Topps Stadium Club Player Ratings, and Why they Matter

1992-93 Stadium Club #1 Brett Hull Back
Image via

When you grow up in a rural area, as I did in the northwoods of Wisconsin, you often find that your opportunity to pursue your interests constantly runs up against the logistical problem of access. Certainly this was an even greater problem in the past, but nevertheless when we talk about rural-urban divides it’s useful to understand that in urban areas the impediments to access are more about socioeconomic inequality and government negligence than a lack of resources. If I needed some sports equipment, for instance, the basics were 85 miles away in the nearest city, and the specialized stuff had to be shipped. These seem like quaint problems to adults in the Age of Amazon, but they were often nearly insurmountable when you’re a rural kid in the 1990s.

In any case, when access is limited, children learn to reach for any little bit that can connect them to the zeitgeist. And what they can access shapes their perspective, resulting in a sort-of bare bones understanding of the mainstream, flecked with regional peculiarities. In the sports world, trading cards are an excellent medium that can cut through all of that. Here are the players, what equipment they wear, where they are from, what way they shoot/bat/throw, what they’ve done and blurbs that suggest how they are gonna do. And sometimes, as with the Topps Stadium Club hockey sets covering the 1991-92 and 1992-93* seasons, they give you a little bit more: player ratings! On a brief lull between projects, I decided to reach back to these sets, bring together the data (shared below), and do some analysis.

* By name, the sets are referred to as the 1992-93 and 1993-94 sets, but I will instead refer to them by the NHL season they feature, 1991-92 and 1992-93

From the start, let me point out that the ratings themselves appear to have been generated by The Sporting News, an American sports news company that has been around since 1886. I will refer to them as SN in this post, to try to avoid confusion with Canada’s The Sports Network, which is better known to hockey folks and often referred to as TSN. The Sporting News seems to have mostly dropped out of the hockey news business lately, to the point that their current website doesn’t even include the NHL among the main leagues they cover (instead, they list “NFL / NBA / MLB / NCAA / NASCAR / UFC / Boxing” on their byline).

So, their rating system…as you can probably guess by the lead image, their categories range from 0.0 to 5.0 points for 1991-92, while for 1992-93 they ranged from 0.0 to 10.0. The actual ratings average out a bit high…roughly 4.0 across the categories in 1991-92 and just under 8.0 in 1992-93. I don’t take great issue with the favorable rating floor, particularly if the idea is that these are, after all, professional hockey players. The categories themselves varied by position:

PositionCategory 1Category 2Category 3Category 4Category 5
CenterPassingPlaymaking AbilitySpeedDefensive ZoneDefensive Faceoffs
Left/Right WingSpeedShooting AccuracyIn CornersPassingBack Checking
DefenseClearing CreaseShot BlockingSpeedShotOffensive Ability
GoaltenderPreventing ReboundsGlove HandBreakawaysQuicknessStick Handling

By the selected categories alone, you can see how this might be at the same time reflective of existing attitudes about player value and influential of future attitudes about value. Ratings like these would combine with player attributes in video games to have a sizable effect on how my and subsequent generations view players and player values. Nevermind the fact that the inclusion of some of these categories can be questionable. Faceoffs, for instance, might be a skill but their actual impact on games is quite limited. A defender that is doing a lot of quality shot blocking might actually be bad, because the opposing team is getting a lot of shots when they’re on the ice!

So let’s get to some juicy parts: who do these metrics like? Keep in mind that some of these categories are position-specific, so “Offensive Ability” is just among defenders, and “Playmaking Ability” just for centers, as examples. Your 5.0 and 10.0 players:


  • Ray Bourque, BOS, D, Offensive Ability
  • Pavel Bure, VAN, LW, Speed
  • Paul Coffey, LAK, D, Offensive Ability
  • Jan Erixon, NYR, LW, Back Checking
  • Randy Gilhen, NYR, C, Defensive Zone, Defensive Faceoffs
  • Dirk Graham, CHI, RW, Back Checking
  • Wayne Gretzky, LAK, C, Passing, Playmaking Ability
  • Kevin Hatcher, WSH, D, Clearing Crease
  • Ron Hextall, PHI, G, Stickhandling
  • Brett Hull, STL, RW, Shooting Accuracy
  • Al Iafrate, WSH, D, Speed
  • Uwe Krupp, NYI, D, Shot Blocking
  • Brian Leetch, NYR, D, Offensive Ability
  • Claude Lemieux, NJD, RW, In Corners, Back Checking
  • Mario Lemieux, PIT, C, Passing, Playmaking Ability
  • Al MacInnis, CGY, D, Shot
  • Marty McSorley, LAK, D, Clearing Crease
  • Mark Messier, NYR, C, Defensive Zone, Defensive Faceoffs
  • Adam Oates, BOS, C, Passing, Playmaking Ability
  • Bob Probert, DET, RW, In Corners
  • Mike Richter, NYR, G, Breakaways
  • Patrick Roy, MTL, G, Glove Hand
  • Kjell Samuelsson, PIT, D, Shot Blocking
  • Scott Stevens, NJD, D, Clearing Crease
  • Rick Tocchet, PIT, RW, In Corners
  • John Tonelli, CHI, LW, In Corners
  • Randy Wood, BUF, LW, In Corners


