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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Box Break - - 2010-11 Crown Royal

Just a quick comment - That goal by Martin St. Louis in the shootout against Chicago tonight was sick.  Just plain sick.  Anywhoo...

Anyone who has been around here long enough knows that I accumulate a ton of junk.  Did I say a ton?  I meant a TON!  I exaggerate a bit because it is not always junk but it's usually stuff I already have a boat load of and I keep getting more because I am a glutton for punishment.  In my mind, that next pack is going to have those three or four elusive cards I haven't been able to get my hands on.  99% of the time, they are filled with doubles, triples, quadruples, what's the word for 12x's?

Sometimes I look back on a few of these splurges and realize that I could have easily cut out all the overkill and picked up a higher end box.  But for a set builder like me that is far from being considered a "Hit" chaser, high end is usually out of the budget.  Well with the return of Panini to the hockey market this year, I told myself that I would give their products a chance early on.  As many of you know, I have been less than thrilled with their offerings to date.

The Crown Royale release is no stranger to the card market.  Crown Royale has been around since 1997-98 in hockey when Pacific rolled this one out into their stable of products.  Each year, the CR product could be counted on to provide collectors with a die-cut design that featured some type of crown shape (which was central to the Pacific logo) cut into the card.  The cards are over the top when it came to the design and in the era of foil stamping and "novelty" cards, these were great.  But like any good product, the manufacturers somehow find a way to screw it up.  Many people thought Pacific would pick up the hobby slack that was left with the departure of O-Pee-Chee but it was short lived.  Eventually, the Pacific brand was gone and we were left with only memories. 

Enter the new, improved Crown Royale.  Panini is taking a stab at reviving the product from it's regicidal death (yeah I made that word up).  So I will just come right out and say it...I actually think they did a good job.  The design is just like the original releases in the late 90s only in a vertical orientation rather than the more widely used horizontal. The base cards feature a silver crown that adorns the top of the card and is followed with parallels of gold (Premier Date), ice blue, red, and purple.  Every case will yield 8 rookie autos #/499, 1 Rinkside auto #/50, 7 Heirs To the Throne GU #/250 or less, 1 Voices of the Game auto featuring a famous announcer #/100 or less, 1 Heirs To the Throne GU/Auto #/50 or less, and 3 Premier Date Signatures #/100 or less.

Here is the box breakdown:  4 packs per box, 5 cards per pack, each pack contains at least 1 hit.  At anywhere between $85-100 per box, you have cards priced at about $5 each.  Steep price to pay if you want to build a base set but this release isn't about the base cards.  Without further adieu, here are the gems from my first high $/card box of the year.

Here we have Rick Middleton.  This comes from a parallel set, er...insert set, umm...actually this is from the regular set.  Like Artifacts by Upper Deck, the higher numbered cards come from subsets.  Rick is part of the Regents as you can see here.  These are numbered out of 499.

The Finnish Flash is part of the Legends series.  The cards feature what else but Legends of the NHL.  There is a short write up on the back of each card about the players career.  Did you know Teemu taught Kindergarten?

These are called In Harms Way.  You can't really see that because it is in foil on the left there.  These look much better in person than the scan can possibly show.  It's a goalie featured set that, judging by the narrative on the back, these must be celebrating the highs and lows of patrolling the pipes in various pressure situations.  Too bad mine was obviously put in harms way prior to packaging as there is a big nick in the bottom left corner.

Here is a Vinny from the Loyalty insert set.  These are numbered out of 250 and feature players that have something that's a rarity these days in the NHL, longevity on a team.  Lecavalier has been with the Bolts for 12 straight seasons.  He's been there since he was 18 and now holds the TB record for points, games played, goals, and assists.

This was my only GU that I pulled and was a little disappointing after previously busting an ITG box.  Not a bad pull though as Evander Kane has a ton of upside as a young player in the league.  After being drafted 4th overall in 2009, he finished 7th last year in scoring for all rookies.  This set is called Heirs To the Throne, which is tough to see at the bottom because of the gold foil.  They are numbered to 250.

My first auto was this Bobby Ryan Premier Date.  It's numbered out of 100 and features a gold/bronze crown on top.  The dates are interesting because the few of these that I have seen all have the same date, December 14, 2010.  I'm not sure what this means exactly.  Maybe it's the day they slapped the sticker on the card.

My second auto was this on-card signature of T.J. Brodie.  This is part of the Rookie Royalty subset and is numbered out of 499.  Last I checked Brodie was playing for Abbotsford but I could be wrong on that.  I know he was on a tear in the preseason as a rookie but I don't think the Flames kept a roster spot for him.  Regardless, on-card autos rule.

Finally, the piece to end all pieces, and the sole reason why I think I didn't hate this box.  The scan does no justice to how sweet this bad boy is.  This comes from the Rinkside Signatures series and is a Scratching The Surface auto of Geno Malkin.  This is my first Malkin auto I have ever pulled from any product and I almost flipped in my LCS when it was revealed.  As you can see, the card is pretty thick and features a cut out space with a hockey rink.  I will admit that this isn't the best specimen of a signature that I have seen by Geno.  It's a little sloppy and looks like he rushed to get it on there but it is another one that is on card and there is no denying it belongs to him.  The card is numbered out of 25.

