October 22, 2009
Growing up as a child of the 1980's, three things were my world: Hockey cards, G.I. Joe cartoons and Kenner Starting Lineup figures.
Beginning in 1988, Kenner starting producing figures of Major League Baseball players, but didn't make the hockey jump until 1993. For eight years, puckheads kept busy collecting the annual series of figures and making the painstaking decision of whether or not to leave the Starting Lineup in the box or rip it out. It wasn't until 2001 when Todd McFarlane of Spawn fame took over the sporting figure market and began creating some of the more lifelike miniature athletes that collectors still clamor over to this day.
In September, Matt from Sharapova's Thigh explored the history of baseball-related Starting Lineup figures and discovered the saturation of players that Kenner put on the market when he listed his "The 40 Most Undeserving MLB Starting Lineup Figures Ever". His list included legendary names such as Damon Berryhill, Andujar Cedeno, Dick Schofield, and the immortal Todd Van Poppel.
Looking through Matt's selections, you'll find yourself asking, "They made a figure for him?"
To piggyback on Matt's post, I went through Kenner's history of making hockey figures and picked out some players that might make you shake your head and wonder how it was decided for them to have their likeness shrunk down to an 8-inch version.
And here ... we ... go.
1995 - Bob Corkum, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
This is what happens when a) you play for an expansion team with a logo based off a popular movie and b) you lead said team in goals and finish one point behind the team's leading scorer, Terry Yake. Corkum had his best year, and his only season in the NHL with more than 20 points, with the expansion Mighty Ducks. I'd like to imagine that the NHL ignored his oversize blade, which likely helped with Corkum's production.
1997 - Darren Puppa, Tampa Bay Lightning
We know of the Sports Illustrated cover curse, but did you know about the Starting Lineup curse? It affected Puppa big time. Practically ended his NHL career. Puppa received his figure a year after he posted 29 wins and a 2.46 goals-against average during a season that saw Tampa make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. In the four seasons after, Puppa played in just 50 games, winning only 12 before retiring after the 1999-2000 season. As depicted in his figure, Puppa was also well-known for gloving pucks without even looking.
1998 - Trevor Kidd, Carolina Hurricanes
This was the first figure that featured the Hurricanes logo and even with Sami Kapanen(notes) and Keith Primeau as the main scorers, Kidd got the nod. Kenner did their best to replicate Kidd's checkerboard pads and even added a soul patch that rounded out the realism.
1998 - Jim Campbell, St. Louis Blues
The curse struck again with Jim Campbell who, coming off a 22-goal season when his figure was released, played just 70 games over the following eight years with stops in Europe and the American Hockey League mixed in with five NHL teams. Maybe if he had used the fabled oversized stick like the one his figure depicts, Campbell would have found more sustaining success?
Someone had to represent the expansion Predators, right? I guess I can understand the Kenner representatives' decision, as I'd imagine it'd be tough to choose between Dunham, Cliff Ronning, and Sergei Krivokrasov. Formerly a teammate with Garth Snow at the University of Maine, it's obvious that the New York Islanders general manager failed at convincing Dunham to go with the "pillow" look for his goalie pads.
This set featured six goaltenders out of the 17 figures produced that year. Kenner could have created one for Trevor Linden(notes) instead, which would have turned into a collector's item considering he only wore a Habs jersey for 107 games. Kenner also gave Hackett a normal sized-looking goalie stick, but balanced things out with a catching glove almost as big as the one in left field at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
There's no question about whether or not Carter deserved one. He produced early in his career and then later when he was sandwiched in-between the Sedin twins in Vancouver as part of "The Brothers Line". The abomination is putting Carter in one of those atrocious Kodiak bear third jerseys instead of the beloved spoked "B".
2000 - Damian Rhodes, Atlanta Thrashers
Rhodes was the first Thrasher to have a figure made and I'm not sure which was bigger: The number of his figures that were purchased or his win total during his three years in Atlanta (14).
2000 - Niklas Sundstrom, San Jose Sharks
2000 - Ron Tugnutt, Columbus Blue Jackets
Between 1999 and 2001, Tugnutt played for the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. That's a lot of moving around and Kenner did their best to reflect Tugnutt's travels during those years. Kenner also added the fact that Tugnutt was a 1999 All-Star to up his value to collectors who are into journeyman goaltenders with funny last names.