Thursday, 11 July 2013

Cardboard immortality: A visual history of women’s hockey cards (Following Rheaume)

In the middle of the gap between 1998 and 2007 (when no significant hockey card company was producing cards with the likenesses of several women’s hockey players), there was one female player that happened to be the exception; Charline Labonte. Having played with the now defunct Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, she became the second woman since Manon Rheaume to play in the league.
Her first season with the Titan was during the 1999-2000 campaign. Joining the team at 17 years old, she would appear in 26 contests, while logging a mark of four wins, nine losses and two ties. Despite a goals against average of 5.22, she logged a respectable .841 save percentage. The following season, she only appeared in two games while logging 28 saves, respectively.
Upper Deck featured a card of her in their 1999-2000 UD Prospects Set. Her card number was 54, the same number she donned on her jersey. That set also included the likes of future NHL starts such as Jay Bouwmeester, Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Jarrett Stoll and the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik.
In addition, Labonte was also featured on two different insert cards. By definition, insert cards are not part of the traditional card set (as they tend to have different numbering), but can be found in packs.
During this time, Upper Deck began using insert cards as a marketing tool to help stimulate interest and sales. Producing insert cards with player autographs was one of the methods employed. In the Prospects Set, there were randomly inserted autograph cards featuring Labonte’s signature.
Another was a series of insert cards that featured the swatch of a player’s game-used jersey. The swatch was placed in between two cards (one card had a see-through window) and sealed together to create a unique card. As such, one of Labonte’s game-used jerseys would be cut up into individual swatches, making her the first female hockey player to have a game-used jersey card.
While her star would rise on the Canadian national team soon afterwards, she would have to wait a considerable period of time before Upper Deck would return her image to cardboard. Heading into the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Upper Deck owned the rights to former Canadian company O-Pee-Chee (once based out of London, Ontario).
In the autumn of 2009, Upper Deck produced a series of insert cards for the 2009-10 O-Pee-Chee hockey series. The insert cards featured the men and women that would likely comprise the rosters for Vancouver. Labonte would be one of three goaltenders (along with Kim St. Pierre and Shannon Szabados) that collectors would search for as the excitement towards the Vancouver Winter Games had tremendous momentum.
*Game jersey image obtained from:

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