By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

No, I’m not talking about sometime in the 1970s when Lapointe, Robinson and Savard ruled the NHL’s blueline, I’m talking about the 2010-2011 hockey season. After years of Upper Deck monopoly as sole licencee of the NHL, this year saw another player enter the ring in Panini. Both companies were allowed to produce NHL licenced cards and of course, as usual, In The Game was also on the battlefield churning out their usual amazing line-up of products even without a licence. As the hobby year draws to a close, I’m trying to decide who my favorite card manufacturer is and I have to admit, it’s pretty hard to take a stance on that one, what I can however do is tell you what I enjoy about all of them.

 

Let’s start with Upper Deck, what springs to mind first when talking about them is the wonderful job they have done on the social media front this year. The Upper Deck Facebook page is rather active and I feel like collectors are thoroughly enjoying it and the contests it features. Boxes of products, autographed memorabilia you name it, it’s been up for grabs on there. I know at least 4 SCF members who became lucky winners on their page (including yours truly). Furthermore, the Upper Deck blog always makes for an interesting read and I really enjoy their Collector of the Month feature (http://upperdeckblog.com/category/collector-of-the-month/). There may not be any prize associated with the accolade but it’s still very nice to get that kind of recognition. As for the products themselves, well, UD always put out solid efforts year in year out but for me, the real treats are Ultimate Collection and The Cup which have both yet to hit the shelves but I am confident that they will not let me down.

 

Now onto Panini. This was their first year as an officially licenced NHL card producer and there have been some great highlights during that time span. For instance, remember when Certified came out and people started busting packs and boxes? I don’t think I’ll ever forget having a conversation with Richard about a Carey Price GU card which had a shade of blue that wasn’t your usual Montreal Canadiens jersey swatch. Thankfully Al Muir was on hand in the hockey card talk area to confirm our suspicions that one of the centennial jerseys had been used for some game used cards. Talk about giving the customers what they want! I also really enjoy setting up a year long contest with Panini. I found them to be very approachable and easy to deal with, not that I didn’t know that already having worked with them for a year long basketball contest in the past but it felt even better to get to work something out for the hockey members as that is without a doubt my “home” forum. I also saw a great pull on SCF lately , a member bagged himself a Panini Contenders Taylor Hall Golden Ticket. I can only imagine the way the lucky wax breaker must have felt but well done Panini it’s always a great idea to include such huge pulls in your products.

 

Last but not least, In the Game. I honestly think it’s hard to find a company that is this close to its customers. For instance, remember last year when there was a poll to find out what sets hockey collectors would like to see? 1972 the Year in Hockey was born that way and this year, our American friends will be happy to bust ITG Decades the 1980s (as it includes a Miracle on Ice autographs set). This is how all companies should act, try to find out what their customers want and give it to them. One must also appreciate that ITG is not content with just churning out the same successful products year after year and sitting on their laurels, no, they try to come up with other things to please the customers. Another one of my highlights however has got to be the ITG box topper redemption program what an absolutely genius idea that was! As soon as I heard about the program, I had to send enough points in to get one of those special VIP cards. A few weeks later, I got myself a Patrick Roy GU VIP card in my name which is now one of the cornerstones of my Roy personal collection. Many SCF members took advantage of that program and ITG definitely deserves thumbs up on that one!

Finally, there is one thing that all three manufacturers now have in common; they have all accepted to work with SCF and provide us with products to review which is a huge help not only for the articles section and the magazine but also for our prize vault and CC store. We put the pulls up for grabs either in contests or in the CC store which is always appreciated not only by us but also by the members. I am also most grateful to Upper Deck and Panini for providing us with redemption packs from the Expo to give away to members in contests on the site, giving everyone a chance at some sweet cards even when they couldn’t make it to the actual show. Panini also sponsored the year long contest in the hockey forums as mentioned above and Upper Deck did too sponsor numerous contests on the site. We thoroughly enjoy working with all card manufacturers and we hope to carry on growing our relationship with them all.

 

In my opinion, the future looks bright in hockey and I cannot wait to see what’s in store in the coming years. Of course, not everything is perfect but is anything ever perfect? No…there’s always room for improvement and I look forward to seeing it in the next few years.