  • Ray Bourque, BOS, D, Clearing Crease, Shot, Offensive Ability
  • Sergei Fedorov, DET, C, Speed
  • Doug Gilmour, TOR, C, Passing
  • Wayne Gretzky, LAK, C, Passing, Playmaking Ability
  • Kevin Hatcher, WSH, D, Clearing Crease, Shot Blocking
  • Brett Hull, STL, RW, Shooting Accuracy
  • Valeri Kamensky, QUE, LW, Speed
  • Pat LaFontaine, BUF, C, Speed
  • Mario Lemieux, PIT, C, Playmaking Ability
  • Al MacInnis, CGY, D, Shot
  • Teemu Selanne, WPG, RW, Speed, Shooting Accuracy
  • Steve Yzerman, DET, C, Playmaking Ability

As you might have noticed, the move to a 10.0 scale shook up SN raters a bit, made them clutch their pearls since giving someone a “10” carries a little more weight than giving them a “5”. They decided nobody should get 10s for things like defensive ability or goaltending in 1992-93…I can only surmise it’s because there was a bit of an offense explosion that year (plus the “giving a 10” thing). They also really, really liked Randy Gilhen, which is funny because nobody else seemed to like him; he was jettisoned 8 times in 11 pro seasons. Gilhen was, in fact, traded during the 1991-92 season, and the Rangers would trade him again to the Lightning within a year (despite his fantastic 5.0 performances).

I don’t think I can take particular issue with most of these outside of Gilhen, who for what it’s worth received no Selke Trophy votes for the 1991-92 season. I do wonder what happened between the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons that would drop Pavel Bure out of reaching full marks for his speed, maybe, and Adam Oates his passing — Oates had the best year of his career in 1992-93.

As much fun as it is to laud the highlights, I particularly enjoy looking at the lowlights. Let’s see who the SN raters thought sucked!


  • Ken Baumgartner, TOR, LW, Passing (2.9), Shooting Accuracy (3.0)
  • Rob Brown, CHI, RW, Back Checking (3.0)
  • Garth Butcher, STL, D, Speed (3.0)
  • Bob Carpenter, BOS, LW, Passing (3.0)
  • Shawn Cronin, WPG, D, Offensive Ability (3.0)
  • Curt Giles, STL, D, Clearing Crease (3.0)
  • Mike Hartman, WPG, RW, Passing (3.0)
  • Joey Kocur, NYR, RW, Speed (3.0), Shooting Accuracy (3.0)
  • Tom Kurvers, NYI, D, Shot Blocking (3.0)
  • Brad McCrimmon, DET, D, Speed (3.0)
  • Jeff Odgers, SJS, LW, Speed (3.0), Shooting Accuracy (3.0), Passing (3.0)
  • John Ogrodnick, NYR, LW, Back Checking (3.0)
  • Wayne Presley, BUF, RW, Speed (3.0)
  • Sylvain Turgeon, MTL, RW, In Corners (3.0)
  • Rick Zombo, STL, D, Speed (3.0), Offensive Ability (3.0)


