Upper Deck, the NHL and NHLPA announce exclusive trading card deal


The NHL, NHLPA and Upper Deck have entered into an exclusive trading card deal.

The deal, announced by Upper Deck today, will take effect next season for multiple years, but the length of the deal with not disclosed.

The deal gives Upper Deck back an exclusive agreement it had between 2004 to 2009-10 seasons. In 2010-11, The NHL and NHLPA brought in Panini America, which created hockey cards for the last four seasons.

“The players are excited about the direction Upper Deck is taking NHL trading cards – not only in product development and collectability – but also in adapting to the needs of an ever-evolving hobby and retail landscape,” said Adam Larry, NHLPA Director of Licensing. “We’re extremely pleased to continue our partnership with Upper Deck – now 25 years and counting – and look forward to working with them and all the category stakeholders to enhance hockey trading cards for current and future collectors alike. While we are excited about the future of hockey trading cards, we would be remiss if we did not thank Panini America and we look forward to their remaining hockey card releases.”

Panini entered the hockey market in 2010-11, developing products such as Score, Crown Royale, Donruss, Contenders and Dominion. One of Panini’s most popular products was Prime, a high-end release focused on patches and memorabilia, which came out two years ago.

“We are disappointed to learn of the NHL and NHLPA’s decision to go in another direction in the trading card category,” said Panini America CEO Mark Warsop in a release. “During the term of our agreement we faced many challenges, including a late start to the agreement and an NHL work stoppage. Through all of the challenges we established trading card hockey brands that collectors came to love and look forward to including Dominion, Prime, Rookie Anthology, Limited and Totally Certified.”

Panini will continue to make hockey cards until its agreement runs out on June 30. It still has deals with the NBA (an exclusive), MLBPA, NFL and 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Upper Deck has had an NHL license since the 1990-91 season. Next season will mark its 25th anniversary in hockey cards.

“For nearly 25 years, Upper Deck has been delighting and surprising NHL fans and collectors with innovative officially-licensed hockey trading cards and collectibles,” said Dave McCarthy, NHL Vice President of Consumer Products Licensing, Hardlines. “Upper Deck’s passion for our sport is evident with their commitment to making great products, marketing them aggressively and seeking new ways to enhance our fans and collectors’ love of the game. We are proud to extend the exclusive license for trading cards to Upper Deck and look forward to working closely with all stakeholders for category growth in the coming years.”

Upper Deck is known to collectors for its hockey products, continually producing NHL cards for more than 20 years. The Young Guns Rookie Cards are continually some of the most sought-after cards every year. It also has an exclusive autograph deal with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

“They have done a good job of re-inventing the (Young Guns), and what it means,” said Dave Sliepka, former Beckett Hockey analyst, who currently is the Collectibles Manager at Dallas Gold & Silver Exchange. “Now they have numbering, and parallels (Canvas, etc). They try to keep them from being stale. It’s very similar to what the Rookie Cup means to Topps Baseball. They are another level above just being a Rookie Card.”

This creates an exclusive in three of the four major sports. Topps has exclusive with MLB, Panini with the NBA and now Upper Deck with the NHL. The licensors tend to go with one company because it’s easier to manage one license rather than multiple ones.

The first product to release under the new agreement will be MVP, which will be out in August, followed by O-Pee-Chee in September and Artifacts in October.


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  1. Paul 27 February, 2014 at 14:00

    That statement above is hilarious, as if the players are all talking about Upper Deck today or any day. As for exclusives, if a single one is best, why does the biggest money sport (football) have multiple licenses? Hockey is small potatos compared to other sports when it comes to cards. I guess UD is sticking around a little bit longer.

  2. charles 27 February, 2014 at 14:09

    I hope they take this very seriously, to many redemption, to much product in a year. I hope they get there head out of there third point of contact. stop patting themselves on the back. nothing wrong with expanding,but you have to be able to control what you already have, maybe they should slow down on product, getting a redemption in a one pack, 4 hit box is not a good thing. I understand that the players are busy and can not be at the company’s becken call, but waiting for a year or more for that one auto, and having to understand, does not sell well with a lot. a lot of other card company’s took it to lite and folded because of greed.

  3. Andrew McKay (WildEagle) 27 February, 2014 at 14:32

    This is horrible for the collecting hobby, Upper Deck has been slowly going downhill with their products whereas Panini has been innovating and has actually been trying to grow the market and reach new collectors.

    Any exclusive to any company on a sport is a horrible idea, you need the competition to keep collectors interested. I didn’t like when Topps got the exclusive for Baseball, I don’t like that Panini has an exclusive on NBA and I don’t like that UD has the exclusive in hockey.

    On the bright side I will have more money to spend on other interests because I won’t be spending as much collecting cards.

