The Quest for Khabibulin

One collector. One mission. 24 cards.

Collector Daniel Gilchrist has collected everything and anything related to Nikolai Khabibulin for 25 years. He owns several game-used goalie sticks, a game-used jersey and game-used goalie pads once worn by “The Bulin Wall.” He also has dozens of autographs and thousands of cards of Khabibulin, who is — if you haven’t guessed it by now — Gilchrist’s favorite player.

Gilchrist set out on one of his biggest collecting goals in 2016 when he decided to track down all 24 Nikolai Khabibulin logo patch cards from the 2013-14 Upper Deck Edmonton Oilers Collection trading card set. Although the pieces of Oilers logo aren’t from a game-worn jersey, they are still a sight to be seen when assembled. Gilchrist recently talked with Puck Junk about what challenges there were in his quest to collect all 24 logo patch cards of his favorite player.

Sal Barry: How long have you been a hockey card collector?

Daniel Gilchrist: Since I was 14. My family moved from Winnipeg to Edmonton in 1988, a few days after Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings. My cousins sent me a care package when we moved, and it had a bunch of hockey cards in it, including a Brett Hull rookie card. That’s how I got started.

SB: How did Nikolai Khabibulin become your favorite player?

DC: It’s actually a pretty funny story. I used to run a hockey card store, from 1995 to 2001. When Khabibulin first broke into the league with the Winnipeg Jets, I thought his name was fun to say. Everyone knew that I was originally from Winnipeg, so people would just bring me loads of his common cards. So, I decided that I was going to collect Khabibulin cards because he has a fun name to say and I am from Winnipeg. It was a good fit. And then it just blossomed from there, and I started collecting everything Khabibulin. I followed his career since he was with Winnipeg. I’m a Khabibulin super collector. I’ve got thousands of his cards, a game-used jersey, leg pads, blockers, catchers, that kind of stuff.

Nikolai Khabibulin with the Oilers in 2009. [Photo Credit: Kaz Andrew]
SB: Fast forward to 2013. When the 2013-14 Upper Deck Edmonton Oilers Collection hockey card set came out, did you immediately decide that you were going to collect all 24 of the Khabibulin logo patch pieces? 

Daniel Gilchrist

DC: Actually, no. When that set first came out, I was buying packs and trying to get other cards from the set. I did get two Khabibulin patch pieces, and actually didn’t think to get the rest for a few years. And then one day — I think in 2016 — I saw a few of the Khabibulin logo pieces on eBay, and I decided that I was going to chase it. He’s a big name, but not so big that the prices would be very high. I started my journey and tried to get all of them. It took me from 2016 to early 2019 to get them all.

SB: What was the last piece that you needed?

DC: The bottom of the “L” in the “OILERS” logo.

SB: Where did you find it?

DC: I found the last piece I needed at a local card show in April 2019. It was the Summit Show, which is really the only western Canadian card show that we have. I had been looking for that last piece for probably six or eight months. I found it at a table run by two guys from Medicine Hat. it was kind of just tossed on top of a pile of cards. I walked up and looked directly at it. It was kind of a weird feeling. 

SB: Did you get a rush when you saw it?

DC: I did at first. But because I had seen so many cards, I had to look at my picture, just to make sure that it was the one that I needed.

And then I very calmly said “I’ll take that one, sir.” After I paid for it, I told them my story, and that it was the last card that I needed to complete the logo. It was a pretty cool experience.

SB: There’s an old joke that if you tell the card dealer that it is the last card that you need before you buy it, the price goes up by 10%. 

DC: Yeah, exactly. You don’t want to get too excited.

SB: I know the cards are not game-used, nor are they serial-numbered, but are there more than one copy of each logo piece?

DC: Upper Deck never tells what their print runs are, but I know there are at least 10 copies of each logo piece.

SB: What other pieces were challenging to get?

DC: Other than taking a long time to collect them all, none of the logo pieces were rarer than the others. I will tell you that the pieces in the middle that have the orange dot were more expensive. Those cards cost me between $40 and $60 each. The rest of them cost me between $10 and $25.

SB: Most collectors have a budget that they try to stick to. Did you stick to your budget for this quest? 

DC: It definitely opened my eyes as to how much a project like this would cost, but I definitely didn’t go outside of my budget. If somebody wanted too much for a card, I would pass. But I definitely stayed within my budget.

SB: What are your plans to display the Khabibulin logo?

DC: I’m trying to figure out the best way to frame the cards. It’s definitely going to be framed in some way. I want to get something custom made, but custom framing is quite expensive. I don’t want to go to a place like Michael’s or some big box store and get a normal frame; I want something a little bit flashy.

SB: What collecting project will you work on next?

DC: My next project will be trying to get all of the pieces of the Andy Moog Oilers logo from the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers set. Any help is appreciated. There’s no hometown discount for Oilers cards in Edmonton, so any help is appreciated. Anyone who has a piece can contact me on Twitter at @35bulinwall35. ■

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

One thought on “The Quest for Khabibulin”

  1. Great little story. I have been chasing a few of the same types of things myself. Some 9 of 9’s game worn stuff. Still kicking myself over a piece I missed out on in auction I took too casually.

    PS I was a huge Andy Moog fan. That he hasn’t even been mentioned for the Hall is a crime. Good luck with that patch! If I got one, don’t think I would share…sorry.

    Enjoyed reading.

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