Overall, I liked breaking this box despite it only lasting about a minute and a half.  4 packs per box is a scary concept to a set collector but I quickly got over my apprehension when I saw the cards and remembered how much I liked the originals by Pacific.  It was cool to get three autos in a box this small but the Malkin really sweetened the deal.  I would say this could be my favorite Panini set this year.  What do you think?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Box Break - - 2010-11 ITG Heroes & Prospects

I know I'm a little late to the party on these since they have been out since the end of January, but I have been waiting for my LCS to get them in stock.  A couple weeks ago (I know, it takes me a while, ok?) I picked up my first box of 2010-11 ITG Heroes & Prospects, the first ITG break of the year for me.

For those that don't know (and how could you not), In The Game has been putting out quality hockey releases for years (since 2004-05 for this series) but has yet to secure a license from the NHL.  The reason...?  Politics mostly but I won't get into that here.

If you want to see how a fantastic, non-licensed product is done, look no further than ITG.  Every year without fail, ITG gets all the top players from the CHL and AHL stuffed into this product with loats of autographs, Game Used, and combo auto/GU cards.  They are also able to throw in many stars of the NHL featuring their playing days on the various farm teams, olympic teams, world juniors, etc.  This year is no exception.  With that said, let's take a look.

The logistics of it all go like this:

9 cards per pack
18 packs per box
20 boxes per case.

Each box should have - 2 autographs, 2 game-used relics, 3 inserts

The base set consists of 150 cards with inserts sets including the Memorial Cup Champions (15), Calder Cup Champions (15), AHL 75th Anniversary (35), and the 100 Years of Card Collecting inserts that feature an vintage tobacco-esque image of a player.

I didn't pull a card of the envious nature like over at Cards On Ice, but I did get a few nice pieces.  In my box, I pulled 138/150 base cards with no dupes.  ITG does a good job on collation and you can rest assured that you will usually get about 90% or better of the base cards in a box.  I pulled (1) 100 YOC card, (3) Autos, (1) Calder Cup Champion, (1) Top Prospect Jumbo Jersey Black, (1) Subway Super Series Jersey Black, and (1) Class of 2011 Draft Redemption card.  I didn't scan the Calder Cup card but here are the rest in all their glory.  If you want to check out the base design or some other examples, check out the sell sheet posted by Blowout.

100 Years of Card Collecting Red Kelly

Well it wasn't the Lemieux that I wanted to pull but regardless, these cards are great.  When I first saw the previews, I assumed they would be mini's but ITG decided to feature them as a full size card.  I don't think that detracts from them in the least, however.  The design is reminicent of the C56 Tobacco cards that were issued back in 1910 by Imperial Tobacco.  This is widely regarded as the first hockey set to enter the "mainstream" market, as tobacco companies previously focused their card production on advertising.  The back of the card has the crossed sticks at the top with a brief listing of the clubs the player has been on.  Here we have Red Kelly, who played with Detroit and Toronto between 1947 and 1967. 

Subway Series Jumbo Jersey Black Dougie Hamilton

These are un-numbered but supposedly come from a print run of 100 copies.  This comes from Dougie's 2010 SUBWAY Super Series jersey he wore in the game.  You can see the swatch contains two colors and features a seam.  Seeing this in person is 100% better because that fabric is almost coming out of the card.

Top Prospects Game Jerseys Black Tyler Toffoli

Again, these are un-numbered but supposedly come from a print run of 100 copies. ITG doesn't skimp on the fabric they put into their GU cards.  If you enjoy small cut outs the size of a nickel or dime, forget it.  No sissy swatches here.  Tyler came out of the second round of last years draft to the LA Kings.  Here we have a nice three color, red, white, and blue jumbo swatch from the 2010 Home Hardware CHL/HNL Top Prospects game.

Autograph Nino Niederreiter

El Nino is currently biding his time with the Portland Winterhawks, only playing 9 games thus far for the Islanders.  In fact, he scored a hat trick the other night in Portland's 9-1 (sorry, no Ovech-trick) win against the Seattle Thunderbirds.  He was the 5th pick in last years draft and has a huge upside, especially for the future of the Islander's franchise.  He has 35 goals and 25 assists for the conference leading Winterhawks.  He has the potential to be a beast in the NHL.

Autograph Corey Elkins

Corey was a highly touted prospect coming out of Ohio State and rumor has it, he had 24 teams with a target on him.  The Kings picked him up and signed him to an entry level contract in 2009.  He has the toughness and offensive potential to add depth to third or fourth lines.  He is currently on the Manchester Monarchs.

Autograph David Musil
This guy is 6' 3", 190 lbs.  He's also not even 18 yet, I think.  He's not a fast guy for a defenseman but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in size and agility.  When he was 15, he was playing in the Czech Elite League for Dukla Jihlava. He was was the youngest player along with Kevin Lowe's son Keegan, and Craig Simpson's son Dillon.

Class of 2011 Draft Card Player F in 20th position
The concept is interesting but companies have tried the "Predictor" thing before and it failed miserably.  But for a prospects set, it might work.  The deal is if the player represented by the letter on the front is drafted during the first round in 2011, it can be redeemed for a Game Used card /10...if the number foil stamped in silver on the back matches their actual draft position.  Two things that I like, prospecting and gambling.  Here I have Player F and the draft position is 20th.  The names of the players were announced two weeks after the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.  My player is Nathan Beaulieu.  In everything I have read on this guy, he seems like he is going to fall anywhere from 18-22.  I like the odds on this one.

Overall, I don't think there is a thing that ITG puts out that I don't like.  The card designs are great, unobtrusive, well laid out, and conceptually appealing.  The GU cards never fail to impress and the 3 autos in the box were a nice surprise, especially the Niederreiter.  It would have been nice to pull a base set but I'm not complaining here.  It just gives me another reason for a second box or at the least, another set to trade for.