The National Hockey League and NHLPA announced Wednesday that Panini America will join Upper Deck as licensed trading card manufacturers for the 2010-11 season and possibly beyond.
“The NHLPA is excited to renew our long-term partnership with Upper Deck and to welcome Panini into the hockey trading card marketplace,” said Adam Larry, the NHLPA Director of Licensing. “We look forward to working with both of these companies to provide quality NHL player products and exciting new choices for fans and collectors of all ages.”
The NHL said it felt a move away from an exclusive license would benefit the hockey card industry.
“Having considered the input from all stakeholders, we have concluded that a semi-exclusive model would bring customer choice, revive legacy brands and add new and innovative products and marketing initiatives that appeal to all consumer segments,” said Dave McCarthy, NHL Vice President of Integrated Marketing.
The move has been rumored for months and is another in a long line of licensing decisions that has dramatically reshaped the sports trading card industry in the last 14 months.
Panini taking the trading card ice shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, seeing as how the Italian-based company has been producing licensed NHL stickers and sticker albums for years. It’s also interesting to note that the Panini America brand portfolio includes popular, hockey-related brand names from the defunct Pacific Trading Cards as well as its own Score and Donruss lines.
“Panini is delighted to be extending its partnership with both the NHLPA and NHL to produce trading cards; this further establishes Panini’s strategy to rapidly become the most comprehensive publisher of trading cards domestically and enhance the presence of North American sports,” said Panini America CEO Mark Warsop. “We are extremely excited about growing hockey trading card sales through our extensive marketing programs, and by bringing back heritage brands such as Zenith, Score and Crown Royale.”
Upper Deck sees its exclusive deal, which has been in place since the 2005-06 season come to a close.
“Upper Deck is very pleased to continue its 20-year trading card partnership with the NHLPA and the NHL,” said Richard McWilliam, Upper Deck’s Founder and CEO. “Since 2005, through its exclusive partnership with the NHLPA and the NHL, Upper Deck has taken the category and Upper Deck’s hockey brands to unimaginable levels. For the past 20 years, Upper Deck has been the only licensed company consistently producing NHL trading cards. We will continue to deliver high-end excitement and innovation and I am happy to say, our best is yet to come.”
The first 2010-11 NHL cards will arrive in August with Victory from Upper Deck, while Panini has Score penciled in as its first release.
Stay tuned to Beckett.com for additional updates to this story.
— Tracy Hackler