  • Don Beaupre, WSH, G, Stickhandling (6.0)
  • Marc Bureau, TBL, C, Defensive Faceoff (6.0)
  • Guy Carbonneau, MTL, C, Defensive Zone (4.0)
  • Patrik Carnback, MTL, RW, In Corners (6.0)
  • Zdeno Ciger, EDM, LW, Back Checking (6.0)
  • Wendel Clark, TOR, LW, Passing (5.8), Back Checking (5.8)
  • Danton Cole, TBL, RW, In Corners (6.0)
  • Russ Courtnall, MNS, RW, In Corners (5.9)
  • Adam Creighton, TBL, C, Speed (5.8), Defensive Facoffs (5.9)
  • John Cullen, TOR, C, Defensive Zone (5.9), Defensive Faceoff (5.9)
  • Todd Elik, MNS, C, Playmaking Ability (6.0)
  • Kelly Kisio, SJS, C, Speed (6.0)
  • Igor Korolev, STL, RW, In Corners (6.0)
  • Gary Leeman, CGY, RW, In Corners (5.9)
  • Craig Ludwig, MNS, D, Shot (5.9), Offensive Ability (6.0)
  • Jeff Odgers, SJS, LW, Passing (6.0), Shooting Accuracy (6.0)
  • Stephane Quintal, STL, D, Speed (5.9)
  • Tommy Sjodin, MNS, D, Clearing Crease (6.0), Shot Blocking (6.0)
  • Ronnie Stern, CGY, RW, Passing (6.0)
  • Rich Sutter, STL, RW, Speed (6.0)
  • Bob Sweeney, BUF, C, Speed (6.0)
  • Don Sweeney, BOS, D, Shot (5.9), Offensive Ability (6.0)
  • Peter Taglianetti, PIT, D, Offensive Ability (5.9)

One immediate takeaway is that the different scaling didn’t seem to greatly disrupt the range, wherein SN raters avoided slamming almost anyone with a grade below 3 out of 5 (there is one clear exception to that rule which I will address in a second). SN couldn’t have made it any clearer that Jeff Odgers sucked, that face-punchers contribute very little outside of said face-punching, and that Wendel Clark had lost a step. There’s something special about Russ Courtnall and not doing well in the corners for me; that same season, I was a 9-year old kid waiting outside the Met Center to get an autograph. Courtnall was upset because they had lost (I’m assuming) and shouldered through all us kids without pause.

One especially wild thing I originally noticed after I took down the data for the 1991-92 season: somebody at SN did not like Guy Carbonneau. I do not know why, but in both 1991-92 and 1992-93 ratings, they seemed to give him short shrift in the Defensive Zone category. The guy is one of only a couple forwards in the Hall of Fame specifically for their work in the defensive zone! Carbonneau won three Selke Trophies and was in the running on six other occasions; his most recent win was at the end of the 1991-92 season. So I was already looking askance at the 1991-92 SN ratings that gave Carbonneau a 4.4 out of 5.0 for Defensive Zone. That’s far below the aforementioned Randy Gilhen, tying him with Mike Ricci for 26th among centers — behind such defensive luminaries as Benoit Hogue (4.7) and Keith Acton (4.5). If you don’t recognize those names, it might be because they are not in the Hall of Fame for being a defensive forward, nor have been anywhere close to winning the Selke Trophy.

But if the SN raters were simply slighting an older defensive forward after 1991-92, in the 1992-93 Defensive Zone rating they were out for blood: 4.0 out of 10.0. Not a typo, at least not by me. Nobody received less than a 5.8 out of 10 in any category in 1992-93, and if you normalize it to the 1991-92 scale Carbonneau’s adjusted score of 2.0 out of 5.0 would be far below the lowest score that season as well (Baumgartner’s 2.9 in Passing). Had this only happened in one season, I would say it’s probably a recording error of some sort. But I think there are two more-plausible scenarios: a) somebody at SN was one of those provocateur media types that like to say so-and-so reputed player is actually not good, and Carbonneau was the flavor of the week, or b) along that same line, said provocateur was going to give Carbonneau a 4.0 out of 5.0 in the Defensive Zone category for the 1992-93 season, but SN decided to update to a 10.0 scale and they “forgot” to make the change. I think the oversight might not necessarily have been genuine; there were no other such mistakes across the ratings…remember, nobody scored less than a 5.8, an impossible number on the old 5.0 scale! So there’s a mystery there to unravel regarding who (singular or plural) at SN had it out for Guy Carbonneau.

In any event, and to the initial point of this post, there’s some rube Gen X or Gen Y’er out there right now that thinks Guy Carbonneau was an absolute garbage bag in his own zone.


There’s a whole second post to do on the goaltender ratings, which had their own brand of wackiness, but I will save that for a later date. Likewise it would be interesting to talk a bit more about range in the data, as well as growth curves. In the meantime, I promised a data dump, so here are the player ratings for you (Note: You’ll notice some players are entered twice in the 1992-93 season; this is because they had two cards in the same set! All were new members of the expansion Ducks and Panthers. Weirdly enough, some had their ratings downgraded in the Series 2 {or later-in-the-set} issue of their cards.):