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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

El Sid is cleared...for practice that is.

It's a miracle.  The hockey gods have finally heard our pleas.  And, no...this isn't an April Fools joke. 

Doctor's have cleared Sidney Crosby to start practicing with the team.  Yes, kids, I said he is going to finally start practicing with other human beings.  The plan is to join the team for their trip to Florida. 

This couldn't come at a better time.  The season is almost done and the playoffs are about to begin.  The Pens will most likely be facing the Lightning in the first round and without some more firepower, there is no way I see them getting to the second round. 

Sure, he is going to be rusty and maybe looking a couple steps behind.  But I would take a half-Crosby over none any day of the week. 

Is it playoff time yet?

(hey look...a post about something other than a box break!!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Box Break - - 2008-09 ITG Heroes & Prospects Hobby

In the Game is a mainstay in my collection because of the quality of their products.  Somehow, I missed the entire 2008-09 year for their products.  I think the biggest reason was that my LCS didn't have their stuff on the shelf that year and I was still a bit reluctant to purchase online for a number of reasons that I won't get into here.  I did have a few singles that I picked up along the way but no boxes under my belt.

The Sun-Times show last weekend changed that when I found hobby boxes at the D&A Card World booth for under $30.  That price was awesome for an ITG release considering their history of a quality design, more than generous hits per box, and a jam packed lineup of, well...Heroes & Prospects.

Go here and check out the sell sheet for details and some nice screen-shots since I'm only going to post the "hits".

The box breakdown is 5 cards/pack, 24 packs/box.  Since the base set is only 100 cards, it should be easy to complete with only one box.  Game-Used Memorabilia fall about 1:20 packs, with Autos coming 1:16.  There are three different non-memorabilia insert sets including 2008 Draft Picks, a Calder Cup winner set featuring the Chicago Wolves, and the Memorial Cup winner set featuring the Spokane Chiefs.

The set that I was excited about pulling was the "How Swede It Is" set which features all Swedish players (duh).  There are six of these in all, featuring Victor Hedman, Peter Forsberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Bjorn Salming, and Mats Sundin.  The cards look great and there are multiple versions including silver #/9, and the gold emblems #1/1.  I know it's a long shot but I hope there is one in here.

It would also be really cool to pull one of the Hero/Prospect GU combo card where a rookie/future star is paired up with a current NHL star. 

Here is what came out of my box.

Kyle DeCoste Game Used Jersey, 2 color.  Here was my memorabilia hit of Mr. DeCoste.  DeCoste came out of the 5th round of the 2008 Draft for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  He is currently on the London Knights after being moved from Belleville.  I don't know a whole lot about him other than he has yet to skate in an NHL game, as far as I know.

Boris Valabik 2008 Calder Cup Winner.  The Bruins picked him up from the Thrashers at the trade deadline but not for the reason you are thinking.  He was the "other" guy in the Rich Peverley trade.  He isn't a goal scorer;  he has none in 80 games.  But he is huge.  6'7", 255 lbs of fighting madness.  He met the Burins once back in 2008, picked a fight with Phil Kessel and was pounded by the only guy on the ice that could match his size...Chara.  Fun was had by all.

Jordan Eberle 2008 Draft Picks.  We all know about Eberle's talents.  He is actually now the leading scorer on the Oilers (because of all the injuries) I believe.  Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, and Taylor Hall are all out of the lineup.  And Dustin Penner, was traded away.  So by default, Jordan wins.  Oh, yeah, and he is a good hockey player.

Fabian Brunnstrom Autograph.  Brunnstrom had a lot of potential but just couldn't break through on Dallas.  He was traded to Toronto earlier this year.  This card isn't numbered but according to Beckett Online, it is a short-print.  Whatever that means. 

Thomas Hickey Autograph.  I'm not sure if this guy is still on Manchester but Hickey is a small size defenseman that was one of the most skilled skaters in the WHL.  The fact that he is so young makes for a bright future for TH as long as he can stay healthy and increase his durability.  His size may be a deterrent to getting him to the NHL level but he could be a mainstay in the AHL. 

