Hobby Musings: Upper Deck keeping busy with 2017-18 NHL Season – The 2017-18 NHL season has been in play for a few months and with it, a new series of trading card products. Coming off the heels of some exceptional rookie classes, this year’s products have had a lot to live up to. Besides a new rookie crop, this year’s cards have a new team in Las Vegas to add to the existing market. At the forefront of the hockey market is Upper Deck, who holds the exclusive NHL license. I had the chance to catch up with Upper Deck senior marketing and social media manager Chris Carlin to find out more about what this season has meant for the hockey card market, as well as what’s to come.
KS: Chris, we’re a couple months into a hockey season. Overall, how would you rate it from a trading card standpoint so far?
CC: Honestly it’s about as we expected. We knew the carryover rookies would be very strong and it’s been fun to see players like Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy, Alex Tuch and others get off to such a great start. There have been some nice surprises like Alexander DeBrincat for Chicago, Adrian Kempe for Los Angeles and to some extent Pierre Luc-Dubois for Columbus. And the interest in the Vegas Golden Knights is off the charts!
KS: Are there any of your products that you’ve been surprised at the reaction for?
CC: I think collectors have really enjoyed 2017-18 NHL Upper Deck Series One and all the unique content that affords fans along with some surprises. The biggest surprise however was the one we dropped on Canadiens with our Team Canada set that is exclusive to Canadian Tire. It’s been awesome to see the response to that product, especially because it has been something we’ve been working on for a long time. Having a presence at Canadian Tire allows us to once again be everywhere that a hockey fan and collector may be.
CC: The Vancouver Canucks have needed a rookie to get excited about for a long time. Brock Boeser seems to be the answer so far. He is doing some special things in Vancouver and that rabid fan base has been actively looking for his collectibles. Since he is a carryover rookie it’s nice there are a variety of cards for every type of collector available.
KS: The Young Guns cards in particular continue to remain popular with collectors. With a day and age where high-end autographs and memorabilia cards often rule, what is it like knowing that cards like these, that are essentially basic cards, still can generate this enthusiastic a response?
CC: It’s actually a lot of pressure. Our photography team has a crazy weekend every year when the season starts to get great imagery and get the right players in the product. Our design team made some bold choices this year for the Young Guns design that I think paid off and collectors enjoyed. Hockey is the one sport I’ve seen where set collecting is still a major part of the experience so the Young Guns rookies are a huge part of that.
KS: From a veteran standpoint, we know the bigger names like Crosby and McDavid that continue to do well with collectors. Is there anyone this season you’ve seen a boost in demand for?
CC: Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon and to some extent Patrik Laine all had a dip in performance, but have been playing really well as of late. I think there was a small pause for their collectibles, but that has come barreling back with their on-ice performance.
CC: There are not a lot of shops in Vegas that sell hockey cards so the ones that are have contacted me to let me know it is totally insane. They can’t keep anything in stock. We are going to be supporting them with a special Golden Knights Inaugural Season set that will release in January as a gift with purchase for them and part of that will have an extended series with some of the bigger names in our National Hockey Card Day product. It’s been awesome to see and everywhere I go, I’m seeing Golden Knights merchandise, so interest remains high.
KS: We’ll be getting into the heart of the NHL season soon enough. What plans does Upper Deck have coming up for releases?
CC: The Upper Deck Bounty program has already been a part of Artifacts this season, but after the new year we will see it in the new Synergy release (this one is a TOTAL sleeper in my opinion) and SP Authentic product. This program encourages set collecting and rewards fans handsomely for doing so. Check out more details at UpperDeckBounty.com.
UD Black will not exist as a standalone product for 2017-18, but it will exist as an overlay for SPx Hockey which should create some good excitement. Additionally, we have a fun surprise for 2017-18 NHL SP Authentic where we had 97 Connor McDavid Young Guns rookie cards hard-signed for the release. There should be some major cheers when those are discovered.
KS: National Hockey Card Day is still a few months away. In the meantime, are there any early details/insider tips you can share?
CC: This is the tenth anniversary of National Hockey Card Day in Canada so we are doing tributes to some of the best Young Guns rookie that debuted over that time. These will be randomly inserted into packs. As I alluded to earlier, there will also be a special set for the Golden Knights available in American packs. There are always exciting surprise autograph cards, but the Victory Black rookies pack a real punch too. I love the design this year as well!
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