The exact same photograph of Patrick Kane was used on two different hockey cards during the 2011-12 season. At first, I thought this could have been an honest mistake. But then my research led to an unusual conclusion: what if one card company deliberately decided to use the same photograph to troll their competitor?
The photo in question shows Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane trying to score against Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks. Or maybe he did score? Who knows, because you can’t see the puck. The photograph first appeared on Panini’s 2011-12 Pinnacle Hockey set, which came out in December 2011. In March 2012, the photo was again used in the 2011-12 Upper Deck Series Two Hockey set.
It turns out that this photo is from a game on October 25, 2011 and yes, Kane did score on that play. The picture was taken by Bill Smith, the team photographer for the Blackhawks, and available to license for commercial use through Getty Images. In the original photo, before borders were added, you can’t see the puck either.
What I could not understand, though, is why both companies bought THIS specific picture from Getty Images to use on its’ hockey cards? The photograph isn’t very good. You can’t see the puck, nor can you see Kane’s face, since his head is turned. (At least Upper Deck used a different photo of Kane on the back of its card, while Panini did not.)
Mr. Smith has taken many fine photographs over the years as a photographer for the Blackhawks, the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls. This Kane vs. Hiller pic isn’t one that I would pay money for. So it is surprising to see that it was used on not just one, but on two hockey cards.
Someone paid to use this picture. Twice. So I decided to find out how much it would cost to license this photograph for use on a trading card.
After filling out a few online forms on the Getty Images website, here is what I learned: if you want to use this specific photo of Patrick Kane on a trading card that is sold in the U.S. and Canada with a print run of 10,000 or more copies, you cost would be:
• $480 USD for exclusive rights
• $348 USD for non-exclusive rights
What this means is that the company that first bought trading card usage rights to this image was too cheap to pay the extra $132 to ensure that their competitor couldn’t use the same photo. This was six years ago, so the prices might have been different then.
In the 2011-12 season, there were only two companies making licensed NHL trading cards: Upper Deck and Panini. My guess is that Panini bought the usage rights for photograph first — since their Pinnacle set came out four months before Upper Deck’s Series Two set — and decided to cheap out and pay $348 for non-exclusive rights to the photo instead of $480 for exclusive rights. Considering how lackluster of a job Panini did with their NHL trading card license, this sort of corner-cutting wouldn’t surprise me.
Then, maybe Upper Deck tried to exclusively license the same photograph later on, and saw that they could not because Panini had already paid for non-exclusive usage rights on trading cards.
This is purely speculative, but instead of buying the rights for a different picture, perhaps someone at Upper Deck thought it would be hilarious to troll Panini by also purchasing non-exclusive rights to the same photo and using it on one of its own cards a few months later.
That, or Upper Deck’s photo editor really liked this picture where you can’t see the puck or the subject’s face.
Either way, a mediocre image got sold twice and used on two different hockey cards made by two competing companies. I hope that means Mr. Smith got paid twice as well. ■