Sunday, February 03, 2008


Pass the Peanut Butter, Please

In 1962, the York Peanut Butter Company issued a set of hockey cards of National Hockey League players from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. Accompanying the cards was an album which could be purchased from the company for twenty-five cents.
Al Arbour Tom Johnson

The cards came in jars of peanut butter and on the top lid were the words, “Free NHL hockey cards inside”. Those were words that your mother had to look for when she was doing the weekly shopping.

On the back of the booklet, the company left instructions on how to access the cards. “Now, take off the lid and turn the lid upside down. Use a knife blade and gently pry out the inner liner. Underneath you will find York NHL cards.”

Memory indicates that some of those cards had traces of peanut butter oil on them. Damn! Others did not come out as easily as advertised, and got slightly bent in the process.

Nonetheless, the cards were great, and well worth the trouble.

The company selected separate editors for the Leafs and the Habs. Foster Hewitt introduced the Leafs, and Frank Selke supplied the notes for “les Canadiens”.

Hewitt made his first hockey broadcast in 1923, and described play-by-play action of the Leafs in more than 2500 games-including seven Stanley Cups. That is, up until 1962, when the cards were released. His father, simply known as “W.A.”, and his son Bill were also heavily involved in the hockey world in Toronto.

Frank Selke began his hockey career in 1914, when he led the Berlin Union Jacks to an all-Ontario hockey final. He went to New York in 1926 to help Conn Smythe establish the Rangers. Twenty years later, he accepted a position with the Canadiens. He led them to six Stanley Cups, including five in a row.

Recently, one of the Habs featured in the series passed away. Tom Johnson finished his career in Boston, then stayed to work for the Bruins. The Baldur, Manitoba, native was a stalwart on the Canadiens blue line. He had good company to lead the Canadiens to so many Cups: Doug Harvey, Jean Guy Talbot, J. C. Tremblay, “Leaping” Lou Fontinanto, and Jean Gauthier. All have cards in this series.

Johnson played seventeen seasons in the NHL, fifteen with the Habs. He played more than a thousand games, and racked up almost sixty goals. He really wasn’t there to put the puck in the net. His job was to keep the crease clear for his netminders: Jacques Plante, Gerry McNeil, Cesare Maniago, and Gump Worsley, to name a few.

Al Arbour is one of the Toronto Maple Leafs included in the set. Arbour came up with the Red Wings, but played on the Hawks as well. He wound up with the expansion St. Louis Blues. Following his playing days, he coached for many seasons, winning several Cups with the New York Islanders.

Most of us remember Arbour wearing his glasses, although his York picture has him minus his spectacles. On the back of the card, there is an explanation; “ He is one of few professionals to wear glasses while playing, and his aggressiveness does not suffer from this handicap.” Handicap! Not much tact there!

During the 1962-63 season, York Peanut Butter inserted “Iron-on Transfers” in their jars. There were twelve players from the Habs, the Leafs, and the Red Wings.

The Wings were also a strong team at that time with Terry Sawchuck in goal, Bill Gadsby and Marcel Pronovost on defence, and power up front with Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, and Norm Ullman.

The company produced the more popular cards during the 1963-64 season, with 54 cards including both Canadian teams and the Red Wings.

In 1967-68, York issued their final set of cards, in a completely different format. They were “action shots”, taken from the Weekend Magazine photos. There were usually two players on each card, sometimes three. Card # 32 of the 36 card series features Jim Pappin and Bob Pulford of the Leafs moving in on Rogie Vachon. The Leafs possessed the Stanley Cup at that time.

The cards were also stuffed into bags of York Peanuts. They were acceptable, but did not measure up to Planters at that time.

One minor complaint about the cards is that the names of the players are not on the front of the cards. That makes life a whole lot easier.

Like most collectors, there are many holes in my collection of these octagonal discs. I have both of the albums, which are little treasures, but less than half of the cards. Alas, that is all part of the game, and the hobby. Got any traders?


My father owns an 1966 NHL Album that he told me he ordered it by mail to York Peanut butter company. He needed to have a certain amount of proof of purchase and send a money amount to get it. He still has this album, it contains all teams players of 1966 on Black and white cards...
Those albums are precious to collectors. The company released two albums for the cards. The albums were used to store the cards; unfortunately, most collectors-young kids, of course-pasted or taped the cards in the appropriate places. consequently, the cards lost much of their value, as did the albums.
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