Best of the Worst: 2020-21 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey

Greetings, my fellow hockey fans who aren’t watching hockey! While we are trying to socially distance and wash our hands like NBC Sports washed it’s hands of several problematic co-hosts, Upper Deck dropped a lump of coal in our turkey before yelling, “Happy St. Paddy’s Day!” and throwing beaded necklaces at us. And who can blame them since we don’t know what day it is, let alone what holiday. But that’s no lump of coal: it’s a box of Upper Deck’s Series 1!  If it was coal, it would have said “Panini.”

Before jumping to the goods, I was worried that I wouldn’t find enough cards to make fun of in a post, and this has been the case for the past few boxes of Upper Deck’s flagship hockey set. Honestly, the first half of the packs that I exhumed not only lacked of comical merriment fuel, but frankly, they lacked anything awesome or inspiring. The cards were boring. Dull. Safe. But thankfully, the later half of the box got things back on track! 

“Are the snacks ready, Mom?”

Brady Skjei (#35)  Most players show their fierce, mad-dog game faces when they’ve got the puck on their stick. Shady Brady looks like he’s poking his head around the corner to get some Sunny D and to ask his mom if the Totino Pizza rolls are done cooking yet.

“Ouch! My Ker-foot!” 

Alex Kerfoot (#167) Not to be confused with Adam Foote, Cam Neely, Jeff Finger or Michal Handzus. 

Popeye the Skater Man

Evgeni Malkin (#142) – Evgeni Malkin looks like Sylvester Stallone doing an impersonation of Popeye the Sailor Man. I know it was a down year for Malkin, but was this really his best picture? 

P.K…is That You? 

P.K. Subban (#111) – Speaking of questionable pictures, are you sure that’s really P.K. Subban? With the glare on the visor and only half of his name visible, we can only assume so. Like Malkin, this wasn’t Subban’s best season either, but P.K. is one of the league’s most-animated players and deserves a better picture. Pay Getty Images a little more money, Upper Deck, and get the premium goods. Subban was working out with Dwayne “El Rock” Johnson as his personal trainer this summer; use one of those photos, for crying out loud!

Stayin’ Alive! Stayin’ Alive! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! 

Christian Dvorak (#8), Filip Forsberg (#104) & Artemi Panarin (#122) – It’s Disco Night with the ‘Yotes, Perds and Rags! Dvorak is staying alive while Filip is doing his best Travolta strut! The Bread Man is working on his New York Hustle; good enough that a fan presents a hi-five for his efforts. Keep that Disco Inferno burnin’, boys!

Class Picture Day, Circa 1995

Tyler Bertuzzi (Portraits #7) – This was the first Portraits card I pulled and I literally thought Upper Deck ran the picture through a filter to make it look like a semi-talented 7th grader drew their favorite hockey player. The shadowing, the lifeless expression, and the two-dimensional flatness of this card really made me think that Upper Deck was doing more than just adding hyperbolic 90’s flare to an otherwise dull snap shot. Turns out I was mistaken…

Connor McDowner

Connor McDavid (Portraits #1) – With a super-exciting background of lasers and Saved By The Bell graphics, you would think that boy-wonder here would have been told to look a little more animated. Instead it’s just the hollow, hollow look of a man whose agent convinced him to take as much money from a team that can’t afford to build a playoff contender around him, so he’s stuck there for another 700 years. But did Upper Deck add MORE shadows and worry lines to his face? The boy is barely-old enough to legally drink in the U.S.

Even McDavid’s regular card in the set (#73) is impossibly-glum.

Who Let the Dach Out? 

Kirby Dach (Canvas #18) More like “Kirby Dachshund,” amirite? No really, this is by far the best card in the box and I will fight anyone over this fact.

That’s it for me folks, enjoy the holidays and please keep you and your loved ones safe this year.

And if you have the opportunity during this time-awkward celebration, thank a Rodeo Clown, because they’re the true heroes who are overlooked in their thankless profession. The mirthless mimes who provide life-saving distraction for Wrangler butts, they are the nightmare fuel of bucking bovines the world over. Rodeo Clowns: We salute you!

Jim Howard is a Carolina Hurricanes fan and reformed baseball card collector who is trying to keep the hockey collection from becoming overwhelming. And while he wishes he could give Crosby the business with his mitt, he is in fact NOT the goalie for the Red Wings. 


Author: Jim Howard

Hockey enthusiast who pays the bills as a traveling geologist. More of a lover than a fighter, he's a fairly cheap date; just ask his wife. He'd prefer to be outside in the rain that stuck in the office on a beautiful day.

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