National Hockey Card Day is just around the corner–February 9 in Canada and February 16 in the United States. Recently, I spoke with Chris Carlin, Sports Marketing and Social Media Manager for Upper Deck. Chris answered some questions about NHCD for 2013, including autographs and collation improvements.
Sal Barry: First off, how many years has there been a National Hockey Card day?
Chris Carlin: It has been in Canada since 2009, so 5 years. And this is our second year in the States.
Sal Barry: Why did Upper Deck decide in December to go through with National Hockey Card Day for 2013, even though the NHL season looked like it was going to be cancelled?
Chris Carlin: Well, a couple of reasons. One, we have a license for Team Canada. Although Canadian fans might [have been] frustrated with the NHL, they’re not frustrated with the national team. So it makes sense in Canada to highlight the team who won the Gold Medal in the last Olympics.
And to look back, we have a special “Memorable Moments” card that features Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as members of the ’87 Canada Cup, which is a pretty memorable team. So we saw the opportunity to leverage our Team Canada license to do something pretty special and give hockey fans up there who are so passionate a fun day where they can get cards of their favorite NHL stars in Team Canada gear.
For the States, we think it is really important because it seems like there was a lot of positive feelings towards hockey and some good momentum with so many teams in the States performing well in the playoffs last year. We felt it was important to have a day where hockey fans in the United States could get something for free and see the new products that have come out. More than anything, to thank them for their loyalty and support.
Sal Barry: What are the odds of getting an autographed card?
Chris Carlin: We don’t publish the odds because they are so far out there, so they are a very tough pull. We do that because if there was a better chance, then our fear is that some of the hobby shop owners would open the packs and try to pull the autographed cards. They really are a surprise when you get one. It creates a huge buzz in the shop when someone is lucky enough to pull one. It’s kind of a moment. It really makes it a more special experience.
Sal Barry: What are some of the autographs collectors can hope to get?
Chris Carlin: We don’t release that info until the day of [the promotion], but it’s usually a mix of stars. There’s usually three different players: a younger player [or] rookie, a more established star and a legendary player. Last year, we had Wayne Gretzky in the Canadian set, which was awesome. We had Alex Ovechkin in the set in the States. He’s not an American-born player, but he plays for an important American franchise, so there are opportunities to get some pretty compelling autographs in the set.
Chris Carlin: There was a problem last year and it has been corrected. Last year, there was a sequencing issue, so in some packs you’d get the same exact cards.
That is definitely not going to happen this year. It’s tricky because it’s such a small subject size. There’s only 15 cards, and 5 cards in each pack. So you do actually have to sequence it so that when they come off the line they come off in a random way, so you’re not getting duplicates in the same pack.
That’s where it gets tricky. Because the set size is so small, and there are [relatively] so many cards in each pack, we have to sequence it in a way where it seems random. But it’s planned and designed to make sure it feels like random cards in each pack and not the same cards each time. We became aware of that problem right when we got our sample packs [last year], so that shouldn’t happen again.
For more information about National Hockey Card Day, visit Upper Deck’s National Hockey Card Day Facebook page. And keep an eye on UpperDeck.com, as they will post a list of participating retailers soon.