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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

1981-82 OPC Reboot: Whalers and Kings

Hartford Whalers

  The Avco Cup winning Whalers of the WHA were a distant memory for the Hartford Whalers teams of the earlier 1980s.  The 1979-80 Hartford Whalers had four future Hall of Famers on its roster.  Unfortunately, three of them were well past their prime.  Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull would retire after the season.  Dave Keon would play a few more season before calling it a career.  The fourth HHOFee was Mark Howe, who still holds single season records for most goals, 24, assists, 56, and points, 80, in a season by a Whaler/Hurricane defenceman.  Records he set in the franchises first NHL season.

Rk         Player Pos Age GP  W  L T/O  GA   GAA SO  MIN
1    John  Garrett   G  29 54 15 27  12 241  4.59  0 3152
2     Mike  Veisor   G  28 29  6 13   6 118  4.46  1 1588
3     Ken  Holland   G  25  1  0  1   0   7  7.00  0   60
       Team Total         80 21 41  18 366  4.58  1 4800

1981-82 OPC #134 Greg Millen
  If you looked at the Whalers goalies above, you may have notice that Greg Millen was not listed as one of them.  Millen was signed as free agent on June 1st of 1981.  He signed in time for OPC to give him a airbrushed card.  So I decided that since he did start the season with the Whalers, that I'd put him in a Whalers card.  The Whalers, who finished 2nd last in GAA, were so desperate for a goalie they signed Greg Millen, who tied for the league lead in losses with....

1981-82 OPC #137 John Garrett
  John Garrett and Greg Millen shared the league led with 27 losses each in 1979-80.  Like Millen, Garrett would go on to be better known as a sportscaster than a goalie.  Garrett got some pretty poor treatment early in his career, especially in his WHA days, but he had some really solid looking OPC cards, especially once he was with the Vancouver Canucks.  His 1981-82 OPC is one of the few in the set that comes close to an action shot for the goalie.  The reboot is not an action shot, but has him with a much cooler mask and I like the colours on it.  Narrow win for the reboot.

Bonus Whalers

1981-82 OPC Mike Veisor

  If you have reading all the reboots, you'd know that Tony Esposito played in 83% of the Black Hawks games from 1972 to 1981.  Who was the man stuck behind Tony O?  For the most part, it was Mike Veisor.  Veisor only played in 52 NHL games from 1973 to 1979.  Veisor would get three NHL cards, none of them had him in full equipment.  He also never had a Whalers card.

1981-82 OPC Ken Holland
  Ken Holland played a single game for the Hartford Whalers.  One thing I find different about the NHL in the 80s, they weren't against letting their young goalies getting thrashed.  Holland played all 60 minutes of a 7-3 loss against the New York Rangers.  Ken is one of five goalies to have only played a single game in the 1980-81 season.  Out of the five goalies, four of them allowed 7 or more goalies and played the entire game.  Holland is best known for being one of the architects of the Red Wings recent success.  In recent I mean the past twenty years.

Los Angeles Kings

  The Los Angeles Kings of the late 1970s was a team that had potential but was never able to get to the next level.  In the 1980-81 season, it appeared the team was at the cusp once again.  The Kings had 99 points and finished 4th overall in the NHL.  The Triple Crown Line, Dionne, Simmer and Taylor, each scored 100 points.  Hopes were high for the play-offs.  Unfortunately, the Kings would fall flat, losing the opening series in four games, 3-1, to the New York Rangers.  It was the fourth straight season the Kings lost in the opening round.  In the off-season, head coach Bob Berry would leave for greener pastures and become the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.  Berry would guide the Canadiens to the play-offs the next two seasons, each time losing in the first round.  The Kings would end the 1981-82 season with one of the greatest upsets in hockey history.

