Got ’em, got em’, need ’em. We’ve all been there. Trading hockey cards to try and complete your set. It usually took a long time but through flea markets, local card stores, and card shows, it was possible to complete it.
When I was a young boy, I’ll admit hockey cards, and really hockey, in general, weren’t my jam until I was about 10 years old. I was a big Ninja Turtles fan that came with its own collectible cards, figures, comics, and so on. I had hockey cards from the Esso series, baseball sticker books, and yeah, probably a hockey one too!
I don’t know exactly how it all happened but I do remember my cousin being a big influence on me for liking hockey cards and I think Christmas 1991 was when I got my first box of cards.
Pro Set was my introduction to hockey cards with team logo cards, referees, the puck, and of course, collecting the set. Back then, there really wasn’t much in the way of parallels, subsets, or limited editions. I remember Premier had a gold-alternate of their cards so maybe that was one of the first chances to get rare ones.
Upper Deck had their “Young Guns” series as well as Hockey Heros with Brett Hull. There were Canada Cup subsets which introduced Teemu Selanne’s rookie card and Nicklas Lidstrom’s as well. Upper Deck was also the early favorite when it came to the best cards out there. Holograms were introduced as alternates to regular photo cards and as the years progressed, more options were available.
OH, and the Pavel Bure cards, can’t forget the Bure cards:
It feels like forever ago when I started collecting but in the last year that spark has been reignited and I had to get re-introduced to a hobby that I spent a ton of time involved in. My daughters are now at the ages where they can understand what’s going on and what makes collecting so much fun.
Before them, I was opening up what I can remember as hundreds of packs of the McDonalds cards that came out every year until they became too expensive to collect the set. I can still hear that crinkle of the wrapper and endless insert cards telling you which ones to collect that year.
Much of this fun can be attributed to our local card and memorabilia shop, Players Choice Sportscards and Collectibles. Jason and Katie run their store just behind Prospera Place in Kelowna and they have become the go-to place for the latest and greatest in collecting. What I never thought I’d be involved in are the new ways to get your hands on must-have cards.
Every year, Upper Deck sponsors the National Hockey Card Day and gives away thousands of packs of cards for free to get people interested in the hobby. There’s usually some fun to be had at local shops and even a few giveaways I’ve heard. That’s where this all got started for us. After that, I was hooked again.
Before the term “social-distancing” existed, Players Choice hosted what is called “break nights”. No, they don’t offer Kit Kats or a chance to take your date to ogle a Sidney Crosby signed jersey, but they probably have one you can buy.
These breaks consist of a group of people coming to their shop and opening up cases of brand new cards with the chance to get every card opened from a specific team. With 31 teams to collect, there are 31 spots to buy a chance at a team. It’s done at random to keep things fair and you don’t know the team you have until the end.
12 boxes are in that brown box and then the craziness begins.
Names are drawn after all the cards are opened and as each name is drawn, that person reaches into a bag and takes out a chip with an NHL team’s logo on it, that’s the team you get. Maybe it’s the Canucks, maybe it’s Columbus. Seeing all the cards opened is the first part of the fun, the suspense when the teams are picked is next level.
courtesy of Players Choice Instagram (Series 2 case break night)
There are a lot of Canucks, Oilers, Canadiens, and Leafs fans in town so those are the ones most of us are vying for. With star players like Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, and Alex Ovechkin, everyone is hoping a special card is waiting for them when they pick.
Having to stay hunkered down at home has forced card collectors to find different ways to get their fix. Players Choice has introduced Facebook card auctions from stock they’ve opened or purchased. Loyal followers spend a few hours bidding on cards a few nights a week. Even without a bricks and mortar location accessible to the public, they’re finding ways to stay available.
I’ve found myself, as well as my kids, sitting at the laptop watching card auctions and box breaks just wanting to see what cool cards are opened. It’s tough to explain but seeing a super rare card get pulled is a pretty neat experience. Everyone has a favorite team or player and getting a card from that player is special.
These are a few I managed to pull awhile ago.
Sharing this experience with my kids is that much more special because they get excited the same way I do but they find their own cherished pieces they want to own. My oldest is a huge Henrik Sedin fan so we’re always looking for Hank’s gems. I’m trying to find this guy:
Now, these aren’t just hockey cards anymore, they’re so much more than that now.
It used to be just collect the set and you’re happy. Not now. Autographs, dual autos, triple, quadruple, heck, SIX signatures on a card are possible. Pieces of jerseys, multiple jerseys, patches, sticks, pucks, goalie equipment, tickets, you name it, it’s probably on a card.
Add to all of this the availability for these cards and you have yourself a serious problem: how am I going to get my hands on that card?
Sets are separated into base cards and then subsets. Even the autographed ones, jersey ones, and others can have alternates, it never ends! Upper Deck has a number of different releases throughout the year including their flagship namesake split into Series One and Series Two.
There are also newer releases within the last decade or so including The Cup, SPx Game-Used, Artifacts, Trilogy, Credentials, Black Diamond, Allure, and even brands like O-Pee-Chee with multiple offerings under the UD umbrella.
I should point out, these aren’t exactly 2.99/pack kind of things anymore. You get what you pay for and some of these lines can run you $500/pack, even more. The serious collectors (with a few bucks to spend) can parlay cards they’ve pulled into some serious dough. There are newer Connor McDavid cards, Quinn Hughes, and others that can be found for thousands of dollars via resellers.
It’s no joke.
There are also the regular offerings that you can get involved for around $5/pack. So don’t get discouraged, anyone can be a collector. Just figure out what your budget is and set your sights accordingly. Don’t shop for a Ferrari if you can’t afford it in the first place.
But, for the casual collector, the Saturday out for a fun morning collector, or the kid that just wants to see what something shiny looks like, there’s always a fit. I seem to have reignited my love for these little cardboard treasures and I know I’ve already passed that on to my kiddos.
Check out my podcast, The PP1 Podcast, for more card talk with our sponsor, Players Choice.
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram – @always90four