  4. Korkki 27 February, 2014 at 15:01

    I decided that I will not buy boxes during this monopoly era. Next time when there are other options available.

    Last time I had 3 year break in collecting, now I am not yet sure what will I do.

    This stinks. This really stinks. Bad move by NHL/NHLPA

  5. CJ 27 February, 2014 at 15:45

    I for one like variety. Panini brought new ideas to the hobby and different products. UD does the same products year after year with the same configurations. They add a die cut holo card to SPX and act like they redesigned the entire brand. I enjoy base UD but even that is getting old.

  6. Dan Robertson 27 February, 2014 at 19:02

    This is nothing but good news.

    Good riddance to Panini, your 4 year run with lazy branding and rehashed uninspired old product lines was a real mistake. If you simply would have hired a professional brand manager and injected some creative thinking creating new product lines you might have still been around.

    All you exclusivity haters can go buy the leftover Panini stock and stop crying us a river.

  7. Jeff White 27 February, 2014 at 21:16

    UD getting exclusive rights is going to cripple the hobby back to where it was 5 years ago. the competition between panini and ud forced both companies to create new and innovative ways of getting people involved in the hobby. For instance Prime patches are the best in the business and Dominion is a fantastic product with their engravatures and booklets. Sure they come out with some stuff i dont like but so does UD. most of the UD products this year have been gigantic flops or they over produce the product to the point where its worthless. they also have terrible quality control as we see more and more damaged upper deck products. now UD prices per box or pack will go up while their content will go down. they dont have any competition now so they can go back to giving us lazy product. I myself run a popular Facebook trading group and all my members are up in arms over this. some are taking it upon themselves to contact the nhl and nhlpa reps about this travesty. Good job on ruining the hobby. i allready have members selling off their collections. prepare for a 90s style market crash i guess when everyone decides to spend their money elsewhere.

  8. Andre 27 February, 2014 at 21:27

    @Dan Roberson

    You say that like UD hasn’t done the same thing… Fleer Retro? All of their retro parallels not to mention after topps slapped them with that suite they have had no idea what to do with OPC.

    Let’s be real for a moment. UD hasn’t exactly been the poster of creativity in the past decade.

    But who really needs freedom of choice anyways…

  9. Andre 27 February, 2014 at 21:32

    Wow…. Wasn’t this tried before & proved a mistake. Did they not notice how happy collectors were when Panini came on the scene and the positive buzzes all around ever since?!?

    Personally, I was about to quit collecting. I pretty much did, I was just finishing a couple of years and I would have been done. Then Panini came in to the game and rejuvenated my interest. I buy cards from both companies but the majority are from Panini. This makes me wonder, how long before I leave the hobby.
    Panini has done so much for hockey cards, in terms of interest & quality innovations. They actually do interact with the collectors. Their website, their blog… I don’t even know if UD remembers that they have a website. Changing a design is not maintenance, when the content is still old & outdated.
    Every company gives out cards at the big show’s but Panini actually had a party for people. It might have been elitist but the cards (& other collectibles) that were given out there (Toronto Expo for example), were available to everyone who went to the show afterwards. Which made the remaining days even more interesting.

    The Black Friday & Boxing Day promotions were very nice touches. They enticed me to hunt down cards I normally wouldn’t have cared for.
    Just to echo the writers before me. UD has gotten a bit stale & boring. They have a couple nice ideas but not enough to run an entire market/industry.
    I wonder if Panini can get permission from the actual teams. The same way that ITG gets players. At least then the cards would have logos.
    I’ve always been opposed to buying anything unlicensed. Now, I’m pretty much willing to say that if Panini does make more after June 30th. I will be buying them.
    As collectors and active members of the hobby, is there anything we can do to protest?? Like a petition to have the exclusiveness dissolved?? Or do we just have to stop buying UD products altogether to get our points across!?!?

    Another bad decision by the NHL/NHLPA… When was the last time either one of them made a good decision?? I can’t blame UD for seeking the deal but to grant it, is shameful and very disappointing.

  10. David Hollingsworth 28 February, 2014 at 10:07

    These are the same comments I heard back in 2005 when UD got the last exclusive. Hobby seemed to survive just fine than and maybe even grow a bit.
    All those who don’t like and say that they will not buy ANY UD product— just watch, they will.
    I personally love it.

  11. Ed 28 February, 2014 at 11:02

    NBA please take notice !!

    Bye BYE Panini, I guess the Exec’s at the NHL offices didn’t like your junk….Opps, your product line.

    I agree with free enterprise and the right for the NHL to choose the best company to promote their product, professional hockey.

    UD now has an opportunity in front of them. Take Heed…Short print one of your Mid-Scale products to a sell-out and create a fire storm in the Hockey Card industry.

