This year, the NHL Draft was held in my home state of Florida, and I was lucky enough to be able to make the trip down to the BB&T Center in Sunrise to attend. On day two of the Draft, Upper Deck was sponsoring a free autograph signing with Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad. He went first overall in the 2014 draft, and at the time of the 2015 draft was only days removed from claiming the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. So the fact that he was scheduled to sign autographs — and sign them at no cost — was a pretty big deal to me.
After getting in line and waiting a few minutes, the Upper Deck staff, as well as arena staff, came over to the line and informed us that Ekblad would only be signing a card provided by Upper Deck, and would not be signing any other items we brought. Upon hearing this, many people decided to ditch the signing, which I was fine with, as that moved me up a few spots in the line. I’d brought a photo of Ekblad to get signed because I did not yet have any of his cards, so when they let us know that he only would sign the provided card, I was actually quite pleased. (Who doesn’t love a free card, right?) When Ekblad arrived and started signing, the line moved fairly quickly.
As I got closer to the front of the line, I got a better look at what he was signing: an oversized card.
I also learned that he was personalizing every autograph. When it was my turn to receive his signature, he said hello and asked my name, and signed the card for me. I congratulated him on his Calder Trophy (which I’m sure he heard a million times) and received my card.
As it turned out, the card is a super-sized version of Ekblad’s 2014-15 O-Pee-Chee Platinum base card, with a 2015 NHL Draft logo added on. The card measures 5″ by 7″ and uses the same photo and design as its normal-sized counterpart. Although it says Platinum on it, the card is not chrome like the Platinum set is. Instead, it is printed like a card from the standard O-Pee-Chee set. (Meaning it is perfect to get an autograph on!)
Another difference between the big card and the standard Platinum Ekblad base card is that there is no “RC” printed on the oversize card. It normally would be in the upper right, slightly above where the Draft logo is. I like the fact it had the Draft logo on it, as that made it a unique keepsake from the event, but marking the card as a rookie card would have been nice, since, technically, Ekblad will still appear as a rookie in products released the next few months after the Draft.
One oddity about the card is that the back is blank. Unlike most O-Pee-Chee cards, it is not a plain brown cardboard back, but instead is white The cardstock it was printed on is a little thinner than normal, but since it was free, I’ll give UD a pass on that.
Overall, this is a pretty neat card, and having Ekblad sign it puts the cherry on top. Also I can’t imagine that Upper Deck produced a whole lot of them; likely just a bunch for draft day and that’s it. I am glad I was able to add this card to my collection while experiencing the NHL Draft. The people who left the line missed out on a pretty cool souvenir! ■
About the Author: Zach Bare is a hockey fan from Tampa who enjoys collecting cards and autographs among other hockey related items. The Tampa Bay Lightning is his favorite team, but if it’s hockey, he’ll watch it no matter who is playing.