So what did we learn?  2008 H&P is not as jam packed with inserts or memorabilia like many of the subsequent releases thereafter.  The design is very good, clean, and appealing.  The autos are very nice, especially with the chance of getting a plethora of young NHL star autos.  The GU cards, once again, feature huge swatches by comparison to other brands and are very well put together.  My box, while not the best, was very fun to open.  I ended up with a full base set and a few doubles.  Plus, I think I have a taker for this Brunnstrom auto already that is willing to give up a "king's ransom" to get it.  Only a slight exaggeration but it should be a trade heavily in my favor.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

(2) Box Break - - 2008-09 ITG "1972 Year In Hockey" Hobby Boxes

One of my target goals for the Chicago Sun-Times show last weekend was to see if I could find a box of 2008-09 ITG "1972 Year In Hockey".  I wanted to pick one of these up when they came out but my LCS decided not to pick this one up and the prices online were a little higher than I wanted to pay for a retro set.  The last Sun-Times show I attended back in November had none.  This time it was different.  D&A Card World had a booth there (2 of them actually) and brought with them 7 boxes of this retro themed set by ITG.  The best part...price was under $60 per box.  There are 200 cards in the base set which includes a subset celebrating the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR.  Since my goal was to build a set that I could display in a binder, the only option was to pick up a pair.

There was a plan put in motion between myself and Sal from Puck Junk to complete at least two base sets, one for each of us.  We would trade any doubles either one needed if we had to.  Well, mission accomplished, but not by any of my doing. 

Sal picked two, and I picked two.  Mine were the last two on the pile on the left.  I think he mixed his up.  I should have followed suit because as far as the base cards are concerned, I pulled two boxes with the exact same collation.  The only difference were the "hits" and inserts.  So without further adieu, 1972 The Year In Hockey.

Box breakdown:  18 packs per box, 9 cards per pack, 200 card base set with 150 autographs at 1:8 packs, 5 non-memorabilia insert sets 1:8 packs, 1 GU card per box 1:18 on average.  You can check out a great selection of samples from this set on the ITG website's sell sheet section over here.  Here is what I pulled.

Box 1:

First, the autographs

Joe Daley - Goalie for the Winnipeg Jets.  Those of you in Canada may know Joe as the purveyor of the very cardboard he dons in this picture (as in Joe Daley's Sports Cards).  But there was a time way back in 1972 that Joe was the net minder for the Jets in the WHA.  He was a great goaltender, helping lead the Jets to three championships.  Prior to those days, he spent time with the Penguins, Sabres and Wings.  In fact, he was the first pick by the Sabres in the inter-League draft in 1970.  Many people remember Joe as one of the last players to pick up a goalie mask.

Norm Ferguson - Forward from the New York Raiders.  Norm was known as a Golden Seal for much of his career but in 1972, he was drafted by the Islanders in the NHL expansion draft.  So he did what any red blooded Ameri, er, rather Canadian would do and jumped to the WHA New York Raiders.  He spent much of the rest of his career bouncing around the WHA.

Al McDonough - Forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins (via trade for an Alton White auto).  I know, it was probably a lopsided trade on my part but I don't care.  It was a chance to add a Penguin auto to my collection and one of a player the is often forgotten when talking of the Pittsburgh greats.  He only spent the better part of three seasons on Pittsburgh and was subsequently traded to Atlanta in the midst of a career season...typical Penguins.

The Masked Men is a nice series that has been repeated many times.  These apparently show up once per box so they are somewhat scarce.  Here we have Ed Giacomin in his pre-Friday the 13th Jason Vorhees mask.  Can you imagine if they brought these back?  One shot from a player like Chara and the goalie wouldn't get up.  I guarantee that.

