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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Lost Cards: 1990-91 OPC Bob Froese

  The tale of  Bob Froese is a Tale of  Two Cities.  In Philadelphia, he was one of the best goalies in the NHL.  In New York, he was a middling back-up.  In both cities, he played in the shadows of former Vezina winners.
  Froese was originally drafted in the 10th round of the 1978 NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues.  Froese never signed a contract with the Blues.  Instead he played three seasons with the Saginaw Generals in the IHL, culminating with the league championship, the Turner Cup in 1981.
  The Philadelphia Flyers signed Froese to a contract during the 1981 offseason.  Bob was sent to play with the Maine Mariners and to back-up International star Pelle Lindbergh.  Lindbergh was called up to the NHL late in the 1981-82 season and Froese followed him with a midseason call-up during the 1982-83 season.
  Lindbergh was injured during an mid-season exhibition game against the Soviet Union on January 6th, 1983.  Froese was recalled and made an immediate impact.  He set a record, since broken*, by winning his first 8 career starts.  He began his career with a 13 game unbeaten streak, which included 3 shutouts.  He was named player of the week for January 23, 1983 and co-player of the Month.  Once Lindbergh was full healthy, Froese was regulated to back-up goalie.  Froese was 9th in Calder voting, while Pelle finished 5th.  Froese finished his rookie season going 17-4-2, .896 and 2.52.  His 2.52 GAA was second best in league.  Both Lindbergh and Froese had rookie cards in the 1983-84 OPC set.  It's the only year they both made the OPC set.
  Froese outplayed Pelle during the 1983-84 season.  Froese's number slipped a bit but he still finished top 5 in GAA, 3.15, and Wins, 28. as well as top ten in save percentage, .887.  Froese started the play-offs, but the Flyers were swept in three game by the Washington Capitals.  It was the third consecutive year the Flyer lost in the 1st round of play-offs, going a combined 1-9 in those years.
  Froese found him playing back-up with the 1984-85 season began.  Although Froese played great, it was Lindbergh who got the majority of the starts.  Froese was played sparingly and against the lesser teams.  Before getting injured in December, Froese was 7-1-0, .920 and 2.09.  A knee injury against the Winnipeg Jets cost Froese two months of the season.  Lindbergh started 28 out of the next 29 games before Froese returned to the crease.  Froese played back-up the rest of the season, finishing with a 13-2-0, .909, and 2.39 GAA.  His Save Percentage and GAA would have led the league if had played enough games.  Lindbergh won the Vezina trophy that season, on the strength of wining 40 games.  The Flyers finished first overall during the NHL regular season and finally made it out of the first round.  The Flyer, with Lindbergh between the pipes, went to the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to the Edmonton Oilers.  His only start was the Flyer's last game in the play-offs, after Pelle was injured in Game four.  The Flyers lost 8-3 in Game Five of the Finals.  Froese gave up all eight goals.
  Froese did not get a card in the 1985-86 set.  With OPC cutting back its set from 396 cards to 264, as well as Lindbergh's breakout season, Froese was a easy choice for the cutting room, floor.  Originally was going to use a different picture for this card, but how could I pass up a Brad Marsh cameo.

