If you have ever been to the National or the Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo in Toronto, you can appreciate that adrenaline rush and excitement that collectors feel both before the show and as they walk through the doors.
It’s like being seven years old and rushing downstairs to see what Santa Claus left under the tree for you.
At the National, there was an extra serving of excitement because of an historic performance by Shohei Ohtani in a doubleheader as the show began. That doubleheader fueled excitement, demand, prices, volume, and anything else you can think of for the baseball unicorn of our generation.
So what could possibly trigger that kind of excitement at the world’s largest hockey collectibles show as it opened up in Toronto last weekend?
How about Connor Bedard, the hottest thing to hit the hobby since Eric Lindros was a rookie, getting a four-point night with two goals and two assists on the eve of the largest Fall Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo in the show’s 35-year history.
Bedard is yet to have an official NHL rookie card. The generational talent is entering the NHL with the same kind of excitement that Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Eric Lindros brought to the sports card industry. The reason that the fair comparison is Lindros is that Crosby came into the NHL while the hockey card market was in a serious downturn coming out of a year-long lockout. Connor Bedard entered the league with a lot of excitement after his prolific junior career, but the hobby wasn’t then what it is now.
But if you go back to the early 1990s, the impact that Eric Lindros entered the NHL and the hockey card market with was unparalleled. He was the right superstar at the right time in hobby history.
Bedard enters the NHL in a similar hobby environment.
At the National in Chicago, Upper Deck made a big splash by signing Bedard to an exclusive NHL trading card deal just before the show. Bedard will be a big deal in Chicago – potentially bigger than Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. If the Blackhawks can build a team around Bedard, they could win a Stanley Cup with him. The Blackhawks Mount Rushmore right now would likely be Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Kane and Toews, with apologies to Tony Esposito, Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour and Eddie Litzenberger among others. The expectations are that Bedard will bump someone from that proverbial Mount Rushmore. Upper Deck will do everything to fuel that.
When Upper Deck announced there would be some Bedard Easter Eggs – those are unannounced cards in the set with no serial numbers or print runs announced – things got real in the hobby for Series 1 Hockey.
At the Expo in Toronto, boxes on the floor sold steadily, and collectors were ripping open boxes for their redemption prizes and also for a shot at a Bedard card. Whenever they were pulled, the scene was like watching someone win a scratch ticket at a convenience store.
At the Expo, collectors could get the cards graded after pulling them from packs or buying on the show floor. Ugraded copies of the card numbered SP-1 have been selling for $400-$600 in recent days.
“This was the first time we had PSA grading cards on site,” said Expo owner and promoter Steve Menzie. “Even though Connor Bedard’s Young Guns card won’t come out until Series 2, the Upper Deck Bedard Easter Egg card is the big driver for Series 1 on the show floor. The fact that collectors can get the cards graded is great for them.”
Had Bedard not had that big night against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday, Nov. 9, there would still be a big frenzy for his draft day card. But his performance just put an exclamation point on every collector’s need to get one.
And as the Expo ticked down, Bedard was at it again with a swipe and score Sunday afternoon.
Bedard has played 13 games and scored nine goals, which leads NHL rookies, and has 13 points. The 18-year-old North Vancouver native is getting more comfortable with each passing week.
“He has a good stick and good stick skills,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “He’s not in there slashing sticks. He’s in there lifting sticks and disrupting things. Good things happen when you play hard and the right way.”
At 18 years and 115 days, Bedard is now the third youngest player in NHL history to record four points in an NHL game. The two players younger with a four-point game both accomplished the feat in 1944. Toronto Maple Leafs legend Ted “Teeder” Kennedy was 18 years and 27 days when he had four points. Bep Guidolin was 18 years and 56 days old.
Kennedy, a longtime captain with the Leafs, was the last Toronto player to win the Hart Trophy (1954-55) before Auston Matthews won it in 2022. Kennedy and goalie Turk Broda became the first players to win five Stanley Cups.
Guidolin is also in the NHL record books, as in 1942 he became the youngest player in NHL history at the age of 16. The Boston Bruins called Guidolin up to the NHL because they were short of players due to a number of their players leaving the team to serve in World War II. The year after his four-point game, Guidolin left the NHL for a year to serve in the military.
After the 1952 season, Guidolin was a big supporter of the formation of a players’ union. Because of this, he was sent to the minors and never played in the NHL again. He would make his mark as a coach, as he was Bobby Orr’s junior coach with the Oshawa Generals, then coached the Bruins, and also was the first coach of the Kansas City Scouts, who would eventually become the Colorado Rockies and then the New Jersey Devils.