the country, from the mountains to the prairies, etcetera. Enjoy our café car. And our bar car. And for the really long trips: our sleeper cars!
In practice, however, the experience can be less than ideal. Delays. More delays. Inadequate luggage space. Crowded cars. Inconsiderate passengers. (One time, the guy in the seat across the aisle from me immediately took off his shoes upon boarding, and stretched his bare, stinky feet out into the aisle.)
It's not all bad, of course. Sometimes Amtrak really does live up to its potential. The scenery as you look out the windows can be truly beautiful. And I've got some great memories of taking Amtrak from Penn Station to the Adirondacks in the summers as a young teenager, by myself, toting along a duffel bag and a guitar, to spend time with my family up there. Nothing else quite like it.
Speaking of nothing else quite like it, I'm not sure we need to mention much about Wayne Gretzky's hockey history in this post: the 61 NHL records that he still holds to this day, or the 4 Stanley Cup rings he owns, or the 18 All-Star games he appeared in, or the many times he suited up for Team Canada, or anything else. Instead, how about we link the guy to the board advertisement?
Here is a list of the four NHL cities Mr. Gretzky played for, along with just some of the Amtrak lines that run to and from each city. (I've included links that provide more information, for those of you who might fancy traveling by rail):

Edmonton: None

Everything else aside, you've got to admit that the folks at Amtrak have come up with some great names for their train lines. Who wouldn't want to take a ride on the California Zephyr, or the Missouri River Runner?

So how about you readers? Have you ever traveled by Amtrak or any other scenic railway? If so, what was your experience like?
Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading!


  1. Never traveled by Amtrak, but maybe one day. I did take the train (Caltrain) up to San Francisco to watch a Giants game though.

    1. Taking the train to the game is a fun experience, for sure. I think every baseball fan should try it at least once, if it's an option for their stadium.

  2. Just local train lines like the LIRR.

    This is a fun series. I've done similar for baseball. I should look and see what ads are visible on the few hockey cards in my possession.

    1. Thanks very much, Bo! I figured you'd have taken the LIRR to the game before. We're fortunate to have so many options to Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, aren't we?

  3. Scenic trains are always fun. The best I have taken is one that runs from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon. I would like to take VIA across Canada or hop on the narrow gauge tourist lines that fed the mining boom towns in the Rockies.

    Amtrak is my preferred way to travel into the Northeast. Sure, it's slower than air travel but the time spent traversing gigantic airport parking lots and waiting at gates, passing security, and sitting on the tarmac make it pretty much a wash for many routes. Add in the time spent commuting to congested city centers from airports typically built away from the tall buildings of downtowns and you can gain time getting to your destination in places like New York. Trains are much roomier, have better (hot) food on demand, and are easy to walk around or change seats on a whim.

    1. Taking a scenic train tour around the Rockies is on my list, for sure. And you make some good points about traveling by train as opposed to plane. Major airports like JFK can be exhausting.

  4. Amtrak is fine. I did get stuck at NY Penn Station for 3 hours on July 4 weekend a couple years ago. They gave us no information about the delay; other passengers on the train informed us (via twitter) that they were understaffed that day :/

    i think it would be fun to ride a train somewhere out west, to St. Louis or L.A. Not non-stop though, that would get tiresome!

    1. Yep, that sounds like Amtrak/Penn Station! And I agree -- there's a train that runs all the way from Toronto to Penn Station, for example, and that must be a very tiresome trip.

  5. I like the idea of traveling by train, but aside from the local light rail back home (MAX), I've never been on one.

    1. It can be a nice way to travel, for sure. (Not to mention sight-seeing.) If I ever get to Europe for some vacation time, it seems like many countries over there have amazing scenic railways, too.