Topps jumped the gun in 1963-64 when they produced the rookie card of Ed Van Impe. Van Impe was shown as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. He did not play his first game with the club and in the NHL until the 1966-67 season. Meanwhile, Ed was honing his craft as a solid defensman down in the AHL with the Buffalo Bisons. He was the backbone of a Calder Cup championship in Buffalo as he would be the backbone of two Stanley Cup championships with the Philadelphia Flyers later in his career.
Ed Van Impe – Minor Pro
Van Impe played strictly in the minors from 1960-61 to 1965-66. His first year was spent in the WHL with the Calgary Stampeders while the rest of his days in the minors were with the Buffalo Bisons in the American Hockey League.
In his only year in the WHL, Calgary placed first overall in the eight team league. The Stampeders were then upset in the first round by the fourth seed Seattle Totems, winning just one of five games. That year, the hockey world saw what was to come of Van Impe as he placed fifth in the WHL with 123 PIM in his rookie season.
In his first year with the Bisons, 1961-62, the team reached the Calder Cup finals but fell to the mighty Springfield Indians in five games. Buffalo was coached by Billy Reay, who would go on to be head coach of the NHL Blackhawks. The team was led offensively by two of the three Cullen brothers, Barry and Brian, along with Art Stratton and Chico Maki. Playing most of the season in net was Denis DeJordy. Van Impe placed second in the AHL with 172 PIM, five behind leader Aldo Guidolin of the Cleveland Barons.
The following year, 1962-63, Ed and the Bisons got their championship. Buffalo took the full seven games to eliminate the Hershey Bears in the finals. Van Impe led the AHL with 196 PIM.
In 1963-64, when, according to Topps, Van Impe was to be making his debut with the Chicago Blackhawks, he instead was going through a rough season with the Bisons. Buffalo went from champs in 1962-63 to the basement in 1963-64. They placed last in the four team West Divisioin and eighth in the nine team league, obviously not qualifying for the post season. Ed led the league in PIM for the second year in a row with 193.
Phil Watson took over the head coaching duties in Buffalo for 1964-65 and the team bounced back to their winning ways. The Bisons placed third in the nine team league but fell in the semi-finals to Hershey. Van Impe produced the highest penalty minute total of his pro career but it placed him second, 11 minutes behind Fred Glover of Cleveland.
Buffalo continued their see-saw trend in 1965-66, once again dropping to last in the West and seventh in the nine team league, out of post season contention. Van Impe dropped to third in PIM with 153, behind Larry Zeidel of the Barons and Aldo Guidolin, now of the Providence Reds.
Ed Van Impe – NHL
In 1966-67, the final year of the Original 6 format in the National Hockey League, Van Impe finally got his start. Over 61 games with the Blackhawks, the defenseman scored eight and assisted on eleven for 19 points. Ed was runner-up to Bobby Orr for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.
Ed Van Impe Collection
His days in Chicago were numbered, however. He was left unprotected and the Philadelphia Flyers picked him up in the third round of the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft, 16th overall. It may not have seemed like a good thing at the time but the move certainly changed Van Impe’s NHL career for the better.
Over his NHL career, Ed played in 700 regular season games, scoring just 27 goals and assisted on 131 for 158 points. He played an additional 66 Stanley Cup playoff games, adding a goal and 12 assists. Along with the Blackhawks and Flyers, Van Impe also played 22 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the end of his NHL career.
In his first season with the Flyers, he set the tone for things to come from that franchise. Although they were not yet known as the Broad Street Bullies, Van Impe led the team with 141 PIM and placed fourth in the NHL, 12 minutes behind leader Barclay Plager of the St. Louis Blues.
Oddly, when the true Broad Street Bullies era was in its height, Van Impe had calmed things down in order to play solid defense. The Flyers were Stanley Cup champions in 1973-74 and 1974-75. In the first year, Ed was just sixth on the team in time spent in the sin bin with 119 minutes. The following year, he was fourth on the Flyers with 109.
Ed Van Impe’s toughness would go down in infamy on January 11, 1976. The Soviet Union was touring North America in what was called the Super Series. In the game between the Flyers and the Soviets, Van Impe flattened star Valeri Kharlamov and knocked him unconscious. This was the event that pushed the Soviets to leave the ice in protest. Only after being threatened with not getting paid did they return to finish the game.
Van Impe has been a member of the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame since 1993.
Ed Van Impe – Rookie Card
The Ed Van Impe rookie card appears as number 30 in the 1963-64 Topps set. He is shown as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. As mentioned, it would be 1966-67 before Van Impe played his first game in the National Hockey League. The card is valued at about a third more than a common card. Ed did not appear on a hockey card again until the 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee set as a member of the Flyers.
|1957-58||Saskatoon Jr. Quakers||SJHL||49||2||2||4||58|
|1958-59||Saskatoon Jr. Quakers||SJHL||48||0||23||23||150|
|1959-60||Saskatoon Jr. Quakers||SJHL||58||11||42||53||146|