top of page
  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Canada Cup: Team Canada (Part 1)

From 1976 to 1991, the Canada Cup was the only best-on-best hockey tournament in the world. With professional players banned from international competitions such as the Olympics and the World Championships, the amateurs from Canada and the USA rarely matched up against the so-called amateurs from the Soviet-bloc countries (the Miracle on Ice is the exception).

Launched by Alan Eagleson, the tournament was held five times between Canada, Soviet Union, United States, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Finland (except in 1984 when Finland was replaced by West Germany). In this true best-on-best tournament, Canada won four of five titles, defeating each of Czechoslovakia (1976), Sweden (1984), Soviet Union (1987) and the United States (1991); the one other title went to Soviet Union in 1981 when they defeated Canada.

Many of games played in Canada Cup are considered the best hockey of all-time, including the three game final in 1987, with Canada and the Soviet Union battling to three games of identical 6-5 scores. The first two games were decided in overtime, with Game 3 decided in the last minute by the famous Gretzky to Lemieux goal.

Upper Deck commemorated what would be the final Canada Cup ever played by issuing cards of stars of five of the teams entered in the tourney (as detailed in a previous post, the Soviet Stars were featured separately). The '91 Cup would signal a change in the order of international hockey, as the United States would make its first Cup final, and former powerhouses the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia would finish fifth and sixth. 1996 would bring about the re-named World Cup of Hockey.

Much like my previous post regarding the Soviet Stars, all of the Canada Cup posts will focus on the featured players' international careers, unless they are not featured elsewhere in the set; in that case, their career story will be told.

Card # 7 – Brett Hull and Eric Lindros

This card is the checklist for the first portion of the Canada Cup insert; a second portion would appear in the high series of the set. The photo is taken in the handshake line after Canada completed a 2-0 series sweep of the US with a 4-2 victory in Hamilton, Ontario.

It features two of the best players in the NHL at the time (Hull and Gretzky) with the most-hyped prospect ever, at the time, Eric Lindros. I couldn't help but notice the gigantic elbow pad that Lindros is wearing, almost foreshadowing the massive pieces of equipment that would go on to contribute to the rash of concussions in the mid to late 90s, The Big E being the most famous victim.

Card # 8 – Al MacInnis

MacInnis was a 10-year veteran with the Flames, having won the Stanley Cup in 1989. The '91 Canada Cup would be his first appearance at the tournament, and he would make an impact, scoring six points in eight games and being named a tournament All-Star. He would go on to play in two Olympics for Canada, winning gold in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Worth noting is the absolutely awesome mullet MacInnis is rocking on the back side of this card.

Card # 9 – Eric Lindros

Lindros was the first (and only) non-NHL player to dress for Canada at a Canada Cup. Three months prior to the tournament he was picked first overall by Quebec, refused to even put on the jersey, and was then traded to Philadelphia in a blockbuster deal.

Despite having not yet played pro hockey, Lindros was an international hockey veteran, have played on two world junior teams and a few games for the Canadian National Team, back when that was a thing.

He proved age was nothing but a number at the '91 tournament, scoring three goals and five points. The Big E would play in three Olympics: in 1992 as an amateur and in 1998 and 2002 as a pro. He would also be a part of Canada’s lineup for the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996, the tournament which took over for the Canada Cup, losing the gold medal to the US.

This card is pretty rare, in the sense that it shouldn't exist. Lindros had signed a deal with rival trading card company, Score, which gave them exclusive rights to print his hockey cards until he played professionally. Upper Deck didn't seem to care much for that contract, as this was the second year in a row they had featured a card with Lindros. You can read more about the craze Lindros' cards caused here.

Lindros broke into the NHL in 1992-93 with the Flyers, scoring 41 goals and 75 points, finishing fourth in Calder voting. He would really break out in his third season, the lockout shortened 1994-95, scoring 29 goals and 70 points, winning the Hart and Pearson trophies and earning a first-team all-star nod. The next season would see career high totals of 47 goals and 115 points and a second team all-star birth.

Be the time the 1996-97 season started, Lindros' rough style of play would begin to take its toll on his body. He would appear in only 52 games that year, with the Flyers making the Cup Final and Lindros leading the playoffs in scoring. Philadelphia would be swept by Detroit, however. Lindros would continue to produce a decent pace over the next three seasons, although he would be limited to 55 games in the 1999-00 season. The 2000 Eastern Conference Finals would also mark a major turning point in Lindros' career, as he would be crushed by Scott Stevens while cutting over the blue line, suffering a concussion. That concussion, combined with a contract dispute with GM Bobby Clarke, would force Lindros to miss the entire 2000-01 season. It is eventually revealed that Lindros suffered six concussions over a 16-month period in the late 1990s, including a collapsed lung.

In the summer of 2001 he would be traded to the New York Rangers for three players and a draft pick. Lindros' first two seasons on Broadway would be fairly productive, seasons of 73 and 53 points, but nowhere near his old self. In the 2003-04 season, Lindros would play in only 39 games, recording 32 points.

In his final two seasons in the NHL he would sign free agent deals with Dallas, and finally his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Lindros would retire in the summer of 2007, finishing his career with 760 games played, 372 goals and 865 points. Nine years after retirement he would selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the fall of 2016. To get a sense of how truly dominate Lindros was, watch this video the NHL produced as part of their 100th anniversary celebrations.

Card # 10 – Bill Ranford

The starting goalie for the Edmonton Oilers was one season removed from winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy, with the 1991 Canada Cup marking his first international appearance for Canada. And what a debut it was – Ranford recorded six wins and two ties while being named top goalie and tournament MVP.

Ranford would keep his hot streak going internationally for a few years, playing in the world hockey championships in 1993 and 1994, backstopping Canada to its first title since 1961 in a dramatic shootout win over Finland. You can watch the entire shootout here and marvel at the double-pad stack save to kick it off. And speaking of pad stacks, the picture on the reverse of the card is just fantastic, catching Ranford making a sprawling save against the United States.

The next post will featured Part 2 of Team Canada.

2 views0 comments


bottom of page