Lost Rookie Cards
Updated: May 16
If you collected hockey cards in the 1980s, the perfect insert set to transport you back to those years is the Lost Rookie Cards (LRC) set from 2003-04 Topps.
This set poses a simple question: What if Topps and O-Pee-Chee (OPC) sets from the 1980s had featured NHL rookies in their actual rookie seasons? (That's been the norm in the hockey card world since 1990.)
Imagine if Mario Lemieux's rookie card had appeared in a 1984-85 Topps Update set? That would have been way better than waiting for the 1985-86 set, right?
Instead of waiting until October of 1986 to pick up Patrick Roy's first O-Pee-Chee card, we could have gotten our hands on it in April, right at the beginning his amazing playoff run!
2003-04 was the last year that Topps produced hockey cards. Interestingly, they chose that year to release a Topps Traded set, their first mid-season update in a while. Perhaps that's where the idea for the Lost Rookie Cards came from. Either way, the result was a set that presented a wonderful what-if scenario. Below are the key cards included in the set, and my take on what could have been.
I hate to say it because I'm a huge Lemieux fan, but the LRC would have been a massive improvement over the original, mainly because the 1984-85 design is far superior to that of 1985-86. And just think how exciting it would have been to have this card while following Lemieux's nightly heroics as he closed in on 100 points in his first season.
Once again, the 1985-86 design falls short of 1986-87. The multiple border colours really make the 1986-87 cards pop. So from that point of view, I prefer the real Roy rookie. Again, though, I would have taken the LRC if it meant having this card in my collection while Roy was backstopping the Montreal Canadiens to their surprise 1986 Stanley Cup.
This one is a bit strange, only because there was no 1983-84 Topps set. That was the first of two years where O-Pee-Chee produced its own hockey cards. Regardless, this is an interesting change. I really like the 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee set design. It's not quite as memorable as the 1984-85 design, but it's close. Also, the LRC would have given the 1983-84 set a legitimate cornerstone rookie card, something it sorely lacks. (Sorry, Bernie Nicholls fans!) But it's hard to beat the original.
I really like this one. The design of both sets is strong, but the drastic change of Hull being featured as a member of the Calgary Flames instead of the St. Louis Blues is the win for me. Especially considering that his 1988-89 rookie card is a classic air-brush anyway!
This one is a huge improvement. The 1981-82 Topps design is much stronger than 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee. Plus, not many cards at the time featured players in their home white jerseys, which is another interesting twist. It was not until 2005-06 that the NHL switched to teams wearing their white jerseys on the road.
Besides the superior set design of 1988-89 Topps, this change would have had a massive impact on where Joe Sakic's rookie card ranks in the hobby. As part of the massively over-produced 1989-90 O-Pee-Chee set, Sakic's rookie card does not garner the attention a player of his stature deserves. Sakic's original rookie card is definitely one that could benefit from a better photo.
Overall, Topps did a great job with this set, in particular with the photos selected. They all capture the player's rookie season perfectly. From the plain white mask that Patrick Roy only wore in his first full season to Sakic's original number 88. Well done!
Here is the full list of 11 cards featured in the Lost Rookie Cards set:
LRC-BH - Brett Hull (1987-88 Design)
LRC-BS - Brendan Shanahan (1987-88 Design)
LRC-CJ - Curtis Joseph (1989-90 Design)
LRC-EB - Ed Belfour (1989-90 Design)
LRC-JR - Jeremy Roenick (1989-90 Design)
LRC-JS - Joe Sakic (1988-89 Design)
LRC-ML - Mario Lemieux (1984-85 Design)
LRC-MM - Mike Modano (1989-90 Design)
LRC-PR - Patrick Roy (1985-86 Design)
LRC-RF - Ron Francis (1981-82 Design)
LRC-SY - Steve Yzerman (1983-84 Design)