I scanned these for no apparent reason other than they are blank back parallels.  I could have done without these, myself.  I would have rather had a few base cards that were missing.

Number Black Guy Lafleur Game Used Number, 3-color, with some kind of stains on it.  The debate went back and forth as to what the stain was; sweat, blood, a combination of both?  Where is my do-it-yourself DNA test when I need it?  Frankly, though, I don't care because this card is EPIC!!  You can see the three colors all worn and beat down.  Players kept their jerseys, washing them after the game and wearing them the next time.  Not like today where players go through 100 jerseys a year or more.  The number patch is so thick, it sticks up out of the square cut out of the card to house it. 

How could it get any better than that?  Well it couldn't.  But I still have one more box to open and I don't have a base set.  So...

Box 2 "The Nickname" box:

Rookies: Denis Herron of the Penguins and Billy Smith of the Islanders.  Smith, as we all know, is the first goalie to officially score a goal.  He also won a few Stanley FOUR!!  Denis was drafted 40th overall by the Pens in 1972 and he did three tours of duty with the team from 1972-1974, 1976-1979, and 1982-1986. 

Serge "The Senator" Savard - Defenseman for Team Canada in the '72 Summit Series.  Serge is one of the top 100 best players of all time.  They guy has a gold medal, 8 Stanley Cups, and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.  There is a rumor out there that the Savardian Spin-o-rama was his invention and not Denis' since they both had that move as part of their repertoire.  How can this not be an awesome card?

Don "Elbows" Awrey - Defenseman for Boston.  Another former Penguin, although after Boston and not for very long.  The guy was known for his defensive play and is considered by many as one of the best at blocking shots and dishing out body checks.  He played in the league for 17 years, including 2 Stanley Cup teams, and also played for Team Canada in the Summit Series.

Wayne "Swoop" Carleton - Forward of the Ottawa Nationals. Named for his size and speed as a young prospect, Carleton had a ton of injuries that prevented him from having a long NHL career.  Carleton played for Boston when Bobby Orr scored the famous goal in Game 4 of the Finals.  He was traded to California a couple years later and struggled, quickly jumping to the WHA.  He became a monster scoring threat and signed one of the biggest contracts in WHA history.  One crazy story during his WHA days involves him suing Edmonton for moving expenses.  He won. 

Another Masked Men card featuring Doug Favell.  When I was a kid playing street hockey, I had my goalie mask decorated just like this one.  Only I used a black sharpie to make the design.  It was awesome and so was Doug Favell.

Here are two more of those blank back cards.  You gotta love those head shots though.

Quest For the Cup Quarter Final Dual Memorabilia Card - Featuring a jersey swatch of Noel Picard and a piece of Gump Worsley's glove.  I love ITG products.  Where else can you find stuff like this?  The answer is, NO WHERE!  Picard and the St. Louis Blues beat the Minnesota North Stars in their 1971-72 playoff game. 

So two boxes down, a couple of sick memorabilia cards, some great autos, and STILL, no base set.  As I said earlier, I got the exact same base collation in both boxes.  Luckily, Sal had better luck and completed a set with all the double being the ones I needed.  We traded, I got all I needed (or so I thought...I'm one short), and he got some great singles from my doubles, including both my Coach insert cards and a few Summit Series cards. 

This set looks phenomenal in an album.  I would recommend anyone pick this one up if you have any interest in a retro themed set with a chance for some great autos and memorabilia.  You can't lose with ITG products, in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pirates, Not the Baseball Kind

I apologize if this is old news but I thought it was a strange, sad story.  If you have already seen this story, go read something else.

This comes from the Livingston Daily...

"A Hamburg Township man is offering a $500 reward for the return of a vintage 1951 Parkhurst hockey card collection that was stolen from his vehicle while it was parked in his driveway.
The victim, who lives in the 9600 block of Mohican Court, said the collector cards, "worth a considerable amount of money," were stolen from his Chrysler Sebring convertible between 7 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday.

