National Hockey Card Day
Do you like hockey? Do you collect hockey-related cardboard? Do you enjoy getting stuff for free? If you answered "yes" to any of these three questions, boy oh boy, yesterday was the day for you: National Hockey Card Day.
For almost ten years now, Upper Deck has sponsored this annual holiday. Since 2010, collector's have circled this day on their calendars because not only does it celebrate one of north america's most popular sports, many local card shops are giving away FREE packs of hockey cards! Each year, UD creates a special, exclusive set of cards to commemorate the occasion, which are then made available, in pack form, and handed out in hobby shops throughout the United States in Canada. When I say "free," I don't mean with a qualifying purchase or some other qualifier either - these promos are completely free with no strings attached. Walk in the door and the vendor will hand you a pretty blue foil pack!
The whole idea behind this promotion is to drive-up interest in Upper Deck's rink-related products, one of only two sports leagues for which the industry big-wig still has an official license. Additionally, it's hard to increase sales without getting more people in the door; as such, increasing foot traffic for participating local card shops (y'know, the people that hawk their goods) is the other major goal. And what gets people more motivated to go somewhere or do something besides giving them free swag?
In my opinion, nothing - the marketing campaign certainly worked on me... and has consistently done so since I started hoarding hockey cards in 2015. Each year, I make the rounds and stop into both of the card vendors nearest to me, both because the holiday offers the perfect excuse to check out what's new in each store and because two free packs are better than one. Is that kind of greedy? Maybe, but I reaaaaallllllly want to end up with at least one Blackhawks card.
Each gratis pack comes with a checklist outlining the parameters of the product, plus five player cards. Of course, there is both a Canadian and US version of this special set and obviously I've ended up with samples of the latter. The base set for the ol' stars and stripes is 16 cards deep and is made up of a trio of subsets - America's Rookies, Stars in Stripes, and American Icons. Furthermore, not reflected on the checklist you see above, there are also a pair of special insert sets, Victory Black Rookies and NHL Global Series, plus a smattering of autograph subjects because every set in the world has to have hits to chase now.
Enough babbling, let's see the cards! Remember, I collect my hometown Blackhawks and, honestly, those are the only cards I care about. If I just pull one Indian head sweater, I'll consider this "endeavor" to be a massive success.
Here's pack one, which came from my first stop - the Baseball Card King in Oak Lawn, IL:
Not Blackhawks. Although, I do like the appearance of the NHL All-Star sweater on Auston's entry - that's kind of unique.
Yay! A Blackhawk, in the former of Tony Amonte, one of the most reliable scorers in franchise history! The right winger posted at least 30 goals six times and at least 40 three times, during his time in the Windy City. Plus, he did not miss a single game for five straight seasons. Amonte is an American Icon, indeed.
This pack-ripping experience is already triumph. For frame of reference, it took me until the last card of my fourth pack (yea, I really burned up some gasoline that year) in 2016 to uncover a Blackhawk. Now, the nerves and anxiety are gone and anything past this point is simply gravy.
That's a good thing too, seeing as the last two cards in pack one were not Blackhawks either. Although, my wife originally hails from the Philadelphia area, so maybe I'll slip her that Voracek. Hockey is her favorite sport, after all.
While we're in between packs, let's take a minute to talk about the design. It's a little busy, especially with that "lower third graphic" - it takes up way too much of the space as it goes obtuse and intrudes upon the photo. On the positive side, I like the depth created by blurring the background of each photo and adding a drop shadow behind the player pictured. Plus, it's pretty neat that the skaters "pop out" of the design and aren't completely constrained by the borders, as best illustrated by Buffalo's Mittelstadt. Overall, despite it's flaws, I find the look of the 2019 UD National Hockey Card Day set to be quite pleasing to the eyes.
Meanwhile, back at the rink, let's take a look at the contents of pack #2, this one coming from Baseball Dreams & Memories in Crestwood, IL:
Not Blackhawks and my first double. I'd be a lot more disappointed if I didn't already pull Amonte.
In the words of one Ariana Grande - "thank you, next:"
ZOMG!!!!!!1!!!!!!1!!!!! We have a bonafide Blackhawks hot pack!
Falling two in a row, we have two of the greatest players to ever don a black and red sweater. Chelios played in the NHL forever, 26 seasons to be exact, including spending the entirety of the 1990's with Chicago. The Captain was a reliable scorer and led the Hawks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992 and was thrice first-team All-Star. Although, as much as an offensive presence as Chelios was, he was nothing compared to Patrick Kane, who is simply one of the best to ever pick up a hockey stick and continues to work magic on the ice. He is almost single-handedly keeping the 2018-19 edition of the Hawks in contention, perhaps the most hot and cold team in franchise history.
With these pulls and my earlier Amonte score, I've now pulled the entire Blackhawks master team set from 2019 Upper Deck National Hockey Card Day and it only took my two packs. I could never have reasonably expected this pack-bust to go so incredibly well - what luck!
To be completely frank, I don't even care what the final card is anymore. I've got what I came for... and then some!
But, I'll include it anyway, just to be complete. Sorry Andrei, but your star as been far outshone.
As you can plainly see, National Hockey Card Day was a rousing success for me this year. That said, I'm extremely curious about your experiences with the day of free hockey cardboard. Did you partake in the day's festivities? If so, what did you pull and were you satisfied with what you found? What was your experience like? Did you even know this was a thing? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be giddily sorting my new promo cards into my Blackhawks All-Time Roster Collection; I'm fairly certain that all three of these oddballs will be usurping the players' previous representation.
Oh and how much longer until National Baseball Card Day?