I was excited when I learned that 2020-21 Upper Deck Extended Series — a.k.a. “Series 3” — was coming out this summer. The Upper Deck flagship set has been my favorite hockey card set to collect over the past 30 years, and I think that expanding the set from its usual 500 cards to 730 cards makes a great thing even better.
Upper Deck Extended Series consists of 200 base cards and 30 Young Guns rookie cards — instead of the usual 50 Young Guns per series like there are in Series One and Series Two. A lot of the cards in the 200-card base set picture players from the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, which took place about six weeks before the league shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Like Series One and Series Two, there are eight cards in a foil pack and 24 packs in a box.
Making Extended Series really appealing to myself and other old school hockey collectors is the inclusion of numerous insert sets based on popular sets from the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as HoloGr-FX and Ultimate Victory.
I recently purchased a hobby box of 2020-21 Upper Deck Extended Series. Here is what I got.
167 Base Cards
My box of 2020-21 Upper Deck Extended Series had 167 base cards. None of the base cards in my box were doubles. As usual, the last two base cards are checklists.
Base cards pick up right where Series Two leaves off, and are numbered 501 to 700. Cards 655-698 picture each and every player from the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. I have always been a fan of cards from All-Star Games, as they show the very best players and in unique uniforms worn for that game.
6 Young Guns Rookie Cards
There are only 30 Young Guns in Extended Series, and the last Young Guns card is actually a checklist, meaning that there are only 29 new rookie cards to collect from this set. But when you add these 29 cards to the 98 Young Guns from Series One and Series Two — I’m not counting the checklists here — that means that Upper Deck gives us a rookie class of 127 Young Guns between Series One, Series Two, and Extended Series. The six Young Guns I got in this box were Arthur Kaliyev, Josef Korenar, Jack Rathbone, Cam Johnson, Connor Mackey and the Young Guns Checklist (bleh!) picturing Aleksi Heponiemi and Arthur Kaliyev.
Naturally, there were a few parallel cards — some were easier to spot than others.
1 French Parallel Card
My French Parallel was of Seattle Kraken legend Tyler Pitlick, who was drafted from the Arizona Coyotes by the Kraken in the Expansion Draft on July 21, and then traded to the Calgary Flames a day later.
Thanks for the mems, Tyler. It’s been a wild ride. pic.twitter.com/BOLy4DA6ez
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 22, 2021
So, I guess this French Parallel would be a must-have collectible for the ironic Kraken fan. The French Parallels are a bit tough to spot. The team name on the front is replaced with “Variante Francaise” and the (really small and hard-to-read) English text on the back is replaced with French text.
1 “Mask Mandate” Variant Card
No, these are NOT really called “Masked Mandate” variant cards. These were initially called “Suits” variant cards, but as you can see, not all players are wearing suits in these variations. Maybe these should be called “Plain Clothes” variants? Anyway, my photo variant card was of Alex Pietrangelo, rocking a polo and a disposable mask. By the way, the photo used on the card really is this dark.
1 Clear Cut Young Guns Rookie Card
Cole Hults was on the L.A. Kings taxi squad during the 2021 season, but has yet to appear in an NHL game. He has since been traded to the Coyotes. The card is printed on plastic and is “see-through,” which is kind of cool.
The major draw for Upper Deck Extended Series isn’t the third-tier rookie cards, but rather the fun, retro-inspired inserts. And you get quite a few of them in a box.
3 2005-06 Retro Inserts
I don’t yet quite feel nostalgic about the 2005-06 Upper Deck Hockey set, so these Retro Inserts don’t do too much for me. While 2005-06 was the year I seriously got back into hockey card collecting, I didn’t buy any packs of Upper Deck because they were sold out, so my reintroduction to the hobby was the 2005-06 Parkhurst set. Anyway, the three retro inserts I got were Mikko Rantanen, Sebastien Aho, and Shea Weber.
1 2005-06 Retro Inserts Young Guns
Ian Mitchell played 39 games with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2021 season. I do actually like the designs of the 2005-06 Young Guns, from the hockey stick-shaped left border to the horizontal motion lines running across the bottom of the card.
3 Ultimate Victory Insert Cards
Ultimate Victory was a set I did not collect back in the day because, by that point, I was firmly entrenched in collecting action figures instead of hockey cards. But I still like these cards even though I don’t feel particularly nostalgic about them. My box had three Ultimate Victory Cards: Alexis Lafreniere, Sidney Crosby and Alex Pietrangelo.
2 Rookie Class Insert Cards
I don’t like these Rookie Class inserts. Stuart Skinner appears to be standing in world’s shiniest shower. Also, these “head shot” photo cards seem redundant of the Portraits inserts found in Series One and Series Two. The other
Portraits Rookie Class card I got was of Michael DiPietro.
1 HoloGr-FX Insert Card
Now these are sweet! Although these new HoloGr-FX inserts are nowhere as great as the original HoloGr-FX cards (click here for an example), these are still nice-looking cards. I just wish they had more of a holographic feel to them, like Upper Deck holograms from the 1990s. The HoloGr-FX card I pulled was of Brock Boeser.
1 HoloGr-FX Rookies Insert Cards
There are also HoloGr-FX rookies, which have their own separate design and numbering. The card I got was of Capitals rookie goalie Vitek Vanecek.
1 Pros & Prospects Insert Cards
Pros & Prospects cards are serial-numbered. This card of Leafs rookie Nick Robertson is numbered 0394/1000.
1 Ovation Insert Card
Ovation inserts are not numbered but are lumpy, if that’s your thing. They also have silver foil behind the player, which looks black when scanned. My Ovation card was of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.
1 SPx Finite Insert Card
Finally, the SPx Finite insert card I got was of Auston Matthews. It is numbered 1234/2999, is twice as thick as a regular card, and has a shiny foil SPx Finite logo on the front of the card. (Again, foil always looks black when scanned.) It’s not necessarily the greatest design, as about 25% of the card is just a logo, but it is numbered, so it should prove to be popular with player collectors.
So far, I am loving almost everything about the 2020-21 Upper Deck Extended Series Hockey set. I love that there is an expanded checklist of base cards, enjoy the All-Star Game cards, and appreciate another 30 Young Guns — well, 29 and the checklist — to collet. I also really like the retro-inspired insert sets, even if not all of them resonate with me. But I can see how some hockey collectors would pass on Extended Series, as there is no killer Young Guns to drive sales of this set, and many collectors don’t care about All-Star Game cards or even more inserts. Regardless, Extended Series is chock-full of variety, and that’s what made this box break fun.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■