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Pheebs888
03-24-2010, 04:18 PM
By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

Unlike Baseball and Basketball, licensed Hockey trading card has been an exclusive business for the last five years. Yes, back in 2005 the National Hockey League Player Association and the National Hockey League signed an exclusivity deal with Upper Deck to be the sole licence producer of NHL trading cars. This was long before the NBA signed such a deal with Panini and the MLB inked a similar deal with Topps.

So after 5 years, has the exclusivity been a positive experience for the NHL? They tell us that it has been however, today they announced that for the 2010-2011 season, two companies will have the right to produce NHL trading cards. Upper Deck retained their licence but are now joined by the newly crowned Basketball heavyweight Panini. Todayís announcement only reveals that this will be the situation for the upcoming hobby season which is slotted to start in August with yet another Victory release from Upper Deck and a return of the once popular Score brand by Panini.

The news will likely be very well received in hobby circles, to put it bluntly, Upper Deck has been receiving a fair amount of flak from collectors in the last few years. The general opinion has been that the monopoly allowed UD to become complacent and lazy when it came to consumer service. Of course, such criticism wasnít really reflected in the sales numbers as they still carried on bringing in the big bucks. Some will say that if customers were that displeased with UD they could just have stopped buying. The truth of the matter is however, that if one wanted a licence product, they had nowhere else to turn to and they just had to buy from UD. Of course, there was still quality unlicensed product out there most notably the ďIn The GameĒ brand but itís just not quite the same thing. In short, the masses appeared to be craving choice on the licensed market.

Faced with this reality, the NHL couldnít really pull the licence from Upper Deck, after all they are selling the product well but they nonetheless decided to give collectors an option. Panini succeeded in getting a second big north American sport licence after bagging basketball last year. This is a huge deal for the Italian company and it will come as quite a blow for ITG who were no doubt hoping to regain their licence.

Today can sort of be considered as the dawn of a new era really, the announcement raises many questions. One of the major criticism directed towards UD in the last year was that it just put out too many different brands, now that there are two licensed producers, will they both be overproducing? Will the end of the monopoly mean a greater quality control and a market improvement in customer service in Upper Deck? Having once again been ignored in the race to the licence, will ITG carry on producing unlicensed release? I for one really hope so as they do put out fantastic material and even though the lack of licence hurts them, their cards are still highly sought after.

Overall, I see this announcement as great news for the hobby in general. I will welcome the option to chose from more than one manufacturer and I will admit that I have been impressed by Paniniís work since they became the main player in the basketball industry. I look forward to the spin they will put on their hockey line and to the announced new brands Adrenalyn and Certified and of course the return of previous brand which were once issued under Donruss, Pinnacle, Score and Pacific licenses. Iím also pleased to see Upper Deck retain their licence because say what you will, when they really want to, they can put out mean product out there. Just think of the thrill you get when you open a tin of The Cup. Hopefully this means onwards and upwards for our favorite hobby!

mikesilvia
04-05-2010, 02:19 PM
Nice job Karine! Published here:
http://www.sportscardforum.com/articles/2010/04/the-choice-is-back-on-the-ice/

I'm sending you a 1,000 since I'm going to send it to Tuff Stuff for consideration!

Mike