Topps essentially took the previous year’s hockey insert sticker set and remade it on cloth stock. The sticker cards are a quarter-inch short in both directions from the standard 2 ½" x 3 ½" dimensions.
Each card is a two-piece cloth sticker, consisting of a team logo sticker on the top and a pennant sticker with team nickname on the bottom. There are 19 different stickers in the set plus 5 variation on the combination of logo and pennant, for a total of 24.
Climate and the passage of time aren’t kind to the adhesive used by Topps. It seems to oxidize over time and bleed through the paper backing of the stickers, appearing like staining, and even a bit like black mold on the blank backs. The staining can also show through the porous cloth stock, easily detracting from appearance. The adhesive can also deteriorate and dry over time, releasing the cloth sticker from the backing. The whole concept and choice of materials results in a rather fragile issue.
In comparison, it seems Topps figured out a better adhesive solution for its 1977 baseball cloth stickers. These seem to stand up to the tests of time a lot better.
The cloth hockey stickers were sold as a separate series from that year’s cards. Each wax pack contained two stickers and a combo checklist/puzzle piece (plus the proverbial stick of gum). A total of 12 puzzle pieces completed the NHL shield on a bright yellow background.
These stickers are not easy to come by, and the set I’ve been able to amass is certainly no beauty. It was definitely a challenge that required some patience. If you’re a condition-sensitive collector, this might not be the set for you.
The puzzle pieces are even more uncommon. It took me almost a year to find a single puzzle piece (on eBay). So I purchased an uncut sheet of the complete puzzle and called it done.
I spent over a year on this set and it seemed like unopened wax packs came up more often than either the individual stickers or puzzle pieces. But I can’t imagine what havoc that stick of gum would have inflicted on a pack’s fragile contents over the last 40+ years…