Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scrambles, Flicksies and Leaners; The Art of Childhood Hockey Card Collecting

Later this summer I will be reaching a milestone birthday (I was born in '71, you do the math) and I find myself reminiscing more than usual. Recently I was thinking about when I first really took to the sport of hockey, and the things that helped mold the passion I still have for it today.

It pretty much started when I began seriously collecting hockey cards at the age of 8. O-Pee-Chee 1979/80 was my introduction to the hobby and was really the first time in a young boys' life where you are in control of filling your wants and needs (insert joke here). This is a time when if there is a need in your hockey card set you went out and tryed to fill it. Also, you could wield power over others that perhaps coveted something of yours. Wow, getting pretty deep here. OK, back to hockey cards.


Pretty much any quarter that came into my hands back then was quickly run up the street to Mac’s Milk for another pack of cards. My friends and I had so many extra cards that we would hold “Scrambles” sessions in the school yard on a weekly basis. Every once in a while someone would bring in a stack of their doubles, triple and quadruples for the sole purpose of giving them away. It usually happened during our regular card trading session at the start of recess, one of the guys would merely take his unwanted cards, gather the rest of the boys around and yell “Scrambles”. He then tossed the cards up in the air in chunks of 10 or 20 while the rest of us clamoured over each other to retrieve the cardboard currency. It was something of a status symbol to be able to toss away your refuse and to have it wanted by the others. The thing was, a few of those cards may actually have been very important to your own collections' needs. Even if they weren’t the big stars of the sport, if it was a card you needed it was in great demand. I remember my 1981/82 set coming down to a Hartford Whaler by the name of Don Nachbaur. Indeed, I got the much desired card in a schoolyard Scramble.

Obviously back then we weren’t too concerned about the condition of these cards, more about the fact that we simply had the card we needed in our greasy little hands. We would carefully peel out stickers that were already stuck into our hockey sticker collection books and trade those as well. The new acquisition would be expertly taped into place in your own collection. Many a trade was called off when, while attempting to peel a desired sticker from a book, the school bus hit a pothole prompting a clean rip through the sticker. Sure we didn’t care that much about condition, but we weren’t animals…


This brings back to memory another game we played in school with our hockey card collections. The game was called “Flicksies” and usually took place indoors during a rainy-day classroom recess. Some may be more familiar with a game called “Leaners” which we did dabble in, and involved a more delicate touch. For each game, competitors (usually 3 or 4 of us) kneeled side by side about 8 feet from a wall. In Leaners the object was to carefully toss one card from your stack of extras and have it come to a leaning position against the wall. Upon doing this successfully the player got to keep all the cards that had been unsuccessfully tossed to that point. Our more preferred game of Flicksies was a much more violent and card damaging affair. Each player would start by lining up the same amount of cards (6 or 8) in a leaning position to start the game. We then took turns from our knees 8 feet away flicking one card at a time at the leaners. Whatever you knocked down, you retrieved and put into your stack. Last man standing wins. This of course left your cards with hellacious bends in the corners from striking the brick wall. Once again, we were 8 years old, the condition of the cards mattered not to us.

This card above was a regular in the Flicksies and Scrambles rotation, not because we didn't worship the Great One but mainly because each of us had literally 15 or 20 of this card. It seems that the good folks at O-Pee-Chee printed an inordinate number of the Gretzky League Leader cards and not enough Don Nachbaur's.



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