Tall Boys #8 – Gary Bergman

Posted: February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Gary Bergman - 1964-65 Topps Tall BoysOne of the joys of collecting Tall Boys in hockey is that one of every five cards is a short print.  Unlike today, where short-printing is basically a marketing ploy designed to drive value, this was just an effect of the sheet design.  The set was released in two 55-card series.  The sheets were printed eleven cards across, nine rows deep.  A full series was printed on rows one through five, then the first four rows would repeat as rows six through nine.  The centre row of cards thus was printed at only half the rate of the rest of the set.  I have no idea why they chose to do this, other than it probably had to do with the sheets of card that were either available of would conveniently fit in the cutting machines.

The second-series short-prints have been long-known to collectors and they are annoyingly expensive.  Relatively nondescript RCs can run $250 if they’re short-printed.  The existence of first-series short-prints was long suspected, but only proven a few years back when an uncut sheet of 1964-65 Topps was unveiled at the Toronto Expo.  Experienced collectors could guess at the contents of row number five, but it was cool to see it proven.

Interestingly, the prices of the first-series short-prints saw about a two-month bump, but this never really held because Beckett, for whatever reason, never updated the designations in their guides. While the information on the short-prints is out there, the guides don’t have it.

The first of the first-series shorties (in terms of numerical order) is the Gary Bergman RC.

Like Bill Hay, Gary Bergman was comparatively old to be a rookie.  He was 26 in 1964-65, a veteran of a number of minor-league seasons.  He’d belonged to both Chicago and Montreal since leaving junior but hadn’t had an NHL look with either.  In the summer of 1964, Detroit picked him up in the intra-league draft.

Detroit had been a fourth-place team in ’62-63 and ’63-64 and had struggled to keep the puck out of their own net.  In 1964-65, they finished first overall and cut their goals against by 29, finishing two off the league lead.  Bergman can’t be credited for all of that, but this was the first of nine straight seasons where he’d give the Wings solid two-way play.  He never made an All-Star team or won an award, but he was good enough to be chosen for Team Canada in 1972 and was an absolute rock on defense.  Guys like Park, Savard and Lapointe made the rushes, but Bergman stayed back and did the heavy lifting.  It was Bergman whose shin guard was kicked through by Mikhailov in Game Seven.

Bergman’s character was one of the standouts in the made-for-TV series about the 1972 Summit.  The team was hurt by players grousing about ice time and a number of high-profile players bailed and went home as their respective training camps were getting underway.  Coach Harry Sinden called the team together so everyone could air their grievances.  Bergman’s character quipped, “Well, what about me? I was promised a vacation and I can’t get off the (bleeping) ice!”

Bergman continued his solid play for the Red Wings as the team began to slide in the early 1970s.  He found himself dealt to Minnesota early in 1973-74, required for 1974-75, then deal again to the woeful Kansas City Scouts for his last season.

Gary Bergman’s play in 1972 garnered new attention when the team reached it’s 25th anniversary in 1997 and the games were re-released on VHS and DVD.  Sadly, he died of cancer in December, 2000.  He was 62.

Gary Bergman - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Topps clearly didn’t love him, either, as Gary wasn’t a goalie.


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