Hockey cards are not just collector’s items. They’re also a way of preserving hockey history.
For some hockey players, however, their moment in hockey card history was never captured. Now one of the leaders in the sports collectibles industry aims to rectify that historical absence for a group of Indigenous NHL players.
Upper Deck released their Upper Deck NHL First Peoples Rookie Cards to “celebrate Canadian Indigenous hockey players who never before had a licensed NHL trading card,” said in a press release.
The cards will honor eight players, including former NHL coach of the year Ted Nolan, Jason Simon, Dan Frawley, Johnny Harms, Danny Hodgson, Victor Mercredi, Rocky Trottier, and Bill LeCaine.
Not only were the cards produced in conjunction with the hockey players and their families, but Indigenous artist Jacob Alexis from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation designed them as well. Indigenous card collector Naim Cardinal, a Cree and member of Tallcree First Nation, wrote the card backs.
“I’m honored to work with Upper Deck to help shine a spotlight on Indigenous hockey legends and be a part of bringing these cards to life,” said Cardinal in Upper Deck’s release. “These former players have earned their names and images on official trading cards, and it’s great to see both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people honor them as athletes in a real way.”
Making these cards in collaboration with Indigenous creators and athletes was important, said Paul Nguyen, a senior marketing manager with Upper Deck.
“We really focused on creating a set that is for the community, by the community… that would positively reflect their community,” Nguyen told The Hockey News in an interview.
Packages of the eight cards will be distributed to Indigenous youth at 3 Nolan Hockey Camp and Hockey Indigenous Development Camp. They’ll also be handed out at games featuring Indigenous NHL alumni in St. Paul, Alta., and Tallcree First Nation, Alta., as well as at the Mushkegowuk Cup and Little Native Hockey League, a pair of tournaments bringing together First Nations youth. The cards will be available at Indigenous-owned First Row Collectibles as well.
Nguyen said Upper Deck is excited to see this project come to fruition and see the cards in the hands of Indigenous hockey players and youth across North America.
“With these athletes and players, they’ve never had a card before, we hope that kids that are going to be receiving them at Indigenous youth camps are going to look at it and think, ‘If someone I have a kinship with has done so much and achieved so much at the NHL level, that I can do that as well,’ ” Nguyen said. “Hopefully, this will shine a greater light upon the community itself.”
Nguyen described the response of the depicted players and their families as “pure happiness and joy” and said Upper Deck is happy to help address “a need for more representation” with these hockey cards.
While Ted Nolan is likely the most recognized name of the group, each hockey player in the eight-card set has an impressive hockey resumé. Danny Hodgson played 114 NHL games for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks. He was the CHL player of the year and Memorial Cup MVP, captaining the Prince Albert Raiders to a title in 1985. He also captained Team Canada to world juniors gold.
Another former Memorial Cup champion, Dan Frawley, played 273 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins. He was the last Penguins captain before Mario Lemieux took over the title. The remainder of the players includes first-round NHL picks and USHL and Allan Cup champions, among other accomplishments.
Fans can learn more about the NHL First People’s Rookie cards and upcoming distribution locations on upperdeckblog.com.