Playing Hockey Cards – Closest to the Wall Wins

When I was a kid growing up in the ‘borough, it was a very popular pastime to “play hockey cards” before school, at recess, during lunch and after school.  These cards were the ones that featured our favourite NHL’ers of the day.  They came in packs of 10 or 20 I think, with a piece of stale gum thrown in.  There was usually 400-500 in a set and some guys like to collect the whole bunch each year.

I figured the games we played with these cards were pretty universal and probably played all over Ontario in much the same way.  I was out with a buddy from Kitchener the other day and was surprised to hear that he wasn’t aware of some of our more popular variations and in fact, had a few of his own.

I won’t get into all these different variations here (I’ll save some for other posts) but I will touch on the first and easiest mode of play – shooting the cards against the wall of the school from 5-10 feet away with the shooter of the closest card winning each of the cards thrown by the others.  This was typically played by two people, but like water-skiing, got a whole lot more interesting as you added more people.    It was also a bit like the Casinos in Vegas – when the high rollers were playing, it drew a crowd.

It was competition at its finest.  The ultimate satisfaction came from beating some poor bloke out of all his cards.  This was known as “dribbing him” (I don’t remember ever seeing any girls play with hockey cards).   It was even more satisfying if you went into such a match with say, two cards, and played the aforementioned poor bloke if he had say, thirty cards and if you were able to drib him anyway.  You had to be real good to pull that off, or he had to be real bad.

Anyway, it wasn’t uncommon to ask someone if they wanted to play and have them decline because “Jimmy dribbed me at recess this morning so I’m all out of cards and will have to buy some on the way home / steal some from little brother / borrow a couple of cards back from Jimmy after school so I can try and win some back from some little kid”.

Some guys were wizards at this.  They would need but a single lucky card to make their way in the school yard.  Kind of like making your bones, elementary-school style.  (By the way, if you could beat such a wizard out of his lucky card, that was oh so sweet as well).  That today’s card collectors keep theirs wrapped in original plastic and never touch ’em seems so new school to me.  Almost offensive.

Some master craftsmen build birchbark canoes, some build grandfather clocks, some chainsaw ice sculptures and some were just good with a hockey card.  Back in the day when men were men on the school grounds of St. Anne’s elementary, we often had to warp our cards just so, or even let them get a little wet just to get the aerodynamics to that optimal spot that would allow the card to nestle closest to the school wall when you released it.   That’s a lot of years ago.  Old school baby, literally.

6 Comments

Filed under Hockey Cards

6 responses to “Playing Hockey Cards – Closest to the Wall Wins

  1. Pingback: Playing Hockey Cards – Leaners and Life | Rink Tales

  2. Chris

    Totally remember playing this, also a game where each player set up a card against the wall and you had to knock them down by flinging your other cards at them, guy who knocks down the last card gets all cards involved, those put up and those used to knock them down!

  3. Robb

    OMG my 10 yr old is going apeshit over the tim hortons hockey cards, I was giving him a back in the day story and this came up ! was it just one card each per round ? and when you got a “wallsie” didnt you have to flip it or something

  4. Pingback: Hockey Card Album | Plenty Of Things To Wear On Your Hands

  5. Michael Dorosh

    Wow, I remember this too. Never heard the term dribbing, or at least don’t remember it, but I was in Alberta in the 1970s. I do remember being suspicious of guys saying “corner-corner tie” when I thought I had won and then either redoing it, or possibly hurling more cards (sort of like in the card game ‘war’ when you had a tie).

    • Micheal, apologies for my reply being…ahem, a little delayed. Yes, there were a lot of shady characters in the world of hockey card players back in the day and one couldn’t be too careful who to engage with. The solution of “hurling more cards” was hard on those of us on the risk-averse side though 🙂

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