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Donruss Buys Rights to Pacificís Names

by Paul Angilly
October 12, 2004

While the company is now officially closed for business, it looks like the Pacific name will live on.

Donruss Trading Cards, part of the Donruss/Playoff umbrella, announced this past week that it had acquired the names and brands of Pacific Trading Cards. Basically, that means Donruss can issue card sets under brand names previously used by Pacific -- including the Pacific name itself along with popular brands such as Private Stock, Luxury Suite and Crown Royale, among others.

According to a release issued by Donruss/Playoff, the company has no immediate plans for the Pacific names, but will use them in the future.

Although owning the Pacific names does not automatically give Donruss/Playoff a license to produce NHL trading cards (or AHL or CFL or any other license previously held by Pacific), it is certainly a major step in that direction. Itís likely that the NHL and its playersí association will grant Donruss/Playoff licenses to produce cards once the current labor situation is settled.

If that happens before the season is completely canceled, the still-hot Luxury Suite brand would seem like a logical choice to be released by next spring. The Private Stock brands (Reserve and Titanium) are also likely choices for resurrection.

Other Pacific hockey brands issued last season were: Calder, Quest for the Cup, Heads Up, Crown Royale, Supreme, Invincible, Exhibit and Prism. Other former Pacific brands include Atomic, Adrenaline, Exclusive, Dynagon, Impressions, Vanguard, Aurora, Omega, Paramount and Revolution.

Itís also likely that Donruss/Playoff would want to use some of its own most popular brand names if awarded an NHL license, such as Leaf Certified or the Donruss base brand.

The Playoff Corporation started business as a football card manufacturer in 1992. Since then, it has absorbed the assets of several other card companies that were going out of business, including Donruss, Pinnacle/Score (which had previously bought out Action Packed) and now Pacific.

Donruss previously issued NHL cards from 1993-94 through 1997-98, including the Donruss and Leaf brands along with Canadian Ice, Elite, Leaf Limited and Leaf Preferred, among others. Playoff issued the One on One NHL collectible card game in 1995-96, with an update in 1996-97.

In the Game still alive: The other card company most affected by the NHL lockout, In the Game, recently announced its first 2004-05 card set -- and while itís not an NHL-licensed set, it should prove to be a very popular issue.

The new "Heroes and Prospects" set, scheduled for release in November, will feature selected top prospects from the AHL, Canadian junior hockey leagues and at least one top European player, along with retired NHL legends. The set is a culmination of licensing deals with the Canadian Hockey Association (CHL), the American Hockey League and the PHPA (Professional Hockey Playersí Association).

In The Game also reached an agreement with Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin to produce base set cards as well as autograph cards for the set. Combined with junior phenom Sidney Crosby of the Rimouski Oceanic, hockeyís two most highly-anticipated future stars will have cards in the set -- making In the Game the first mainstream company to issue cards of both.

The 180-card base set will include the best CHL and AHL prospects, along with retired players such as Jacques Plante, Patrick Roy, Maurice Richard, Marcel Dionne and Georges Vezina, Phil Esposito, Bill Barilko and Ted Lindsay. In an interesting twist, all shown wearing their junior or minor league uniforms.

For instance, Phil Espositoís card shows him in uniform with the Algoma Contractors in his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The set also depicts Milt Schmidt proudly wearing his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform while serving in the military during the prime of his career from 1942 to 1945, while future Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko is shown in the ornate uniform of the Hollywood Wolves.

Heroes and Prospects will be available in both a hobby version and an arena version. Each hobby box will include 24 packs with each pack containing five cards plus one He Shoots, He Scores Decoy/Redemption card or game-used memorabilia card. Hobby boxes will yield an average of two autograph cards and each is guaranteed to contain one game-used memorabilia card.

The return of "Washington ĎNatíl Lea.í"?: Itíll be interesting to see how card companies deal with the Montreal Exposí move to Washington, D.C. in their early 2005 sets, several of which have already been announced for release next month.

As veteran collectors will remember, a famous series of variations came in the 1974 Topps set when the company, apparently believing off-season rumors that the San Diego Padres would be moving to Washington for the 1974 season, issued 13 of the Padres players (plus the manager and team cards) with the team name listed as "Washington ĎNatíl Lea.í" in early printings of the set. Later printings restored the San Diego Padres name.

Considering the relocated team is expected to take on a new nickname which may not be announced until well after the first 2005 baseball card sets are issued, it will be interesting to see if Topps, with a nod to its own history, issues cards of the former Expos with "Washington ĎNatíl Lea.í" as the team name.

Although that would be a nice bit of nostalgia, it probably wonít happen. Still, Topps may be in a bit of a quandary, since a team logo-style name is an essential part of the design of its 2005 base-brand set, due out Nov. 17.

2005 Fleer Ultra is also due in November with 2005 Upper Deck series 1 to follow on Dec. 1, but neither of those sets features team logos as a key design element -- simply a printed name instead.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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