Category: NHL History

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


Age Distribution in the NHL, 1960s to Present, and What it Could Tell Us

Image of the stage at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
via Wikimedia Commons

One of the relatively well-known elements of NHL history is that the 1980s were a decade of incredibly high scoring. While over the last 20 seasons the NHL has held pretty steady around five to five-and-a-half goals scored per game, in the 1980s games were averaging nearly two more goals per game. That’s not an insignificant difference, considering that games in a low-scoring league like the NHL are often decided by two goals or less. This has led to a lot of speculation, as people have both wondered at the reasons for those high scoring levels, as well as pondered how to increase scoring in today’s league. The most-accepted reasons are, for the most part, disappointingly unique for people looking to improve today’s offense: league expansion brought an influx of offensive talent (with the 1979 World Hockey Association-NHL merger, four teams were suddenly added to the 17-team league), goaltending equipment and techniques were sparse and out-of-date, and late 1960s/70s innovations (curved stick blades and offensive-focused defensemen) were elevating offensive production. While looking at the age distribution of NHLers, I found something that also could be included as an explanation.


NHL Playoff Performers: Who is Really Showing Up “When it Counts”?

It’s a common refrain among color commentators and hockey fans alike, noting when a player is or is not “showing up” for the playoffs. Numerous otherwise-HOF players have received the “playoff bust” label for simply not winning the Stanley Cup (despite the fact that a team’s path through the playoffs is fraught with randomness). Players like Alex Ovechkin and Joe Thornton have grappled with media narratives about their postseason futility for a long time, so I figured I would see if the data supports this argument, and what’s more if maybe there are some more-deserving players for these criticism — and what the heck, let’s find some true “playoff heroes” as well.

Continue reading “NHL Playoff Performers: Who is Really Showing Up “When it Counts”?”