The victim said he believes he was the victim of "car hopping," in which teenagers look for unlocked vehicles to search. He said he and his family were running late Friday evening and "unfortunately ... left the house rather suddenly, forgetting to lock the cars."
Interesting idea, keeping a cherished collection in what appears to be a treasure chest.  But why, oh why, was this in a car?  If you had a 1951 Parkie collection, would you have it in a car?  I would keep those in a safe or at the very least, locked up in a closet somewhere.  If I went anywhere with them, I'd have one of those movie style metal briefcases with the chained handcuffs and all (maybe a slight exaggeration...slight). 

I hope, for his sake, this guy gets these back.  I have a feeling the thieves don't even know what they are in possession of.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Box Break - - 2010-11 SPx Hockey Hobby


The name itself sends chills down my spine.  Every year, the SPx box at my LCS sits there on the shelf, mocking me.  It laughs hysterically, while thumbing it's proverbial nose in my general direction.  I don't understand it's animosity toward me.  I never did anything to anger it.  I only wanted to love it like a son that I never had (in addition to the 2 that I do have). 

I tell myself every year that I am not going to add the SPx release to my collection because all it does is make me sad.  I have been burned time and time again on higher priced boxes of SPx that produce nothing more than a few minor or no-name star GU cards and a couple autos of long-shot prospects that you'd be hard pressed to find anyone other than their mothers that know their names. 

Now here we are with the 2010-11 release of the product and it's like Groundhog Day.  I stare at it, tell myself it is going to stay up there on the shelf, and end up walking out with it yet again.  But this time, something is different.  This time, I didn't get burned.  This time, I came out victorious as the cardboard gods granted me a reprieve for all the years of abandonment.  (How's that for a dramatic lead in?)

SPx came out back in February and is considered a mid-high end product with boxes ranging in the $100 range.  This years design is actually a bit toned down from the years past with uber use of foil stamping and holofoil printing.  Upper Deck brought back the Shadow Box case hits as well as all the previously popular sets like Flashback Fabrics and the Winning Materials dual and triple jersey cards.  Also this year, the UD Ice brand has been relegated from a standard release to an insert loaded into all the SP products (they will also be in SPGU and SPA). 

Here is the box breakdown:  18 packs per box, 4 cards per pack, 1 bonus pack.  The box should contain 1 Auto Rookie Jersey, 1 regular Rookie jersey, 1 Winning Materials card, 1 Winning Combos card, and a "bonus pack" containing 5 cards; 1 Ice Premier Rookie and 4 Ice base cards.

Here is what I pulled:

I didn't scan any base cards.  You can find shots of those here or here.

First was my regular Rookie Materials card of Alexander Burmistrov.  I have to admit, I had no idea who this guy was when I pulled it.  On the back, it is stated that it is not a game used piece, but one of the dreaded Event-Worn pieces worn at a rookie photo shoot.  AB was drafted 8th overall by Atlanta in last years draft and has played 61 games for the Thrashers this year.  He's got 17 points and 2 game winning goals.  I read on his wiki that his first NHL fight was back in December against John Tavares.

Next up was this nice looking Auto Rookie Materials card of Jordan Caron.  It's a sticker auto but still looks pretty nice on the card.  These are numbered out of 799.  At least I actually knew who Jordan was.  He scored his first NHL goal at the start of this year against Marty Brodeur.  Caron has played in 23 games this year and spent most of the season on the Bruins farm team in Providence.

A nice two-color Winning Materials jersey card of Mark Messier.  It's always nice to pull legendary players as your jersey hits because at least you know they have made something of their careers.  I think this guy was pretty good in his day.

Finally, something to brag about.  This was my Winning Combos (Trios) card featuring Ray Bourque, Zdeno "Stanchion" Chara, and Brad Park.  I'm not a B's fan but I respect their deep history and tradition being one of the original 6.  I have also had an on-again, off-again love/hate relationship with Mr. Bourque there.  I was always a Paul Coffey fan so #77 was already taken in my mind.  Regardless, this is a pretty nice card, numbered /50. 

