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Despite the Strike, Hockey Cards Exist

by Paul Angilly
November 30, 2004

On Feb. 7, 1976, Toronto Maple Leafs Hall-of-Famer Darryl Sittler set an NHL record by scoring 10 points in a single game -- six goals and four assists. Facing him (but obviously not stopping him) in the Boston Bruins’ net that night was rookie goaltender Dave Reece.

While Reece never saw a sophomore season in the NHL, his rookie card will be issued next month as Upper Deck releases what may end up being the only hockey set of current players made this winter -- the 2004-05 Upper Deck series one set.

Scheduled for release early December, the 210-card base set will include 30 short-printed "Young Guns" cards in three varieties: regular Young Guns, Young Guns Retro and Young Guns Legend.

According to a preliminary checklist published on the Beckett.com web site and in Beckett Hockey magazine, there will be two Young Guns and 11 Young Guns Retro cards, which will combine to be found one per five packs. The 17 Young Guns Legends cards will be found 1:20 packs, for a combined insertion ratio of 1:4 packs for all Young Guns cards.

The Dave Reece card is found in the Legends subset, along with: key NHL builders Hobey Baker, James Norris and Lord Stanley; international hockey icons Denis Brodeur, Herb Brooks, Viktor Tikhonov, Alexander Ragulin and Cammi Granato; Red Wings owner Mike Iiltch; Lightning coach John Tortorella; broadcaster Dick Irvin Jr.; and announcers Foster Hewitt, Tom Mees and Gary Thorne.

The two key players in the current NHL lockout are also included in the subset: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Director Bob Goodenow.

Two rookies who made their NHL debuts in April are featured on the regular Young Guns cards: the Carolina Hurricanes’ Brad Fast and the Calgary Flames’ Brennan Evans.

The Young Guns Retro cards picture players who made their rookie debuts before Upper Deck started making hockey cards in 1990-91. Among the players in the subset is Ron Francis, shown with the Hartford Whalers.

Also included on Young Guns Retro cards are: Wayne Gretzky (WHA’s Indianapolis Racers), Mark Messier (WHA’s Cincinnati Sting), Peter Forsberg (Quebec Nordiques), Steve Yzerman, Patrick Roy, Mario Lemieux, Dave Andreychuk, Luc Robitaille, Gordie Howe and Don Cherry (shown with the AHL’s Rochester Americans).

With a suggested retail price of $2.99 for an eight-card pack (24 packs per box), the 2004-05 Upper Deck set includes the usual array of inserts, with an average of two game jersey cards per box.

Among the game jersey insert sets are: World Cup of Hockey Tribute, Big Playmakers (with jumbo-sized swatches), Young Stars Swatches, Heritage Classic (commemorating last season’s outdoor game) and UD Game Jersey 1997 version (reproducing the design from Upper Deck’s original game-worn hockey jersey set).

AHL players in new set: In The Game’s Heroes & Prospects set is now available, and the 180-card checklist (with no short-prints) includes 55 AHL prospects -- including the Hartford Wolf Pack’s Alexandre Giroux, Fedor Tyutin and Jozef Balej; plus the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ Martin Kariya. There are also memorabilia insert cards for most of those players, plus the Wolf Pack’s Garth Murray and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ Trent Hunter and Rick DiPietro, among others.

In addition to the AHL players, Heroes & Prospects includes the best young junior players from the CHL and a variety of retired legends from the past. Each hobby box contains one game-used memorabilia card and an average of two autograph cards.

As a nice addition, there are "He Shoots, He Scores" decoy/redemption cards in each pack that does not contain a game-used memorabilia card. These extra-thick cards feature AHL and junior hockey team logos on the front. Designed to help deter pack searching for the memorabilia cards, each comes with a point value. Collectors who accumulate enough points can redeem them for unique and scarce game-used memorabilia cards not available in packs.

There is also an arena version available at a lower price, but with fewer autograph cards and no game-used memorabilia cards or He Shoots, He Scores Decoy/Redemption cards. The arena version is available through AHL web sites and some convenience stores.

A Heroes & Prospects Update set is scheduled for release later this season. The 50-card set will include some of the best prospects not found in the regular Heroes & Prospects set. A tentative list of players to be included are Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Tomas Vanek from the AHL and Benoit Pouliot and Matthew Spezza from the junior ranks.

In addition to the 50-card set, collectors will also receive one game-used memorabilia card or one autograph card in every set. Collectors will be able to place orders at the In The Game web site (www.itgtradingcards.com) beginning soon. The price will be $39.95, or $34.95 plus five Heroes & Prospects wrappers.

No more "Be a Player": In The Game came into existence six years ago to carry on the "Be a Player" brand name that had originally been started by Upper Deck and continued by Pinnacle through the 1997-98 season. But In The Game has now announced that as of June 30, 2004, its license to use the Be a Player brand name was terminated by the NHLPA, as was its license to produce cards featuring active players in their NHL uniforms.

The company recently developed a new logo and is planning to releasing new brands of cards (featuring retired players and/or non-NHL prospects only) under the In The Game brand names. The Be a Player brand name remains property of the NHLPA and is no longer associated with In The Game.

Don’t be surprised if the Be a Player name -- which became famous in the hobby when Upper Deck made it the first product to include one NHL autograph per pack in 1994-95 -- is brought back (possibly by Upper Deck) after a new labor agreement is reached.

Ironically, the original 45-card boxed set for the Be a Player brand, licensed by the NHLPA but not the league, was released during the NHL lockout that wiped out the early part of the 1994-95 season.

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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