On Wednesday, it was announced that Italian card manufacturer Panini was granted a license to make NHL trading cards starting next season. Beckett had two different stories on the matter:
For the better part of the past two decades, Panini has manufactured hockey sticker albums in the U.S., Canada and Europe. They also purchased the Donruss company, strengthening their position as a major player in the trading card market. Currently, they have exclusive rights to make trading cards for the National Basketball Association.
This is great news for hockey card collectors. For the past 5 years, we have lamented the fact that Upper Deck had a monopoly on both the NHL and NHLPA licenses. Whereas Upper Deck had to try to be competitive with the other major sports, they had pretty much cart blanche when it came to hockey. For example, a pack uf Upper Deck baseball cards costs $3 and have 18 cards so as to compete with Topps. On the other hand, Upper Deck hockey cards also cost $3, but only have 8 cards. And let’s not forget redemptions, sticker autographs, mismatched jersey swatches, and all the other things that fans have perennially complained about. Upper Deck had no real competition when it came to hockey, so why would they even try?
Panini getting a hockey license gives Upper Deck a reason to try. This fall, Score hockey cards will return for the first time in over a decade (Score is one of the brand names owned by Panini/Donruss). I never thought I’d look forward to buying Score hockey cards again.
Likewise, going up against an established hockey card manufacturer like Upper Deck gives Panini reason to do their best too? Who will have better looking cards?
Who will offer more cards per pack at a better price? Which brand will offer the best inserts? Autographs? Other incentives to collect?
Competition is a good thing, my friends.
However, there is some bad news in this. Thus far it has been implied that no other companies will be granted official hockey card licenses.
That is a shame, as In The Game is deserving of such a license. In the past 5 years, ITG has made hockey cards despite not having a license from the NHL or NHLPA, instead focusing on retro-themed sets, upcoming prospects or international competition. (Really, what else can you do if you can’t show current players or NHL logos?) ITG seems to be the only company that really knows–that really cares–about hockey. Unfortunately, they don’t have the “up front” money to be taken seriously by the League.
In a perfect world, Panini, Upper Deck, In The Game and Topps (remember them?) would all be granted licenses to make official NHL trading cards, and collecting would return to the hockey card utopia that was the 1990s.