Rk           Player Pos Age GP  W  L T/O  GA   GAA SO  MIN
1     Mario  Lessard   G  26 64 35 18  11 203  3.25  2 3746
2    Jim  Rutherford   G  31  3  3  0   0  10  3.33  0  180
3       Ron  Grahame   G  30  6  3  2   1  28  4.67  0  360
4        Doug  Keans   G  23  9  2  3   1  37  4.89  0  454
5       Paul  Pageau   G  21  1  0  1   0   8  8.00  0   60
         Team Total          80 43 24  13 286  3.57  2 4800
1981-82 OPC #146 Mario Lessard

  Mario Lessard had a short career.  He spent his entire six season career with the LA Kings.  1980-81 was his best season.  He led the NHL in wins and was a second team All-star.  Lessard would get three OPC cards, all with mask on.  Strangely, OPC did not make a Lessard card for 1980-81 set, in fact no Kings goals were included in that set.  Lessard card is one of the few action shots in the 1981-82 set.  I'll give the win to the original

Bonus Kings

1981-82 OPC Doug Keans (RC)
  Doug Keans is best remembered for being a Boston Bruin.  Keans spent parts of four season with Kings before being picked up on waivers by the Bruins.  Keans was a back-up for Bruins for five seasons.  While he played well, he was never able to get the starting job.  He backed-up Pete Peeters, Pat Riggin, Bill Ranford and Reggie Lemelin. 

1981-82 OPC Jim Rutherford

  The Kings was Jim Rutherford's third team in 1981-82.  He also played with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.  Rutherford's time playing with the LA Kings would be short.  He would play in a total of eleven games with the Kings before moving on.  Rutherford had eight cards with OPC, none of them had him in full equipment.  He had three head shots, two full body studio poses, and three warm-up skate cards.  Today, Rutherford is best known as the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes, a post he has held since 1994.

1981-82 OPC Paul Pageau (RC)
  When I originally learned about Paul Pageau, I read he holds the record for most goals against by a goalie who only played one NHL game.  I can't remember where I read that but it is false.  The goalie who holds that dubious record will be featured on a later card.  I could not find a picture of Paul Pageau in a Kings uniform.  I had the option of doing a head shot card but the picture wasn't in that good of resolution and I thought the picture I used was much more interesting.  I could also use it to pay homage to the "Now With X" cards OPC used to produce.  I did consider doing a paint job on Pageau's unifrom but decided it was too much work and sacrilegious to colour over a Team Canada jersey.  The picture is from the 1980 Olympics.  Pageau's NHL career would last exactly one sixty minute game, in which he allowed eight goals.  The Kings allowed eight goals three times in the 1980-81 season.  Does anyone know which game Pageau played in?


  1. Pageau's only NHL appearance came against the New York Islanders on February 3, 1981. I met him when I was a kid and he told me a little bit about the game.

    1. Thanks for the info. Crazy how they would put a rookie goalie in against the Stanley Cup champs and leave him in for eight goals.

  2. Greg Millen led the NHL in shutouts at least twice, so it might be a bit unfair to say he's remembered best from his sportscaster days...

    1. Millen only led the NHL in shutouts once. He had 6 shutouts in 88-89. He finished 4th in 83-84 with 2. Mike Liut, whom Millen was once traded for, led the league twice. Millen did led the NHL in losses three times and came in 2nd another three times. He played on mediocre-poor teams his entire career. And those teams played him a lot. He lost 154 games from 1980/81 to 85/85, which might be an NHL record. I'll have to look into that.

    2. Stan Fischler rated Greg Millen at #5 on his list of Best Goalies of the 1980s.

      I remember Millen with the St. Louis Blues. He used to make things miserable for the Blackhawks.

      He then went on to play briefly for the 'Hawks.

    3. I'd put Fuhr, Smith, Roy, Liut, Barrasso, Moog, Lindbergh, Peeters, Vernon, Resch and Wamsley ahead of Millen, just to name a few. Do you have a link to his list? I wonder what criteria he is using. To say he is top 5 in a decade is to say that he is elite. I have never thought of Greg Millen as elite. A good goalie for bad teams, but never an elite goalie.
      I checked his splits. He was 11-2-2, 2.64 against Chicago from 87-88 on. If he had played all his games against Chicago, then he would have been an elite goalie.

    4. No list...I remember this from watching a 1989-90 New York Islanders game on TV. Fischler was a studio analyst/commentator during intermissions, and I remember him counting down his top 5 goalies of the decade. He complimented Millen on his good play of angles. That stuck out because I used to see Millen 8 times a year (plus playoffs) when the 'Hawks would play the Blues.