1985-86 OPC Bob Froese

  The Flyers regular season success continued early on during the 1985-86 season.  To start the season Lindbergh was 6-2, while Froese went 5-0.  Tragedy struck the team in the early morning of November 10, 1985.  The evening before, the Flyers were having a team party.  Pelle Lindbergh had a few too many drinks and drove his Porsche into a pole.  He was hospitalized and taken off life support on November 11th.  One of the first things Bobby Flyers GM had to do was cancel a pending trade.  There was already a deal in place to trade Bob Froese to the Los Angeles Kings for defenceman Jay Wells.  
  Froese was to start the next game, but suffered a groin injury during practice when a shot broke his protective cup.  He returned a week later to post a 3-0 shutout against the Hartford Whalers.  Froese had a career year in 1985-86.  He led the league in wins, 31, GAA, 2.55, Save Percentage, .909 and shutouts, 5.  Froese, and teammate, Darren Jensen, won the William Kennings trophy.  He finished 2nd in Vezina voting, by 2 points to winner John Vanbiesbrouck, and was voted 2nd Team All-Star.  While Froese had another great regular season, the Flyers lost in the first round of the play-offs against John Vanbiesbrouck and the New York Rangers.  Froese was outplayed by Vanbiesbrouck and took the brunt of the blame for the early play-off exit.
  Even as the runner-up for the Vezina trophy, Froese found himself starting the season as the back-up goalie for the Flyers, to rookie Ron Hextall.  Hextall got off to a blistering start and Froese only played in three games, and winning all three, before the Flyers traded him to the New York Rangers for Kjell Samuelsson and a 2nd round draft pick on December 18, 1986.  Frustrated by lack of playing time, and tension with Mike Keenan, Froese had requested to be traded.  The prior season, Froese was the runner-up to Vanbiesbrouck in the Vezina voting, now he was runner-up to him in the Ranger's depth chart.  Hextall went on to win the Vezina trophy, while Froese finished 5th, one spot ahead of Vanbiesbrouck.  The Flyer and Rangers had a first round rematch.  This time the heavily favored Flyers won in 6 games.  Froese started two games, winning one and losing one, but Vanbiesbrouck was still the #1 goalie with the Rangers, as he started four games.  Froese finished the season 17-11-0, .885, and 3.64.  It was his last winning season in the NHL.
  Froese spent the next three seasons playing behind John Vanbiesbrouck.  He went 22-32-8, .874, and 3.59 during those three seasons.  One of the almost highlights came on November 29, 1987 when Froese was credited with scoring a NHL goal.  He was, temporally, the second goalie in history to score a goal.   Temporarily, since after video review, the goal was later changed to David Shaw.  OPC gave him a card during the 1987-88 set, but he was left out of subsequent sets.   

1988-89 OPC Bob Froese

 So I made up a 1988-89 OPC, as well as a 1989-90 OPC.  


1989-90 OPC Bob Froese

  Froese entered the 1989-90 season again as the back-up but found himself as the odd man out by January.  Rookie Mike Richter was recalled due to an injury to John Vanbiesbrouck.  Richter, who was also Froese's new roommate and student,  quickly jumped over Froese and began to challenge Vanbiesbrouck for the starting job.  Froese played his last NHL game on January 25, 1990.  He was saddled with the loss, after coming in of relief of Richter in a 8-5 loss to the Calgary Flames.  
  Froese reaggravated a shoulder injury during the 1990 Rangers training camp and he would eventually be forced to retire due to the injury.  Froese became a goalie coach for the Rangers and later the New York Islanders before answering the call of a higher power.  Froese became a pastor.  When he informed Islanders GM Mike Milbury of his decision, Milbury asked how much the church was offering him.  Froese always felt a calling to cloth.  Although he put it aside to play hockey, it became stronger after Lindbergh's death, and inevitable once he was retired.
  Froese never did get a card after the 1987-88 OPC set.  With the emergence of Mike Richter, Froese was bumped down the depth chart and wasn't included in the 1990 Junk Wax boom.  So here is a 1990-91 OPC career capper of Froese.

1990-91 OPC #532 Bob Froese


1990-91 OPC #532 Bob Froese


  Bonus:  Froese did kinda have a card made of him.  Upper Deck used to make commentative sheets for hockey.  From what I can gather, these were giveaways at the game.   A version of a Bob Froese Upper Deck made one of those sheets.  What is interesting is that Froese was featured on a sheet released in February 18, 1991, although he had not played a single game that season.   So although I couldn't find the same picture, I mocked up a 1990-91 Upper Deck Bob Froese. 

1990-91 Upper Deck Bob Froese


* Froese's record of 8 straight career wins to begin a career was bested by Ray Emery of the Ottawa Senators.  A big difference is that Froese won his eight games in 8 starts appearances over a three week span.  It took Emery 3 season, plus a lockout, and 12 games, including three in relief, to win his first 9 career decisions.  

1 comment:

  1. Nice batch of custom cards! The 1990-91 OPC and Upper Deck versions are my favorites.

    I met Mr. Froese at a summer hockey camp in New York when I was a kid. Must have been just a few years after he retired. He was really nice to all the kids, and shared some great insight and instruction. Nice to learn a little more about him all these years later. Pretty cool record he set to start his career!

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