While doing research for another story, I came across something else that immediately grabbed my attention. It was a typical newspaper offering where the reader fills out a coupon and sends away for merchandise. This process is an aged-old tradition in hockey dating back to the Beehive photos which were offered to the public. What struck me was that some 47 years after the offer was being made, I still have the merchandise in my possession. I received the goods as a gift.
The official name of the offering/product was Hockey Stars. It consisted of 42 colour action photos (a tad larger than 4x6) and a 24-page booklet providing tips on how to play hockey. The offer came during the 1963-64 season. And the price of such a wonderful set of memorabilia? $1.00. Yes, as in one-dollar.
The colour photographs are magnificent to this day. The rich colours and detail of the Original Six sweaters are evident in each photo. Some goalies with no masks and skaters with no helmets. The strain on a defenceman's face as he chases a quicker forward. A goaltender in the crouch-position, not taking his eyes off the puck for one-second. A picture of Chicago Black Hawk, Kenny Wharram, being tied-up by the Canadiens Tom Johnson. The detail of the picture showing Wharram leaning so heavily on his stick that it would seem to be on the verge of splitting in-half.
One of my favourite photos in the set is of Leaf defenceman Carl Brewer and Bruin forward Bob Beckett. Both players are low to the ice with Brewer hovering over Beckett's back. Brewer seems to be tackling his opponent. Their crossed-sticks duelling to gain control of the puck. Their eyes glued to the black-rubber-disc. Beckett appears to be struggling with the weight of Brewer on his back. His movement being restricted by the defenceman clutching at him.
Original Six hockey at it's finest.
On the backside of the photo, there was a short story on the player featured in the picture. The hockey tips in the booklet were supplied by Tim Horton (defence), Dave Keon (forwards) and Johnny Bower (goaltending).
As a kid, I can't tell you how many hours I spent gazing at these photos. My imagination running wild with anticipation for the next Saturday evening broadcast of Hockey Night In Canada. There, the pictures would come to life for the next couple of hours.