Cards: Made in USSR
Winter 2002, Massachusetts, USA
In February I bought my first set of hockey cards. Each
card had pictures of the 1972 Summit Series players and
coaches with their series statistics on the back. It was
a fantastic set.
"What an excellent choice!" said the
salesman. "Is it for your kids? I wasn't even
born at that time. It was a great game."
"No. It's for me. It's my first hockey cards
I couldn't say what the card salesman thought about me.
After all, it was his job to sell things. He was a good
sales person. He just gave me a weird look but said nothing.
My mind time machine started its work. I couldn't really
control it. It just happened.
Summer 1975, Somewhere in the south of Russia
The Moscow-Anapa train carried hundreds of people desperate
to get to their vacation places at the Black Sea resort
area. I was a part of a group of 8-12 year-olds going
to a summer camp. As usual air-conditioning were not working
and the heat was unbearable. But, hey, we were so close
to the sea.
"Calendars! Posters! Hockey Cards! Souvenirs!"
The voice of the guy selling homemade souvenirs was slowly
approaching our compartment. Hockey cards? It caught my
attention. I looked out of our compartment.
Those were two guys that jumped on the train on the previous
stop and now were offering their goodies to the passengers.
On the next stop, they will get out of the train and go
one stop back. Then, the cycle repeats itself. Both guys
I've heard of them before. They got a nickname, "blinds
mafia". In the state run economy their activity was
illegal. It was a Russian black market in action. But
the state had no hockey cards published. These guys did.
"How much are your hockey cards?"
"One rouble each"
My parents gave me 10 roubles for the summer camp. I
hesitated to spend one tenth of my belongings. The blind
salesman read my mind.
Without saying a word, he hurried to the next compartment.
He had to hurry. He had to sell his goodies before the
train reached the next station.
"Wait. Here is the rouble."
That was my first set of hockey cards. There were no
names or players bios in the back. Those were playing
cards with the pictures of the 1972 Team Canada Stars
on the "J", "Q" and "K"
I went back to my buddies and we played card games till
we got to the our summer camp. I am not sure if the ranking
was correct, but I still remember that in my first hockey
cards set Phil Esposito was higher than Bobby Clarke.