Reid on NHL: A case of mistaken identity

You can have your Wayne Gretzky rookie card, and you can have your Mario Lemieux rookie, too.

But I’ll take that huge box in the corner that you don’t even look at, you know, the so-called ‘common cards.’ Those are the cards I love. They take me back to my childhood. They may not be slick by your definition, but they sure are by mine.

I’m talking about huge sideburns, male perms, mullets, moustaches, style, and occasionally, horrible air-brushing. These cards have stories; they help define an era. This blog aims to get the story of these great cards from the very men that are on them (but in this case, the man who isn’t on it).

Terry Crisp 1975-76 O-Pee-Chee

There’s something odd about this 1975-76 O-Pee-Chee showcasing Terry Crisp.

He looks so tall. What happened to his trademark curls? I for one did not know that the man the hockey world calls "Crispy" was skilled enough to shoot both right and left handed. He is entering Gordie Howe territory here.

A left handed shooter for life, Crisp is suddenly bearing down on the front of this card, ready to unleash the puck from the right side.

Surely something isn’t right, because it isn’t Crisp that graces the front of his 75-76 O-Pee-Chee. Instead it’s the "Big Bird" Don Saleski.

It’s easy to see why the error was made.

Saleski was a six-foot-two, 187-lbs right winger. He had long flowing locks.

Crisp was a 5-foot-10, 170-pound centre. He scored his 67 career NHL goals while shooting left handed. Anybody could make this mistake.

That’s sarcasm.


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As soon as Crisp picks up the phone and the word card is mentioned, he begins to howl. He knows exactly what we’re about to talk about.

"Oh Saleski," says Crisp, "the one with Don Saleski’s picture?"

Yep. The Saleski.

Crisp has no idea how the error occurred and no explanation for it either. He and Saleski are the furthest thing from twins.

"No kidding ... I'm good looking," howls the man who coached the Calgary Flames to their one and only Stanley Cup title in 1989. "Tell the Bird I said that."

To this day, that old piece of cardboard still wreaks havoc. If you ever approach Crisp with The Saleski in hand -- trust him -- it’s Saleski regardless of what you may think.

"I used to go to signings all the time," says Crisp. "Somebody would bring a card and they’d say ‘Mr. Crisp would you sign my card?’"

"I'd say ‘sure.’ They'd give me that one and I'd say, ‘now you do know that that's not me. That's Don Saleski.’"

But fans can be a tough bunch to convince. After all, for years they’d been looking at this card thinking it had to be Crisp on the front.

"They'd say, ‘That's you!’ I'd say ‘Well no really, it's not me. I don't think you want me to sign.’"

At which point Crisp was often left to feel the wrath of his fans.

Or were they Saleski’s fans? Crisp’s name was on the card, so they had to be Crisp’s fans, not Saleski’s fans. But then again, it was Saleski’s picture. So maybe they were Saleski fans.

You can see how these interactions could get confusing. And sometimes a wee tad heated.

But eventually Crisp would give in. He would scribble his signature on his card that wasn’t really even his.

"They'd get mad at me," Crisp says of his fans, in dire need of his signature on the Saleski.

So when Crisp signed it, he always gave a warning:

"I’ll sign your card, but I want you to know that that's Don Saleski, not me," says Crisp. "And they still waned it signed!"

Crisp has a few of Saleskis in his collection. He says he laughed the first time he saw it, and he hasn’t stopped laughing yet.

He only has one regret about the card.

"At least they could have put my picture and Bobby Orr's stats or something ... that would have been a whole lot better."