The NHL and NHLPA have decided one licensed trading card maker is enough. The league and its union have each have agreed to terms with The Upper Deck Company on multi-year agreements to be the exclusive licensed manufacturer of NHL Trading Cards, beginning with the 2014-15 season. Major League Baseball (Topps) and the National Basketball Association (Panini) also have just once licensed manufacturer.
Upper Deck had been the exclusive trading card partner from 2004 through 2009-10 but had been sharing the role with Panini America since the fall of 2010. Upper Deck has held NHL and NHLPA trading card licenses since the 1990-91 season, and will release the 25th edition of Upper Deck Series One Hockey this coming fall.
“The players are excited about the direction Upper Deck is taking NHL trading cards – not only in product development and collectability – but also in adapting to the needs of an ever-evolving hobby and retail landscape,” said Adam Larry, NHLPA Director of Licensing in a statment. “We're extremely pleased to continue our partnership with Upper Deck -now 25 years and counting - and look forward to working with them and all the category stakeholders to enhance hockey trading cards for current and future collectors alike. While we are excited about the future of hockey trading cards, we would be remiss if we did not thank Panini America and we look forward to their remaining hockey card releases.”
Shop owners had heard an exclusive might be in the works. It will mean fewer products to sell but might create less confusion in the marketplace according to Mike Fruitman of Mike's Stadium Sports Cards in Aurora, CO.
"It is interesting to see the NHL not once, but twice in the last decade go to an exclusive manufacturer," Fruitman stated. " I can't wait to see which brands Upper Deck will bring out of retirement. Competition is almost always a good thing since it, in theory, pushes companies to work harder, but with two licensed companies, we saw products coming out at almost the same time as others. In the last week and a half, both Upper Deck SPX and Panini Totally Certified hit and while both have sold very well, I wonder how they would have done if they had been better spaced."
Panini didn't have Upper Deck's history with hockey but promised to honor its commitment until the end of the license in late June.
“We are disappointed to learn of the NHL and NHLPA’s decision to go in another direction in the trading card category,” said Panini America CEO Mark Warsop in a statement. “During the term of our agreement we faced many challenges, including a late start to the agreement and an NHL work stoppage. Through all of the challenges we established trading card hockey brands that collectors came to love and look forward to, including Dominion, Prime, Rookie Anthology, Limited and Totally Certified. Our marketing is unprecedented in the category, including activation and marketing support around the global NHL Premiere Games, the two All-Star Games that were played during our four-year agreement, Winter Classic, Heritage Classic, NHL Faceoff, NHL Draft, Stanley Cup and this year’s outdoor NHL Stadium Series."
"Panini has dome great things since acquiring a NHL license including the NHL Player Of The Day promotion and going so far as to include hockey players in both their Black Friday and Father's Day efforts," said Fruitman. "I don't know that it's been brought up yet, but one would hope that even without Panini making NHL cards that they would still honor every NHL redemption card as they do with expired NFL redemption cards. In a typical year, I actually sell as much NHL cards as I do MLB cards so I will be paying close attention to what happens both for the rest of this season as well as in the 14/15 season."
Warsop promised Panini would step up efforts with its NBA, NFL, MLBPA and World Cup brands following the loss of the NHL.
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