October, as far as the NHL is concerned, is all about beginnings. It’s the start of a new season. After a long summer, fans across North America are excited to watch their favorite teams once again.
For those of us who collect hockey cards and memorabilia, it’s the start of a new collecting season. We’re all eagerly anticipating Upper Deck Series 1 to come out, scouring the checklist to see which “Young Guns” cards to gobble up and what will the inserts look like this time.
This is also a time for me to take out the crystal ball and make some predictions for the next 12 months. These are largely based on experience and observation – no guarantees that I’ll be correct – but it is something to ponder as you enjoy the season.
Collectors have already gotten a chance to whet their appetites with Upper Deck MVP, which is both affordable and plentiful (at least at my local Target), if you’re looking for a fun rip before the puck officially drops on the 2022-23 season.
Here are five things to watch for over the course of the season:
1. Avs repeat as Cup champs
Can anyone stop the Colorado Avalanche? We will find out this season. Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon are wonderful players and there are few teams in the Western Conference, in my estimation, who could challenge them. I’ll be curious to see if the Edmonton Oilers can reach the finals and give Connor McDavid his first Stanley Cup.
As for the Avs, I expect Makar and MacKinnon cards will continue to do well – both rookie-year ones and numbered parallels – as the season progresses. Demand always increases values and that could happen should the Avalanche reach the finals once again. Makar cards, for example, have done very well since his brilliant performance in the playoffs last season.
The story is a little different in the Eastern Conference, where the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and the league’s two Florida teams (the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers) stand out. I’m a Rangers fan and the team came close last season. In the process, cards of goaltender Igor Shesterkin and defenseman Adam Fox saw values increase. Will the Blueshirts win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994? A fan can dream.
2. Hockey cards become an arena stapleThere has been much talk lately of making trading cards but of the fan experience at baseball games now that the Topps license is owned by Fanatics. For instance, Upper Deck hockey cards are sold at many NHL arenas – but more needs to be done to highlight them.
In the past, UD has done arena giveaways. You’d get a pack of special cards upon entering the game, but would need to go to the arena store and purchase a pack of Upper Deck cards to get the last card for the special set. It became an inconsistent thing, with prices two or three-times what they sold for at Target. For example, a pack of Victory would be $3 (instead of $1) and a pack of Series One would be $6 (instead of $3).
Fanatics will make sure Topps products will be sold everywhere in the coming years, which could force Upper Deck, which holds the NHL license, to do the same. I have noticed that even the NHL Shop in New York City has tons of stuff – including pricy memorabilia – but the sale of trading cards there has been erratic. It’s an easy sell. The fans are already in the building. Just put the cards in front of them or give them away for free on special nights. You know NHL stickers, produced by Topps, will likely be sold at arenas because, you know, Fanatics.
3. Power up!
The season to start speculating on rookies starts now – and the coming months will be loaded with arguments over who’s hot and who’s not. Defenseman Owen Power, the No. 1 draft pick in 2021 by the Buffalo Sabres, is on the Series 1 “Young Guns” checklist and that has everyone excited.
Expect Power’s card to skyrocket out of the gate – much like Alexis Lafreniere’s did during the pandemic. That may cause the price of Series 1 overall to soar, but things should cool off once the budding Sabres star either fails to live up to the hype early on and/or eBay becomes flooded with his Young Guns card.
Other rookies – also all in Series 1 – who will get some hype are Matt Boldy, Matty Beniers and Marco Rossi.
4. Vintage hockey will see a resurgence
If what I saw at the Toronto Sport Card Expo and the National this summer are any gauge, then expect hockey collectors to do what baseball fans have already been doing. That is, chase vintage cards and sets. Speculating on rookies is one thing, but buying cards of Hall of Famers like Gordie Howe, Guy Lafluer and Mike Bossy, for those who don’t have those cards in their collections already, could be what many will do in 2023.
5. It’s my collection and I’m sticking to itSoccer’s World Cup will take place starting in November and the Panini stickers that come with it every four years are very popular. As a soccer guy, I love sticking them in my album. That begs the question: Can the Topps version (with 384 base stickers) do the same? As mentioned earlier, since Fanatics now owns Topps, this might give hockey stickers a push and help make them more mainstream. In the 1980s and ‘90s, hockey stickers were everywhere. I remember my local newsstand selling them back in 1988 when Panini held the license.
Hockey stickers remain a niche within a niche, but stickers are fun and cheap, especially for children. I would love to see them get more hobby love – instead of the print-on-demand version Topps has recently used. Collecting stickers may catch fire in the coming months. There should be lots of options for collectors. It’s variety that make this hobby so great.
Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.