It’s been two long years since collectors flooded into the International Centre in Toronto. But this weekend, after three straight virtual shows caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo returns.
The semi-annual show, which runs every November and May, is the largest show in Canada. It is also considered the world’s largest hockey collectibles show.
“Other than the protocols we have to follow, like checking to make sure everyone is fully vaccinated and everyone has to wear a mask, things will be as close to normal as expected,” said Steve Menzie, who owns and operates the Expo.
There will be a couple of changes from previous Expo shows. The show will be held in Hall 1 rather than the usual venue of Hall 5 at the International Centre. While Hall 5 is the usual home for the show, Hall 1 was used twice in the 1990s when Hall 5 was not available.
The other big difference is the addition of a VIP night Thurs., Nov. 11.
“There was a lot of demand for it,” Menzie said. “Also, when we were planning the show, we were not sure what the capacity limits were going to be so we thought adding an extra day would be a way we could accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.”
The Ontario government lifted capacity limits that would have affected the attendance of the show last month. Proof of full vaccination is required for exhibitors and collectors attending the show. The government regulations also say that everyone must wear a mask in the building.
Hockey Hall Of Fame Weekend
Every year, the fall show coincides with the Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend. The new class is inducted into Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night. Menzie felt it was important to stay consistent with that weekend for the return of the show. Two retired stars who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Monday, Marian Hossa and Kim St. Pierre, are on the long list of autograph guests for the Expo.
Upper Deck has also timed the launch of Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey around the show for several years. While the product is delayed this year, Menzie said it should have no impact on the show.
“There will still be a redemption for collectors at the Upper Deck booth, but it will be around the 2020-21 Extended Series rather than Upper Deck Series 1,” Menzie said.
The Upper Deck staff based in Carlsbad, California will also not be making the long trip northeast to Toronto due to COVID protocols and the safety of their staff.
However, the company will be fully represented at the show.
“Upper Deck’s Canadian distributors will be manning the Upper Deck booth to handle the redemption program and to talk to collectors about their products,” Menzie said. Grosnor and Universal will both have a full contingent at the show.
While Upper Deck and Leaf are not making the trip to Toronto, other companies are. Beckett, UltraPro, eBay and COMC will also have a large presence.
Strong Advance Ticket Sales
Menzie, who in 2021 has attended a number of big U.S. shows, including the National, is expecting the same kind of excitement and enthusiasm that the American shows have seen. Many Canadian collectors have not been able to attend U.S. shows because of the Canada-U.S. border restrictions, which are in the process of being relaxed. The show has about 250 exhibitors. Before the pandemic, the show would draw between 8,000 and 12,000 collectors. Menzie is counting on at least that many.
“Our pre-sales for tickets are double what they were before,” he said. “There are a lot of people new to the hobby and a lot of people who had not collected for a long time who jumped back in during the pandemic, so that will create a lot of excitement.”
Menzie said that the biggest difference collectors will notice on the floor is the level of professionalism with the dealers and exhibitors.
“Everybody has upped their game,” he said. “For years, there were a lot of cardboard boxes on tables. Now, the displays are more professional. Most of the cards are graded and displayed in a more professional way. There is a big difference in the exhibitors today compared to what people imagine when they think of dealers at the show from a generation ago.”
Menzie also said that there will be a lot of the hobby’s ancillary businesses at the show as exhibitors. There will also be guest speakers, Q and A sessions, and noted Canadian YouTube collectibles show host Jeremy Lee is making the trip from Calgary to Toronto to broadcast from the Expo and interview industry experts and insiders from the event.
Menzie said that although there will be a lot of baseball, football and basketball collectors at the show in addition to the hockey crowd. He also expects the non-sports collectors to be well-represented. But while COVID discouraged some of the manufacturers from crossing the border, it also discouraged some potential autograph guests.
“We have an extremely strong line-up of autograph guests this year, but it’s almost exclusively hockey,” Menzie said, noting that Toronto Blue Jays legend Jesse Barfield and Canadian wrestling superstar Bret “The Hit Man” Hart were the only non-hockey guests. “Some of the guests we would normally have all live in the United States, and there is still hesitation about travelling and crossing the border.”
Menzie said that although the autograph lineup is hockey heavy, it is among the best ever at the show. New Hall of Famer Marian Hossa is making his first appearance at the show, and he will likely draw a lot of Ottawa Senators fans to make the trip to the show. Gilbert Perreault, another Hall of Famer, will draw a lot of collectors from the nearby Buffalo market across the border. Other guests include Bobby Hull, Dominik Hasek, Gilbert Perreault, Adam Oates, John LeClair, Curtis Joseph, Darryl Sittler, Andy Moog, Billy Smith, Norm Ullman, Felix Potvin, Tiger Williams, Shayne Corson, Darcy Tucker, Gilles Gilbert, Peter Ing, Mike Keane, and Canadian national women’s team members Kim St. Pierre and Danielle Goyette.
Also signing will be Toronto’s most famous Zamboni driver, David Ayres, who donned the goalie pads for the Carolina Hurrican3s as the emergency goalie against the Toronto Maple Leafs two years ago.
For more information on the show, visit www.sportcardexpo.com.