‘Ultimate Six’ Canadian hockey legends commemorated

By Jesse Robitaille

Final instalment of five-year series marks NHL’s centennial, 125th anniversary of Stanley Cup

week before the drops the puck on the 2017-18 National Hockey League (NHL) season, Canada Post unveiled its final instalment of the five-year NHL stamp collection at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

The 2017 Canadian Hockey Legends issue includes Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau (Montréal Canadiens); Gordie Howe (Detroit Red Wings); Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins); Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins); and Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers). As a group, the all-star lineup scored more than 9,500 points in almost 7,000 regular-season games, won 40 Stanley Cups – 30 as players and another 10 as management – and more than 80 individual awards.

“The players we immortalized on this year’s stamps redefined hockey over careers that spanned more than 60 years. They inspired us – and each other – with feats that boggle the mind. They are the ultimate six,” said Canada Post president and CEO Deepak Chopra. “We hope that by issuing these stamps during the NHL’s centennial, we have helped make this milestone year for the NHL even more special.”

Prior to the stamps’ unveiling, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Terry Russel carried the Stanley Cup onto a podium at the back of the stage. The players being honour were represented by various family members, including Richard’s son Normand; Béliveau’s wife Élise; Howe’s son Marty; Orr’s son Darren; Lemieux’s teammate and friend Bryan Trottier; and Gretzky’s father Walter. Also in attendance were NHL legends Red Kelly, Johnny Bower, Bernie Parent and Darryl Sittler, each of who were honoured in previous NHL series by Canada Post.

STAMP DESIGN

Designed by Avi Dunkelman and Joe Gault, of the Toronto-based Mix Design Group, each new Canadian Hockey Legends stamp features a head-and-shoulders image of the respective uniformed player with an image of the Stanley Cup in the background. Hockey card souvenir sheets show the players holding the Cup and are only available in packs of six, like hockey cards.

“These players really changed the game of hockey forever. They’re some of the biggest stars the world of sports has ever seen, and they take centre stage in the final instalment of Canada Post’s five-year NHL stamp series,” said TSN hockey analyst James Duthie, who served as the emcee for the unveiling.

“These men immortalized on these stamps have been described as the ultimate six, and they have inspired us and each other with what they did on the ice. A gifted blue-liner and shortstop defenseman, who scored 100 points a season while still preventing goals. A centreman who chose how to control the game and create chances from his office behind the opposing net. The most complete player the game has probably ever known redefined hat tricks as being a goal, an assist and a fight. He retired as the league’s leader in games played, goals, assists and points. These men had it all: finesse, creativity, durability, and now, immortality.”

COLLECTOR PERSPECTIVE

Collector Leon Matthys said he has been collecting the various NHL stamps throughout the past five years.

“I bought some of the earlier stamps hoping to find an autograph, but no such luck. They’re nice stamps – I even got one in the mail – so I think I’ll start using them that way,” said Matthys, who’s the webmaster of the North Toronto Stamp Club.

“This makes me want to watch hockey again. I gave it up for a while, but to see some of the people give heartfelt speeches – especially Ms. Béliveau – was really touching. The combination of hockey and stamps, as Deepak was saying tonight, is in our blood. They’re really good words to try to live by.”

The wife of Jean Béliveau, who died in 2014, was moved to tears during her speech, saying the commemoration “would have made Jean feel like he was part of a team again.”

STAMP SPECIFICATIONS

Available in a mixed booklet of six stamps containing all six players, the stamps measure 40 mm by 32 mm with simulated perforations, and are printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper with seven-colour lithography.

Oversized-rate hockey card-sized souvenir sheets are also available in packs of six. Similar to previous issues, each pack includes a chance to win: one in 40 packs has a signed and authenticated souvenir sheet.

Related products include a gummed mini-pane featuring all six players as well as a silver-foiled and embossed Stanley Cup. The official first-day covers – one for each player – were cancelled in the birthplaces of the respective player: Montréal, Que. (Richard and Lemieux); Trois-Rivières, Qué. (Béliveau); Floral, Sask. (Howe); Parry Sound, Ont. (Orr); and Brantford, Ont. (Gretzky).

Limited-edition numbered prints are also available for each player.

The 2017 NHL Canadian Hockey Legends issue builds on the NHL Team Jersey stamps released in 2013; the Original Six Defenceman stamps released in 2014; the NHL Great Canadian Goalie stamps in 2015; and the NHL Great Canadian Forwards issue last year.

For more information, visit canadapost.ca.

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