It is no secret that Todd McFarlane, the founder and CEO of McFarlane Toys, is a huge hockey fan. McFarlane was a part-owner of the Edmonton Oilers from 1998 to 2008, and designed the “gear” logo that adorned the Oilers’ third jersey from 2001 to 2007. His toy company made a line of hockey action figures called SportsPicks from 2000 to 2014.
SportsPicks were the “gold standard” when it came to hockey action figures, for their attention to detail and great player likenesses.
As popular as the figures were, McFarlane Toys stopped making them in 2014. But after a nine-year gap, SportsPicks are coming back with an all-new line of action figures featuring eight different NHL players.
I recently had the opportunity to ask McFarlane about the new line of NHL SportsPicks figures – and why they stopped making hockey figures in the first place.
Sal Barry: Why did McFarlane Toys stop making NHL SportsPicks figures in 2013? And hockey SportsPicks altogether in 2014? (NOTE: The 2014 figures were in Team Canada Olympic jerseys and were not licensed by the NHL.)
Todd McFarlane: The main reasons were quite simple: sales and costs.
As been true with lots of previous attempts of licensing in the world of sports,over time the fan base can grow weary or move on altogether at a faster rate than a business can find newer customers. Combine that with the NHL, not unlike the other major sports, are only as good as their best teams and players.
If a sport feels like the same players are constantly at the forefront, while teams with large fanbases are not getting to any Championship Series – in this case the Stanley Cup – then it can be a bit difficult to keep trying to sell the same popular players over and over again.
Then top all of that with increased costs to manufacture, ship and develop the product. At some point you either need to make less profits or raise prices. Neither is a longer-term story for continued success.
SB: Why was now the time to return to making hockey figures?
TM: There isn’t really any specific reason for the return as NHL fans are always around every year. It was more of us being able to come back and use the new upcoming players that seem to be taking over the NHL. That young breed, along with a business model that will allow us to still sell our figures at a reasonable price, now gives us another kick at doing this wonderful sport once again.
SB: Will these figures fit in with the prior series of NHL SportsPicks? Will a collector be able to mix “old” and “new” SportsPicks figures on their display shelf?
TM: The scale and size of the figure will definitely be pretty close to what collectors of McFarlane SportsPicks have come to expect. So, in that sense a fan can mix their old and new figures together without any drastic differences.
SB: Will the new SportsPicks figures have any new features, such as improved articulation?
TM: I am a big believer in “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” These new figures will, for the most part, carry on with what worked before for so many years. We will try and add some extra value with a few surprises we are cooking up, but none of that will directly impact the look of how the figure will display on a shelf.
SB: Are you viewing this as a continuation of NHL SportsPicks (2001-2013) or as a new line? Will the first release be labeled as Series 1 or Series 34 (picking up after Series 33)?
TM: An interesting question.
As stated before, I see these figures being able to sit next to the prior lines we did years ago. While at the same time acknowledging that there may be many new collectors coming into this space, so I don’t want those folks to feel like they have been left behind because they aren’t fluent in any of our previously-released figures.
SB: What has you excited about the new line of NHL SportsPicks?
TM: In all honesty…the players themselves. Since it has been some time since McFarlane Toys did the NHL figures, there has been a big turnover in the players. Meaning, that a whole new crop of players are now the ones that are at the top of the statistical leader boards or are the popular players for each team.
So, although we are jumping back into the NHL pool, so to speak, it feels quite refreshing to be able to present a vast array of newer faces to our action figure line-ups. I’m hoping our fans will be as excited as I am to have these new superstars.
The new line of NHL SportsPicks action figures can currently be preordered at the McFarlane Toys online store.