    I will be awaiting my Topps Chrome and Finest Basketball boxes.

    Peace-Out Panini

  12. Brandon 28 February, 2014 at 11:10

    I was hoping by today I would have read something in the news that said NHL/NHLPA recanted their foolish decision to let greedy, poor performing Upper Deck have a monopoly on NHL trading cards. I just got back into the hobby over the summer and was having a great time with Panini, more so then Upper Deck. Upper Deck lacks variety, lacks good “hits”–decent ones are so hard to come by, and their product is often times overpriced compared to many solid products that Panini puts out. I love how they talk about having an exclusive contract with Wayne Gretzky….it’s hard to pull a Gretzky anything in an UD product other then base…just like the rest of their cards. UD Focuses mostly on base cards and inserts as opposed to nice looking memorabilia and autograph cards. That would be fine if they didn’t jack up the prices so much on their product. This whole deal reeks of back door politics between UD, NHL and NHLPA and just like usual, the fans are the ones who have to pay for the corporate greed of those parties. Oh well, at least we’ll still have In The Game for variety since they ink deals with the players themselves and not the NHLPA. This has been very disheartening and I can’t believe all parties involved are sticking to their guns on this despite the public outcry from Collectors on the negative impact this is already having on the hobby and it hasn’t even started yet.

  13. Michel 28 February, 2014 at 12:54

    Seriously, the Nhl ad nhlpa are happy with this??? I don’t think any of them have been collecting cards lately.
    It’s a shame that Panini, a company that has been so innovative in recent years will loose its licence.
    Shame on those decision makers.. It’s a laugh when they tell us they have our interest at heart!!!!!!! Theirs…that’s for sure.

  14. Frank 28 February, 2014 at 16:28

    Absolutely horrible decision. Not only are Upper Deck terrible both compared to Panini and ITG, but an exclusive deal will only serve to make them worse just like we saw the last time around. Bad customer service, terrible generic designs that get re-used over and over, terrible themes, and a certain amount of go-to players selection without any depth in it. It remains to be seen if the players one collects will be in their “dream of the future” or not. A possible change to other hockey collectibles is not impossible.

  15. chris 1 March, 2014 at 17:01

    I was really hoping Topps would get Panini’s share, could you imagine 2014-15 topps series 1 and series 2 hockey? a 800 card hockey set and than Topps Update hockey, Topps Chrome Hockey….drool, Chrome hockey……
    I digress, I really wish the NHLPA would have went another direction though ITG and Topps, and dropped upper deck, as they did panini, maybe than upper deck would have learned that they way they treat hobby store owners and the favoritism they show towards Clouts and chara, that it will not stand for it, but you know what it did not happen. Upper deck got the NHLPA to sell its soul to it and Clouts.

  16. rob 3 March, 2014 at 14:36

    football beats hockey bro have you seen hockey sales take a look its much larger than people think period

  17. Mark Davies 3 March, 2014 at 15:39

    I think ITG is the best product. They have on card auto’s and usually no redemptions. the product is very well priced and fun to collect. It never gets a licence from the NHL but is respected. Check out “Stickwork”. This is one of the coolest products in years!

  18. Scott 11 March, 2014 at 09:18

    WOW! I’m a little disappointed. I took a leave of absence from collecting because of UD and how monotonous thing were. I can truly say that PANINI drew my attention back into collecting. It’s unfortuante to see them go and many of the innovating product lines they emerged with. I’ll be optimistic with what UD will bring to the packs on their own but I sure hope they capture our interest in the 1st year. There’s one thing to have the same old product line(s) like UD S1&2 that everyone loves but its the diversity that keeps me interested and living in this hobby. The main thing that I fear with the exclusivity is that prices will jump.
    Lets see where it goes but don’t think I will wait too long.
    GL to all.

  19. Jesse 15 April, 2014 at 23:53

    Just keep playbook that’s one product they need to have around they need to keep ALOT of panini products

  20. Ken 9 July, 2014 at 16:00

    Definitely agree with some of the other posters. Panini has done so much for the hobby in the past few years. 10/11 Dominion is my favorite product of all time, and I’ve been collecting for 20+ years. Panini at least is excited about their products, and they innovate. I never feel like I get value from Upper Deck. It is very hard to pull anything decent. That was fine in the old days where chasing the hits from $2 to $3 packs was no big deal. Now with box prices where they are, it just isn’t worth it. UD uses the same ‘ol collation and it’s stale and boring. ITG, Leaf and Panini are my top three.

    I think this says it all: “The licensors tend to go with one company because it’s easier to manage one license rather than multiple ones.” Innovation, growth, etc., those are never easy things to do, but always necessary lest ye go stale.

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