By Fred Baumann
On Sept. 27, a week before the National Hockey League opens its centennial season, Canada Post revealed its Supreme Six — the final installment in its five-year NHL Stamp Collection — in a ceremony at Canada’s Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
In announcing these stamps, Canada Post said, “The 2017 Canadian Hockey Legends issue celebrates the best players ever to don a jersey in the NHL: Maurice (Rocket) Richard and Jean Beliveau (Montreal Canadiens); Gordie Howe (Detroit Red Wings); Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins); Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins); and Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers).”
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SportsNet, a national Canadian sports media service, saluted the six on the new stamps in a one-line summary of their astounding statistics: “As a group, the players scored more than 9,500 points in almost 7,000 regular-season games, won 40 Stanley Cup championships — 30 as players and another 10 as management — and more than 80 individual awards.”
The stamps commemorate the 100th anniversary of the NHL and the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes in North America.
The stamps were issued Sept. 28 in three formats: in a booklet of six self-adhesive stamps, in a small perforated pane of six with moisture-activated gum, and in individual souvenir sheets designed to look like hockey cards.
Each of the stamps in the booklet and in the perforated pane are nondenominated permanent stamps paying the domestic letter rate (currently 85¢). They feature the same designs, which Canada Post describes as a “head-and-shoulders image of the player in uniform, with the Stanley Cup image ghosted in the background.”
Lord Stanley’s famous cup is pictured in the center of the perforated pane, and is also shown on each of six items that Canada Post calls “hockey-card souvenir sheets.”
These vertically formatted 52-millimeter by 78mm $1.80 stamps resembling hockey cards feature full images of the players holding the Stanley Cup. On their backs, as on hockey cards first popularly collected in the early 20th century, are printed career statistics that tell part of each player’s professional story.
Complete sets of six (called “packs” by Canada Post) are sealed in a foil pouch, as modern sports cards often have been.
Canada Post noted, “One in 40 packs includes an original autograph by Bobby Orr or Mario Lemieux.”
Sealed packs of six containing one of each design are available for $10.80 Canadian (Canada Post order no. 404056145).
Both the booklet pane (414056111) and the perforated pane (404056107) sell for $5.10 each.
Avi Dunkelman and Joe Gault of Mix Design in Toronto designed the stamps using photographs courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame and from Getty Images.
Colour Innovations, located in the Toronto suburb of North York, printed all the stamps in seven-color offset lithography: 580,000 booklets of six 40mm by 32 mm stamps (3.48 million stamps); 100,000 160mm square perforated panes of six with “one foil stamping plus embossing” added (600,000 stamps); and 100,000 sets of the hockey card souvenir sheets (600,000 stamps).
For each of the six Canada Hockey Legends honorees, Canada Post produced 12,000 190mm by 112mm first-day covers.
The FDCs picture a scene from each stellar career, with each stamp tied by a first-day cancellation from the player’s birthplace in Quebec, Ontario, or Saskatchewan, and each showing the logo of the team on which he starred. Sets of six FDCs (414056131) are $11.10.
Canada Hockey Legends stamps and related items are available online here. Stamps and FDCs are available by mail order from Canada Post Customer Service, Box 90022, 2701 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON K1V 1J8 Canada; or by telephone from the United States or Canada at 800-565-4362, and from other countries at 902-863-6550.
Canada’s stamps and stamp products also are available from many new-issue stamp dealers, and from Canada Post’s agent in the United States: Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557.
Canada Post began its NHL stamp series in 2013 with stamps featuring pucks and jerseys (Scott 2661-2668 and 2669-2676, respectively). The series continued with the Original Six Defensemen stamps in 2014 (2786-2793), the NHL Great Canadian Goalie stamps in 2015 (2866-2878), and the NHL Great Canadian Forwards in 2016 (2941-2953).