Don’t let the release date fool you. The 2021-22 Synergy Hockey set was released in February 2023, about a year later than it should have come out. Part of the reason for this is that the plastic used to make Synergy cards was in short supply during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, things are starting to normalize again — at least with trading cards, which are coming out, *ahem*, less than a year late instead of over a year late.
Two features make Synergy base cards unique. The cards are twice as thick as normal cards, with a top layer that is printed on die-cut foil board and a bottom layer printed on Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG) plastic, usually referred to as acetate. Synergy cards are similar to the “two-layer thick” Fleer EX cards from the 1990s and in various retro-themed sets over the past decade. Synergy base cards, and even more so the insert cards, feel like they would fit right in with the zany, overdesigned hockey cards from the 1990s.
This is the fifth year that Upper Deck has released Synergy as a hockey card set. A box costs about $100 and contains eight three-card packs, for a total of 24 cards. I recently broke a box of 2021-22 Synergy. Let’s see what’s inside.
6 Base Cards
As I mentioned above, Synergy base cards are two layers thick. The top layer is printed on die-cut foil board which looks great when seen in direct light.
The bottom layer is printed on PETG plastic (acetate). Three of the six cards had a scratch-off area on the back that reveals a code for the Upper Deck Bounty Program.
Looking at past Synergy releases, it appears that cards with the scratch-off areas sell for more than those without it — so long as it hasn’t been removed. Likewise, collecting “purists” would probably build the set with base cards that do not have the scratch-off area. I don’t really have an opinion on this, as I tend to just collect the players that I like from the Synergy sets.
2 Base Rookie Cards
These are designed the same as the regular Synergy cards, with die-cut foil board fronts mounted onto acetate card backs. I got two base Rookie cards in my box of 2021-22 Synergy – Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) and Alex Newhook (Colorado Avalanche). The Newhook card was the standard base card, without the scratch-off area on the back, while the Zegras card had the scratch-off area on the back.
Inserts a’ Plenty
Synergy is one of those sets where you get more inserts per box than base cards. In fact, 2/3 of the cards in my box were from one insert set or another. All of the insert cards are single layer. Four of the inserts I got are printed on acetate much like Upper Deck Clear Cut cards. These inserts have some clear areas, but are mostly opaque.
1 Exceptional Stars /899
This Nikita Kucherov Exceptional Stars insert is numbered 541/899. It is printed on acetate with clear areas in the upper-left corner and towards the lower-right corner, above the Lightning logo.
1 Exceptional Stars Red /499
Of course there are parallel versions of most of the cards from 2021-22 Synergy. This J.T. Miller Exceptional Stars Red parallel is numbered 081/499. It is printed on acetate and the clear areas (behind the serial number and above the Canucks logo) have a red tint to them.
1 Exceptional Phenoms /899
We have Exceptional Stars and Exceptional Phenoms…? Okay, then. Seems kind of redundant, but whatever. This Matthew Tkachuk Exceptional Stars insert is numbered 127/899. It is printed on acetate and is clear behind the serial number and above the Flames logo.
1 Exceptional Futures Blue /299
Exceptional Futures inserts focus on rookies from the 2021-22 season. This Shane Pinto Exceptional Futures card is numbered 097/299. It is the Blue parallel version. It is printed on acetate and the clear areas (behind the serial number and above the Senators logo) have a blue tint.
3 Synergy FX /749
Next up are the non-PETG inserts, which are printed on foil board. I got three Synergy FX inserts: Jordan Eberle, Patrice Bergeron, and Yegor Chinakhov.
2 Roaring 20s
Roaring 20s is an insert set about star players who are in their twenties. These inserts are not serial-numbered. The two Roaring 20s in my box are Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach.
2 Stars of the Show
Another non-serial-numbered insert set is Stars of the Show. Get it? They are “stars” who are playing in “the Show,” a.k.a. the NHL. The two Stars of the Show cards I got are Elias Pettersson and Sebastian Aho.
1 Rookie Journey Red /299
Rookie Journey inserts are serial-numbered out of 899, but the Red parallel versions are numbered out of 299. I got Trevor Zegras, numbered 012/299. I gotta say that I am a big fan of cards that use shiny, pixelated backgrounds.
1 Synergistic Duos Red /499
The “regular” Synergistic Duos are numbered out of 999, but the Red parallel version is numbered out of 499. Got all that? Because there will be a quiz later. This card of Avalanche stars Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar is numbered 310/499.
1 Synergistic Duos Stars and Legends /899
Synergistic Duos Stars and Legends picture a current star and past legend from the same team. Here, I got a card picturing current Panthers’ star Johnathan Huberdeau and past Panthers’ legend John Vanbiesbrouck. The card is serial-numbered 193/899.
1 Postseason Brilliance
This non-serial-numbered insert is printed on foil board and pictures Jonathan Huberdeau of the Panthers.
1 Synergy Rookies Red Autographs /50
Hey – my box had an autographed card! Very cool. Autographs are a tough pull in 2021-22 Synergy. Reportedly, there are seven autographs per 16-box case, meaning that slightly less than one in every other box has an autographed card. The autograph I got is of Dallas Stars prospect Riley Damiani, who is currently slogging it out with the Texas Stars of the AHL. Damiani has 27 points in 56 games thus far, putting him at 12th in team scoring for the Texas Stars. But he is third in scoring among players named “Riley,” 27 points in 56 games thus far this season puts him at 12th in team scoring for the Texas Stars. But he is third in scoring among players named “Riley.” right behind Riley Barber (62 points) and Riley Tufte (34 points).
My biggest problem with Synergy this year is the quality control. Several of the “two-layer” cards had damage to the foil board fronts along the bottom edge.
That’s disappointing, for sure. But otherwise, none of the other cards were damaged. None of the single-layer acetate inserts or foil board inserts had any damage to them.
Synergy is not for the meek — or the cheap — at roughly $12.50 for a three-card pack. That’s about $4 per card. Quality issues aside with the two cards in my box, all other cards were without any defects or problems. But a bigger problem I have with Synergy is at that price, I feel like every card in this set should be serial-numbered — or at the very least, every non-base card, given the price point. That said, Synergy seems more like a set for player or team collectors, who will (probably) enjoy the gimmicky base cards, visually-stimulating inserts, and numerous parallels.
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