Time for another look at Ken Reid's terrific new book, Hockey Card Stories. Reid shares the strange story of the rookie card of Bryan Maxwell. His first card was issued while he was with the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers in 1976/77. The only problem is, it's not Maxwell pictured on his rookie card. Reid's book describes it;
Few players, I am sure, would like to be airbrushed on their first ever hockey card. But it's not the doctoring that Maxwell talks about all these years later.
"That's not even me," says Maxwell. So, of course, after all these years, there's no mystery as to who the man on the card is...right?
"I don't know who is on my Cincinnati card," says Maxwell.
There have been cases of the wrong player being shown on a sports card, but usually the identity of the player has been figured out somewhere down the road. It seems strange to me that nobody has yet figured out who really is on Maxwell's rookie card. Let's try, shall we?
Firstly, it's easy to determine that the player on the card is wearing an air-brushed Cleveland Crusaders jersey leaving only the black shoulder trim. Bryan Maxwell had been acquired by Cincinnati from Cleveland after the 75/76 campaign. The actual Crusaders jersey is below and we can even see the faint white stitching between the collar and shoulder that is still visible on the Maxwell card.
The question is, who played in Cleveland that year that made it on the card instead of Maxwell? The Society for International Hockey Research has a database with team player photos, looking through the 75/76 Crusaders there are only three guys that even slightly resemble the guy on the card.
Terry Ball is the biggest stretch, and he's far too old to be the guy in the photo. He has to be ruled out.
Barry Legge looks a bit more similar to the mystery man, but his chin is much less broad and pointier than him. He's out.
What if the guy had played with the Cleveland Crusaders even earlier than the 75/76 season? Card companies have been known to use photos that are three or four seasons old in their issues. A look through all the Crusaders rosters back to 1972/73 finds nobody who even remotely looks like the fake Maxwell. What next? While I was in the SIHR database I had a quick glance at the photos of the rosters of every single WHA team from 1975/76 as well as the ones that had become extinct prior to that. The results...nothing. There is not ONE single WHA player that looks like the guy on Bryan Maxwell's rookie card.
And that brings us to a good old fashioned dead-end. The only theory I have is the guy in the photo was not even a player. In some rare cases in the past a young trainer, bat-boy or front office executive would trick an unsuspecting photographer and find their way onto a card. Below is the 1969 Aurelio Rodriguez card that is actually a photo of the Angels bat-boy. Could this be what happened in the case of Bryan Maxwell?
He himself says hasn't a clue as to who's on his card. Perhaps Maxwell was in on the joke and is still refusing to give it up after all these years. What's your guess?