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Parkhurst hockey cards were manufactured by Parkhurst Products, a Canadian manufacturer of sports cards. Their cards were primarily for ice hockey but also featured Canadian wrestlers. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Parkhurst produced its first hockey cards in 1951 and continued for over a decade as the primary cardmaker for that sport before ceding the market to Topps.
Although Parkhurst was a very popular brand in Canada, it only had the rights to produce cards of the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. In some years, it only had the rights to produce cards featuring players from Montreal and Toronto and the sets for any given year could consist of fewer than 70 cards.
Return in 1991Edit
After disappearing in the 1960s, the Parkhurst hockey card brand was resuscitated in 1991 by Dr. Brian H. Price and licensed to Pro Set. After the hockey card explosion of 1990–91, Parkhurst cards were back in the marketplace. Pro Set promoted Parkhurst as a premium brand of cards. Series I and Series II were available in both English and French and featured the rookie cards of players such as Dominik Hasek and John LeClair. The 1991–92 Update Set was the final release of the year and was the most valuable of all three sets. One of the key rookie cards of that set was of Bill Guerin. Of note, the cases of Parkhurst cards were sequentially numbered, and this was the first time hockey card cases were numbered.
When Pro Set, Inc. entered Chapter Eleven bakruptcy protection prior to the 1992–93 NHL season, Price traveled weekly from Toronto to Dallas and became the unofficial hockey brand manager. The second year of Parkhurst (1992–93) was the last with Pro Set as the company went bankrupt and Price took his Parkhurst tradename and license to the Upper Deck Company, an agreement which began with the 1993–94 season.
As part of the Upper Deck/Parkurst license agreement, during the 1993–94 hockey season, Price was allowed under the Upper Deck/NHL license to create and release three retrospective Parkhurst trading cards sets. The first set of cards was known unofficially as "The Missing Link". These cards were produced to complement the fact that Parkhurst did not make cards in 1956. All the cards in the set featured the Original Six teams. The cards featured stats from the 1955–56 season, and had a very retro feel to them, with a no-gloss finish and simple design. One of the most unusual cards in the set was a card featuring the likeness of Johnny Bower in a New York Rangers uniform, while other Parkhurst traditions were upheld, such as action cards.
The popularity of this set led to two other retro-style sets, one commemorating the 1964–65 season (in the "Tall Boy" format Topps used that year), released in 1995, and a subsequent set issued in 1996. This set "commemorated" the 1966–67 season, which signified the rookie season of Bobby Orr and the final Stanley Cup triumph of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once again, all Original Six teams were featured in the set and each pack contained a "wheel", akin to the Shirriff pieces issued around this time. There was one wheel issued per pack, which paralleled the shell cards (player cards) in the set, as well as 10 bonus wheels that paralleled the Beehive-inspired inserts of Orr and Gordie Howe.
Aside from the Missing Link sets, three other series were issued by Price and Upper Deck (two series in 1993–94 and one in 1994–95) in North America. One other set released in 1994–95 was the Special Edition set, originally distributed solely in European markets (though a strong amount made the way across the Atlantic). It was a smaller set and could be distinguished from the standard Parkhurst cards of 1994–95 by its unique numbering with an SE prefix. This set was unique because it featured the first cards of players like Jarome Iginla and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
After two years, Upper Deck breached their Parkhurst license agreement in 1995, thus the brand was no longer in Upper Deck's hands. With no place else to turn, Price created his own release, Parkhurst International, only available in the European markets. Some of the highlights from the 1995–96 Parkhurst set can be found in Series II, including the first card of Wayne Gretzky in a St. Louis Blues uniform. Although the controversy of this card was that Wayne Gretzky's face was superimposed over previous captain Shayne Corson's body, it was not correct. Wayne Gretzky was also featured on another card in the Series II set, but this time, it was on the back. Kevin Stevens was featured in Series II as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. On the back of the card is a picture of Kevin Stevens and Wayne Gretzky wearing the Los Angeles Kings' third jersey. This is the only known card that features an image of Wayne Gretzky in this infamous Kings "playing card" jersey. Despite these unique Gretzky issues, the brand disappeared after 1995–96, save for phone card and 24-karat gold specialty issues.
For the 50th anniversary of the initial set, the Parkhurst brand was relaunched by Dr Price's new venture In The Game Trading Cards. The set originally appeared as an insert in various 2000–01 products before being re-introduced a year later as a standalone set. Parkhurst was issued both in 01–02 and 02–03 before becoming a larger brand name in 03–04, where it was broken up into multiple sets, including Parkhurst Rookie and Parkhurst Original Six, which was subdivided into six sets. Several collectors still debate the legitimacy of these cards being considered rookie cards, since they were team-specific. The only other set issued under the Parkhurst moniker was Parkhurst Retro (in the 02–03 season), which utilized the 1951–52 design.
The new incarnation lasted only a few years before the 2004–05 NHL lockout threw the trading card market into chaos. During this year, the NHLPA did not work with In The Game. ITG, rather than use the Parkhurst name, used alternate titles such as Franchises and Heroes and Prospects under a license from the NHL.
Prior to the lockout, Ted Saskin of the NHLPA made a back room deal with Upper Deck making them exclusive licensee for NHLPA hockey trading cards. When the NHL resumed operation, the NHL got wind of the NHLPA's arrangement and agreed to give Upper Deck an exclusive arrangement as well.
In 2005, Upper Deck acquired the Parkhurst name and issued another Parkhurst set. This was a unique brand that was launched late in the 2005–06 season, featuring 700 cards and had a card of Alexander Ovechkin's goal, lying flat on his back (card number 588). Another unique card commemorated the first head-to-head meeting between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby (card number 600). In all, there were four cards of Alexander Ovechkin (card numbers 588, 597, 600, and 700), while there were six cards of Sidney Crosby (card numbers 526, 586, 587, 593, 657, and 694). Not to be forgotten, this set also features Stanley Cup Hero Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes (card number 614).
Parkhurst returned in the 2006–07 season, with a shift in focus to retired players. The set included a wide variety of autographs, from Hall of Famers such as Patrick Roy to cult favourites like Bobby Smith.
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