Hobby Musings: Upper Deck Gearing Up For National Hockey Card Day – It’s hard to believe it’s here already, but the 2020 incarnation of Upper Deck’s National Hockey Card Day will be happening this Saturday. One of the company’s most popular promotions of the year, it gives collectors the chance to receive a free pack of hockey cards just for walking into their LCS. NHCD isn’t the only big event Upper Deck has had recently. To find out more about that and how this hockey season has shaped up for UD so far, I had the chance to catch up with Chris Carlin. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: Chris, with National Hockey Card Day coming up this weekend, what are some of the highlights of this year’s release?
CC: The product features everything that fans have come to love about it over the years with the top rookies, stars and legends represented in the US and Canadian sets. The Victory Black rookies feature standouts like Kaapo Kakko and Cody Glass in the US packs, and Nick Suzuki and Rasmus Sandin in the Canadian sets. A fun new insert are the Mascots. There will be five subjects in the US and Canadian sets combining for a ten card set this season. With this being a family friendly set, I think those will be a big hit.
KS: You’ve been doing it for a number of years now, why continue to still put on the promotion?
CC: We run this program for two reasons. First, it absolutely drives traffic to hobby shops on this day and many of our Certified Diamond Dealers have shared this is the best day of sales they have all year long. Most importantly however, it helps create some really powerful memories for families taking part in the program, especially for the kids. To walk in a shop and be handed a free pack of hobby cards as you drive around the city with your parents is really a special memory that will hopefully help cultivate the next generation of collectors.
KS: Where do you think it ranks for Upper Deck in terms of its LCS-partnered programs?
CC: I think the Certified Diamond Dealer Conference we run is by far the most valuable tool we provide hobby shops that take part in it. It is so valuable to our shop owners on a variety of levels. This is likely the next most important initiative outside of our Diamond Dealer Mailings where we send our partner shops new marketing materials to better merchandise their stores. There are numerous benefits for being an Upper Deck Certified Diamond Dealer outside of this program however. If you own a collectibles shop, you’ll want to sign up for the program today through an Authorized Distributor like GTS Distribution.
KS: Beyond NHCD, Upper Deck has also been busy recently with a number of events, including the NHL All-Star Game and your own dealer conference. What were some of the highlights from those?
CC: From my perspective it’s always the memories we make with our fans and partners at these events. At the NHL All-Star Game we had a variety of incredible moments from having Laila Anderson be our kid correspondent at media day and sharing her very own Heroic Inspirations card with her to bringing in military veterans from the US and Canada to give them some special moments as well. At the CDD Conference, surprising fans with another Kevin Smith interview was just a moment I’ll never forget. We brought out Bobby Orr and the banter between Kevin and Bobby was just incredible. To take that in was very special for everyone in the room.
KS: We’re more than halfway through the hockey season. Which rookie do you think has been resonating the most with collectors so far this season?
CC: The last few years there has really just been one rookie that has driven the market with Elias Pettersson last year, Brock Boesser the year prior, Auston Matthews before that and then of course Connor McDavid. This season we truly have a deep rookie class who are all doing some special things. Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko haven’t had the standout rookie seasons many have hoped for, but it’s clear they will be very good players in the future. Hughes reminds me a lot of Steven Stamkos in his rookie season. Jack’s brother, Quinn Hughes, continues to have an incredible rookie season for a D-man in the hockey hotbed of Vancouver. Some rookies have come out of nowhere like Dominik Kubalik from the Chicago Blackhawks, who has been a goal-scoring machine since the New Year, causing his Young Guns rookies to soar. Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins had a hot streak to get started in the NHL as well with his Black Diamond card /99 really catching fire as of late. Any Toronto Maple Leafs rookies tend to do well, but Rasmus Sandin has made the most of things with Morgan Rielly being out after having a breakout performance in the World Juniors. Filip Zadina is finally getting some more ice time and he’s certainly responding in Detroit. I think his cards are an absolute steal right now. There’s good buzz around another rookie goalie in Igor Shesterkin with the Rangers that collectors should be watching too. Lastly, Cale Makar continues to be the guy commanding the most values from this rookie class and he is certainly living up to the hype. The Colorado Avalanche fans are chomping at the bit to get his Young Guns rookie which will be in 2019-20 NHL Upper Deck Series Two releasing on February 19.
KS: Who would you say is currently the most popular player in hockey trading cards right now?
CC: The things Connor McDavid are doing right now are truly incredible. It seems like he has a highlight goal or assist every night he plays, it is really incredible to watch. There is some incredible development on the entire Edmonton Oilers team though with players like Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamomoto and Ethan Bear really having some incredible seasons. With some good goalie play, I think this could be the year we see the Oilers make some big moves in the playoffs and really show off the superstar skills on that roster.
KS: In terms of hockey releases, what do you have coming up soon?
CC: Fans are reacting really well to our new Allure product which came out a couple weeks ago. February 19 will be a big one with Upper Deck Series Two hitting hobby shops, and many fans believe the Young Guns rookies featured in this release are even stronger than the ones featured in Series One. SP Game-Used will be out the week after that and that is always a really fun break with a variety of unique content. One product not to fall asleep on is the new Credentials Hockey which I think is a product that is going to surprise a lot of fans. It really caters to hockey fans in particular delivering all the aspects of the game experience to people who love to watch the game. That said, there are also some cool surprise inserts that I think fans are really going to be buzzing about in all these releases!
KS: Outside of hockey, what does Upper Deck have coming out in the near future?
CC: Well most of my days this week have been dealing with the new Michael Jordan All-Star Funko Pop worldwide exclusive we dropped on the Upper Deck Store. It sold out in hours and clearly there is a huge demand in the Funko world for MJ and other Upper Deck spokespeople. I’m excited to see what this year will bring in terms of unique collectibles like the Funko Pops featuring Upper Deck athletes. We have a new series of Overwatch League cards coming out soon to e-Pack so that’s exciting as we have really created a whole new category of collectors with those releases on e-Pack. And I’m excited for the new Upper Deck Trade Tour events. To be able to send staff to different events around North America to engage our customers in person is really valuable to Upper Deck and a great way to say thank you for continuing to make Upper Deck, “The Collector’s Choice!”
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: Upper Deck Gearing Up For National Hockey Card Day
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