2011-2012 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Review

I’m absolutely addicted to the cardboard gold that is Upper Deck Hockey.

Any hockey fan should be too.

In a time where card companies have been facing heat for sub-par products and ignoring the basic wants of collectors, those who are  hardcore cardboard collectors should take solace in the fact that there are still products that are fun and affordable to collect.

I don’t have a box break for you, but I’ve bought enough packs to get a full range of what UD Hockey has to offer fans.

Base Cards

Upper Deck divides their cards into two series much like Topps Baseball, with cards 1-200 being in Series 1, while 250-450 appear in Series 2.

The base cards are absolutely beautiful.

The cards utilize every millimeter of space on the card with a graphic that looks sharp and allows the photography to dominate.

Speaking of photography, it is absolutely amazing. The wide variety of shots used showcasing the players both on and off the ice keep the cards from getting repetitive.

The cards also are printed on durable, heavy stock which adds to the quality of the cards.

Inserts

UD Hockey features some quality insert sets that don’t swell to the point of overkill as seen in a lot of modern products (ahem, Topps Baseball).

Young Guns Rookies

While most sets center around jersey/memorabilia and autograph cards, UD Hockey keeps it old school with the wildly popular Young Guns set. Falling one in every four hobby packs, this set features the hottest rookies in the NHL on a sharp card. Defying the  laws of 21st century collecting, these no-frill cards still have a ridiculous amount of value. The card featuring top draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers can be found on eBay going for $80-$100. Since the base is relatively easy to complete, finding the 50 rookies that account for cards 201-250 pose a fun challenge to collectors looking for something extra.

UD Canvas

I absolutely hate parallel sets. There is nothing more pointless to me than received a clone of a card but with a different border, font color, etc.. Upper Deck has one psuedo-parallel set, but it satisfies me. The UD-Canvas features a set of the biggest stars of the game printed on canvas instead of the traditional cardboard. The catch? It features a completely different graphic set and photo. Anything that gets to show off the great photography work even more gets a thumbs up from me.

Hockey Heroes

This insert set also falls about one in every four packs and features various players from the 1950’s. Not the biggest fan of this, but unlike in baseball cards, there aren’t many cards devoted to old players. I’ll live with seeing this every once in a while.

All-World Team

This long standing set assembles a team from various countries around the world. I know hockey is a very global game but they have been doing this since the 1990’s. Time for a change.

Hits

Each hobby box should deliver two jersey cards. It features a very vibrant design that jumps off the card. For those that are really lucky, autographs of top players are also to be found. The checklists for both feature a wide variety of players ranging from the unknowns to the Sidney Crosby’s and Alex Ovechkin’s of the NHL.

Final Grade: A

This is what a card set should be. A nice base set, some challenges (Young Guns) and some nice “hits”. The amount of value that can come from a box of this that retails from $60 to $70 is hard to beat this day in age ($3-$4 per pack). Once you start collecting, you won’t be able to stop until Series 2 comes out in February. I know I won’t.

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What should the NHL should do about the Coyotes?

Cleaning out my room today, I found this mutilated ticket stub from a while back.

It brought me back to my fandom of the Phoenix Coyotes that I had when I was younger. I don’t remember much about that game, but I do remember thinking I was the coolest kid on the planet wearing my Jeremy Roenick jersey around the Civic Arena, and how cool it was knowing that this was the NHL on Fox game of the week (believe it or not, teams from the Western Conference used to be shown on national TV). I used to love watching their playoff games on TV and seeing the American West Arena white-outs with no spots of black or powder blue (ahem Penguin “fans”). However a little more of a decade later, the team is bankrupt, playing in a half-filled arena most nights, and most likely on its way back to Winnipeg, the Canadian city where the team played from 1979-1996. Where did it go wrong?

When the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix for the 1996-1997 season, the city was very receptive of the team. They had winning seasons each of the first six years the team was in existence. The problem, however, was that the arena they played in, the American West Arena, wasn’t made for hockey. The building that was made for basketball featured tons of seats that were situated directly above the goals that the team couldn’t sell. After attempts to get the arena better built for hockey failed, the team was able to strike a deal to get the Jobing.com Arena built in Glendale, a suburb of the city.

When the team moved out, things went south for the Coyotes. They fell into a pattern of losing, and fans were less than receptive of going so far out of the city to catch games. Making matters worse, the ownership’s finances were shaky. Some more seasons of poor performance and attendance led the team to file bankruptcy, and the NHL seizing control of the team.

After their elimination in the playoffs in 2011, the rumors of the team heading out are louder than ever. Should they go back north of the border? The simple answer would be yes.

The Jets didn’t leave for Arizona because of a lack of fan support. Instead, the team was forced to skip town since they were playing in a dilapidated arena that was much too small for a professional team. They didn’t get any help from the government to fund a new arena, so the team was forced to head south. They should go back to where they would be appreciated and beloved, not ignored.

However, this issue is not a one way street. It is always tough when a team leaves to go somewhere else, no matter how many or how few fans there are. I experienced this turmoil first hand when the Pittsburgh Penguins were very close to leaving this past decade. Not many cared then, but I would have been crushed to see a team that I grew up with bail to go somewhere else.

So as you can see, it isn’t an easy decision choosing whether a team stays or goes. People are going to be hurt no matter what happens. I’m curious to see where you guys stand on the issue of teams relocating. What do you think?

On Cooke, Headshots, and the NHL

The buzz in Pittsburgh about Pitt’s latest choke Friday night came to a halt after Matt Cooke of the Penguins elbowed Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers in the head.

Cooke, who has received a reputation around the league as being one of the games dirtiest players, affirmed that claim with that reckless hit.

What is more bewildering is the fact that he did so just days after Penguins owner Mario Lemieux proposed a fine scale that would fine teams based on games suspended of players committing cheap shots.

In response, the NHL penalized Cooke by suspending him the remaining 10 games of the regular season, and for the entire duration of the first round of the playoffs.

The issue of headshots in hockey has been a very hot topic recently. All 30 general managers discussed the issue at length while meeting last week. They agreed that there should be stiffer penalties for those who purposely dish out illegal hits. However, they agreed that all head related hits should not be banned.

Wait? Am I missing something?

In this act of stupidity, the NHL is completely ignoring the fact that they should be protecting their stars. Whether accidental or not, there is no place for hits to the head in the sport. The NFL has placed a large amount of rules in order to protect quarterbacks and other players. With stars such as Sidney Crosby sitting out 30+ games because of these hits, shouldn’t the league think of getting rid of them altogether? They can have season altering effects on teams.

I know I’m in the minority of hockey fans. These so-called “hockey purists” think that this type of hitting should be allowed, that it is a part of “their game.” For these close-minded people I ask them to turn on ESPN. The only time they ever bother to talk about hockey is when these dirty hits and brawls take the center stage. The sad fact is that is what most of the sporting world thinks of this when they think of the great sport that is hockey.

I want to clear up that I think hockey should still be a physical game. That’s one part of the game that makes it exciting. However, it’s time to cut out a lot of the goonery that has plagued the sport for too long. I just wonder how many games missed by the stars of the league will it take for the NHL to finally realize its foolishness.