1980-81 NHLPA Pepsi Caps

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1980-81 NHLPA Pepsi Caps.

I thought I would revisit a neat collectable that turns 30 years old this winter. During the 80-81 hockey season Pepsi Cola decided to venture into a neat marketing gimmick by putting the faces of the players on the seven Canadian based hockey teams under the caps of their Pepsi Cola bottles. Fifteen years earlier Coke had very successfully turned the trick with head shots of the players from the Leafs and Canadiens on the tops of the caps. Coke also went a step further by covering the bottles with CFL players the following summer. Since the cola wars began years ago, I suppose the thrill of the surprise is what Pepsi intended by placing the players pictures under the lids. Versus Coke’s pick the one you want. For a collector back in the day, the Coke way would have been much easier. Plus, fifteen years later I am not sure the thrill existed like it did in the mid sixties. Still the Pepsi caps are a great vignette of Canadian hockey teams circa 1980. Seven teams, each represented by twenty players, making the 140 cap set a tough one to put together. There are really two versions. Unlike the 1966 Coke and Sprite caps, Pepsi’s variation comes in the form of the old metal twist off caps from the 26 ounce glass bottles. Remember them, crimped with little break away tabs to ensure a sealed bottle. I have seen some of these, but have not seen or heard of anyone having a collection of the 140, 26 ounce caps. Some of the great players to adorn the caps are a very young looking Oiler Mark Messier with a full head of hair. Quebec’s Stastny brother’s Peter and Anton, Paul Coffey, Rick Vaive along with Tiger Williams of the Leafs and John Wensink as a Nordique. The great Montreal team of the late seventies is a trip down memory lane. Robinson, Shutt, Gainey, to name but a few. Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver make up the remainder of the collection. As was the case with Coke, the Pepsi Cola Company produced a neat plastic holder for the caps. Unlike Coke who made their display boards in the shape of a hockey rink and football field, Pepsi chose the shape of a big wheel. Each of the teams has a section forming a spoke like design or pie shaped look, and each section is molded to hold firmly the twenty caps for each team. They are very fragile if not protected or taken care of. This great collectable would run an easy $300 plus, plastic holder included. There is also a very good trivia question associated with the Pepsi Caps and Wheel memorabilia. I happened to notice there is a very peculiar void in the collection. The end of one great star’s career was on the horizon as the dawn of the next great star was upon us. Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky are noticeably absent from their respective teams. It is disappointing that the two great players are not in this collection. The answer is one that is easy to come up with if you give your head a few minutes to figure out. Both the Great One and the Flower were Coke guys and even the showing their faces under a bottle cap would go against all contractual policies. I tend to think no one except corporation executives would have ever noticed and the fact that the NHLPA logo is stamped on the display board’s face, I suppose, just in case, those two great faces are not in this must have collectible. Have a look back to the winter of 1980-81, a winter of searching, and surely a winter of pimple faced kids swishing down their Pepsi Cola.

Organizations: Pepsi Cola Company

Geographic location: Quebec, Montreal, Winnipeg Calgary Vancouver

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Recent comments

  • Dave
    February 22, 2014 - 23:27

    I have 2 complete 26 oz. sets with the plastic display.