Now three years into its comeback, Skybox Metal Universe hockey cards feature colorful designs of NHL players superimposed over space backdrops, with metal design elements. Hence, “metal” and “universe.” The cards are also printed on shiny, foil cardstock, While the designs aren’t quite as over-the-top as the Metal Universe cards from the 1990s, they will still appeal to both oldschool collectors who remember those sets, as well as the newer collectors who want something different.
A hobby box of 2022-23 Skybox Metal Universe contains 15 packs. Each pack has seve cards, for a total of 105 cards. Hobby boxes originally cost around $130, but are now down to around $120 per box. A box has 15 various insert cards – including autographs, though those are not guaranteed – and 30 short-printed cards.
I recently opened a hobby box of 2022-23 Skybox Metal Universe hockey cards. Here is what was inside.
60 Base Cards
Cards 1-100 comprise the base set. Each pack has four base cards. Of the 60 base cards in my box, none were doubles. I’m not quite sure what the metal design surrounding the player is supposed to be; it looks cool, but reminds me a bit of a cheese grater.
Card backs have vitals like height and weight, three years of statistics, career totals, and a short biographical paragraph.
30 Short Prints
Cards 101-150 are of “Star” players, while cards 151 -200 are of “Rookie” players. Each pack had one “Star” card and one “Rookie” card, thus I got 15 of each in my box. None were doubles of each other. Technically, you could build the short-printed subsets with 50 packs, which is just over three hobby boxes.
3 1998-99 Retro Inserts
Each hobby box contains three 1998-99 Retro Inserts, on average. These riff on the design of 1998 Skybox Metal Universe baseball cards. Personally, I don’t like the “bronze” look of these cards, as I think the players’ uniforms don’t stand out too well against the background. I guess what I’m really saying is that I want my Metal Universe cards to be a little less “metal” and a little more “universe-y.”
1 Spectra FX Purple /199
One of the “premium” inserts in my box is this 1998 Retro Purple Spectrum FX cards of Ottawa Senators rookie goalie Mads Sogaard. It is serial-numbered out of 199. These purple parallels really pop!
2 Bottle Rockets Inserts
I’m not quite sure what is the point of the Bottle Rocket inserts. The cards picture high-scoring players following through on their shot, with a net pattern background and a flaming puck. The design is nice, but I’m not sure what the theme of the insert set is, if any.
3 Premium Prospects Inserts
Bleh. I am not a fan of the Premium Prospects insert cards, because there’s nothing really “premium” about them. These could be MVP base cards, and that would be OK. But for a set like Metal Universe, I am expecting the inserts to be, you know, metal. The House inserts get a pass, since those are printed on acetate, while All-Starring inserts use rainbow foil instead of the standard silver foil. But Premium Prospects inserts have too much design elements – the wavy gray lines – that obstruct the player.
2 Flash the Glove Insert
Flash the Glove is a goalie-themed insert set that show goalies doing everything BUT flashing the glove. This Carter Hart card shows the Philadelphia Flyers’ netminder making a blocker save, while the Jake Oettinger (Dallas Stars) card I got shows him making what appears to be a “breadbasket” save. A set called Flash the Glove should feature nothing but sick glove saves, bro.
1 Aspects Insert
Aspect inserts are nice! These picture a player against a white backdrop, but fill most of the player’s photo with an etched metallic picture of the city the player represents. At least, I assume that’s Anaheim “inside” of Ducks forward Trevor Zegras. Aspects is a really great-looking insert set, and so much better than the horrible Overshadow cards from The Cup that also put stuff inside of silhouettes.
1 The House Insert
The House insert cards are printed on clear acetate and use rainbow foil for the lettering, logo, and border around the player’s photo. “The House” refers to the high-danger scoring area in front of the net. Each hobby box either has a House, a Palladium, or a Hardware insert. House inserts are the easiest to get (1:25 packs), while Palladium (1:50 packs) and Hardware (1:150 packs) are tougher pulls.
1 All-Starring Insert
All-Starring inserts look like an old Hollywood poster of a movie star. Hobby boxes have either an All-Starring (1:31 packs), Jarring (1:47 packs), or Metal Ore (1:75 packs) insert.
1 2013 Retro Insert
The biggest hit in my box was this 2013 Retro insert of Sidney Crosby, which uses an anime-styled illustration of the Penguins superstar. These cards fall one in every 240 packs – that is, one per 16-box case. No, it isn’t an autographed card, but it is a unique insert nonetheless. I wish Upper Deck would commission more original illustrations for its hockey cards.
Am I disappointed that you are not guaranteed an autograph in a box of 2022-23 Skybox Metal Universe hockey? Absolutely. I think if you pay over $100 for a box of cards, it should have an autograph. But it seems like you get either an autograph, a Precious Metal Gems (a.k.a. PMG) parallel, or another hard-to-get card, like the 2013 Retro Crosby card I got. So, you do get one “worthwhile hit” in a box.
My only other complaint is that the 50-best star players are in the short-printed “Stars” subset – meaning that cards 1-100 are of the “second-best” players.
Otherwise, Metal Universe has a lot going for it. You get two short prints per pack, so building the whole 200-card set – 100 base and 100 short-prints – won’t be too difficult. This year’s design, though not as “space-y” as in the past, still looks good. You get a lot of variety with the inserts, too.
If you liked the Metal Universe set in the past, you won’t be disappointed in the 2022-23 Skybox Metal Universe set. And if you still need convincing, we talk all about this set in Episode #166 of the Puck Junk Podcast, so give that a listen.
Follow Sal Barry on X/Twitter @puckjunk. ■