Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cardboard Immortality: A visual history of women’s hockey cards (Aftermath of Sochi)

Leading in to the Sochi Winter Games, just one trading card set featured women’s hockey players (the Topps US Olympic and Paralympic Set). The set had cards of Hilary Knight and the Lamoureux Twins, marking a disappointment for women’s hockey card collectors who were expecting a wider selection. In a hobby where there are very few trading cards of female athletes of any sport available (except Topps’ Allen and Ginter Sets), the aftermath of Sochi breathed new life into the hobby.

The 2014 Crown Royale hockey card set featured five women’s hockey players in its Fans of the Game insert set. Of note, the players in the set included Tessa Bonhomme, Jennifer Botterill, Meghan Duggan, Julie Chu and Meghan Agosta. Unfortunately, each card had a limited print run of 99 per card, making it a very difficult pull for collectors. While each card was autographed, they were difficult to find in the secondary market. Taking into account that the Meghan Duggan card marked the first time that she was given the trading card treatment, the rarity makes it difficult for any of her friends and family to obtain one.

As the insert set was a Fans of the Game theme, each card had an NHL logo in the background, signifying the favorite team of the women’s hockey player. Bonhomme, who recently joined TSN as a member of its SportsCentre broadcast team, had the Maple Leafs logo on her card. As a side note, she once worked for Leafs TV as an on-air personality. The NHL logo on Botterill’s card was the Pittsburgh Penguins, where her brother works as an assistant general manager.

The Boston Bruins logo was displayed on Duggan’s card, who also served as Team USA’s captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, while her long-time teammate on the US squad, Julie Chu, a three-time Clarkson Cup champion, had the New York Rangers logo on her card. Having grown up in Windsor, Agosta was a Detroit Red Wings fan and that was the appropriate logo that adorned her card.

As September marks the release of some of the earliest hockey card issues for the upcoming winter, Upper Deck made a bold statement with its 2014-15 Team Canada Juniors set. Upper Deck, which has an exclusive licensing agreement with Hockey Canada, ensured that women’s hockey cards were part of the offering.

After the disappointment of the 2013-14 Team Canada set, which featured only men’s players, this year’s set makes up for it with an incredible assortment of women’s players. Every member of the roster that claimed the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games is featured in the set.

In addition, several players from last year’s Canadian Centralization Camp, such as Courtney Birchard, Bailey Bram and Tessa Bonhomme are included. Having retired after the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Sarah Vaillancourt is also part of the set.

Sadly, Centralization participants Vicki Bendus, Jenelle Kohanchuk and Brigette Lacquette were not given the trading card treatment. While no statement has been released by Upper Deck, it is disappointing as 11 women’s players have two cards in the Juniors set, one in the Base Set and one among Short Prints (please see checklist below).

Despite the omission, this is the most in-depth offering from Upper Deck with regards to women’s hockey cards. Past Upper Deck issues included the 1997-98 Collectors Choice set, 2009-10 O-Pee-Chee hockey and the 2011 edition of World of Sports, which featured the first-ever cards of competitors from Canada’s Under-18 national women’s team.

In addition to the cards from the Juniors base set along with the short prints, there are also variants for the hardcore collectors. A gold offering (which features the Upper Deck logo and the lettering in gold foil) is complemented by two variants with numbering. A red-foil variant of every base card is numbered out of 99, while a high gloss variant is numbered out of 10.

Having been the first company to introduce randomly inserted autograph cards and game jersey cards (which are hockey cards with a swatch of a jersey attached to said card), Upper Deck continues that tradition in this set. There are even printing plates in the set, numbered 1 of 1, making it an extremely rare find. Of note, some plates have shown up online and are selling for $40. While it would be physically impossible to obtain at least one of every insert, it certainly adds to the collectibility.

An added bonus is the fact that this set marks the first time that several women’s players have been featured on hockey cards, hence, adding to their collectability as they are what collectors identify as rookie cards. Of note, the rookie cards in this set include Courtney Birchard, Bailey Bram, Laura Fortino, Genevieve Lacasse, the first rookie backstop to win the Clarkson Cup, Jocelyne Larocque, Natalie Spooner, who recently competed in the second season of Amazing Race Canada, Jennifer Wakefield, who will compete in Sweden this year, and Tara Watchorn.

The last time such an in-depth offering featured women’s hockey cards was back in 2008, when Canadian-based company In the Game released its O Canada set, which featured most of the Canadian roster from the 2007 IIHF Women’s Worlds. Just like the Upper Deck Juniors set, there were randomly inserted autograph cards along with jersey cards, which are still popular today among collectors.

Checklist: Women’s Cards from 2014-15 Upper Deck Team Canada Juniors

Base Set  

Card #
Card #
Hayley Wickenheiser
Courtney Birchard
Tessa Bonhomme
Bailey Bram
Sarah Vaillancourt
Meghan Agosta-Marciano
Gillian Apps
Melodie Daoust
Laura Fortino
Jayna Hefford
Hayley Wickenheiser
Hayley Wickenheiser
Rebecca Johnston
Charline Labonte
Genevieve Lacasse
Jocelyne Larocque
Meaghan Mikkelson
Caroline Ouellette
Marie-Philip Poulin
Lauriane Rougeau
Natalie Spooner
Shannon Szabados
Jennifer Wakefield
Catherine Ward
Tara Watchorn

Short Prints

Card #
Card #
Brianne Jenner
Charline Labonte
Caroline Ouellette
Catherine Ward
Hayley Wickenheiser
Jayna Hefford
Gillian Apps
Meghan Agosta-Marciano
Natalie Spooner
Rebecca Johnston
Shannon Szabados

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