Sorry for the Upworthy-ish headline, but that’s perfect for the story I’m about to tell.
This weekend, after a particularly rough skating lesson, Jen offered the boys a stop at Tim Horton’s for a hot chocolate and a donut on the way home.
Tim Horton’s has a promotion right now where you can buy a pack of hockey cards for a dollar with your purchase. Inside you get 3 Upper Deck hockey cards. Holy cow. I remember when you’d get triple that AND a stick of gum for 20 cents a pack.
Through the late 70s and mid 80s, I collected hockey cards. My interest started when I was about Zacharie’s age when Ed, our next door neighbour, handed me a box of cards he didn’t need. In it were dozens of cards from 1977. Stars like Jean Ratelle, Bob Gainey, Bernie Parent, Phil Esposito and more.
It got me hooked. I’d use my pocket money to buy cards and while I ‘collected’ them, I’d still bring my duplicates or cards of players I didn’t like and play gambling games with the other kids in Grade 6 on the playground at recess.
So my collection of cards has been in puddles, stepped on, folded, bent, and creased. I held them in my hands, I read the backs, and I dreamed of what it was like to be in the NHL.
Some time in high school, I stopped collecting them. In my 20s, I wondered what my collection would be worth. I had heard stories of a Gretzky rookie card going for upwards of one thousand dollars and with my huge stash I figured I was sitting on at least ten grand of cardboard.
I got the collector magazines, looked up card values, and started to put the cards in plastic pages in a binder. I bought little price tags and estimated the value of each one. My Gretzky card wasn’t immaculate, I figured it was worth $80, a tenth of my dream. Then I started looking at other cards. Many were worth 20 cents, a few were maybe a dollar, nothing more.
Aside: In 2011, a Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for nearly $100 000. A perfect mint condition hockey card that, at one point in my life I had, except I took it to school. I played nearsies and topsies with it. I handled it, read it, and enjoyed it. I bent a corner, just a tiny little bit, but it is bent just the same.
I wasn’t going to get rich off this collection, but I still kept it. Selling that Gretzky card, even for $80, wouldn’t have been worth it because then I would no longer have it.
The boxes moved with me from Richmond to Vernon, back to Vancouver, to Surrey, to North Vancouver, and now here to Calgary. I haven’t opened the big binder or flipped through the crisp cards in perhaps a decade.
But after going to Tim Horton’s for a hot chocolate and a donut this week, my sons started to ask about hockey cards. They wanted to know if the ones they got were of good players.
Charlie scored Johnny Gaudreau and Sidney Crosby, while Zacharie had Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne. They were good players, I told them, and started to tell them about my collection in the basement.
They begged to see them, and so I went rummaging amongst the Halloween costumes, baby clothes, and Christmas decorations to find my boxes of hockey cards.
Zacharie was in awe as he sat on the basement floor for the better part of an hour, slowly flipping the pages.
After he was done, he gathered up his batch of cards, and put them in his own binder of clear pocketed pages. The front of his binder has been neatly collecting Pokemon cards for the past year, the back is now home to some hockey cards.
I thought my hockey card collection would make me rich one day, I just never really understood how rich until the cards I collected as an 8 yr old boy, got into the hands of my 8 yr old boy, and the legacy of dreams, and wonder, and feats of greatness transcended generations.