Here are the three non-Hit cards.  The first is a regular rookie card #/499 of Mark Dekanich of the Nashville Predators.  Mark plays for the Milwaukee Admirals if I'm not mistaken.  The second card is a Legends of Hockey Peter Stastny card numbered out of /999.  Stastny was a 6-time All Star, the first rookie to top 100 points, had 483 career goals, and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Not too shabby.  The third card here sees a return of the SPx Finite cards with Nino Niederreiter.  I've covered him before but you can definitely say he is a big piece to the future of the Islanders.  It's numbered out of 499 also.

I opened the bonus pack at this point and pulled this Ice Premiere card of Matt Kassian of the Minnesota Wild.  These are numbered out of 999 and are printed on Acetate so you can see through them.  These have always been a coveted set since the days of the Crosby and Ovechkin rookies.   The base cards I pulled were also killer with Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Mikko Koivu, and Marc Savard (I think).  I can't seem to find where I put these.

Here is a bonus I wasn't expecting...another Winning Combos card featuring Marc-Andre Fleury and Jean-Sebastian Giguere.  I'm not sure the connection between the two other than the hyphenated first name.  But that's ok.  This card looks awesome and is a great addition to my Penguins PC.  I have never pulled a Fleury jersey from a pack before and this got me pretty fired up. 

Normally, this is where I would end the post giving my synopsis of the box but I had one pack left and it was pretty thick.  Not thinking positively, I figured it was a decoy card and I was ready to be done with the box.  Why tempt fate anticipating something big since I already pulled that nice three swatch Bruins card and the Fleury dual jersey.  I'm glad I didn't so that the impact would be that much greater.

Arguably the greatest card I have ever pulled from a pack.  Alex Ovechkin/Evgeni Malkin Winning Combos Dual Patch card numbered to 15!!!!!!  Perhaps you didn't hear me.  I said, an ALEX OVECHKIN AND EVGENI MALKIN DUAL PATCH!!!  Oh, how the scan doesn't do this card justice.  The patches appear to be from the fronts of the jersey.  The AO patch looks like part of the Capitals logo, possibly the dip between the "a" and "p".  The Geno piece is clearly from either the bottom of the Penguin logo or from the Alternate "A" patch.  It doesn't matter though.  Two Big Hit Malkin's in a row, plus the bonus Fleury jersey made this by far the best SPx box I have ever opened, ever.  This may even be the best box I have ever opened.

After that knockout blow, two of the other five guys in my LCS picked up boxes and didn't nearly find as good of hits in my opinion, although both had an extra dual jersey card.  So if hits are what you want, I would actually recommend a box or two of these. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Sad Tale of Sergei (Bip) Samsonov

I'll be honest here.  I'm not a Sergei Samsonov superfan or anything like that.  Shocking isn't it?

But I digress.  Samsonov was supposed to be one of the biggest prospects to come out of the European leagues back in the early-mid 90s.  He was a phenomenal goal scorer for the Red Army junior team and had garnered the attention of dozens of scouts.

The Bruins drafted Sergei 8th in the 1997 draft (after picking up a guy some of you may have heard of, Jumbo Joe Thornton with the 1st pick).  He made a huge impact in his rookie season with the team and won the Calder.  A few years later, he played in his only All Star game.  After that, you didn't hear much from the Russian phenom.  10 years later, he packed his bags for Florida and his 7th team in 13 years (Boston, Edmonton, Montreal, Chicago, Chicago's AHL affiliate, Carolina, and Florida). 

But that wasn't my purpose for posting this little diatribe.  My point was to find out if there are any other Samsonov fans out there.  If there are, speak up...

Yes, my friends.  Those are 9 Samsonov Game Jersey's in an Oilers uniform and 4 others featuring him as a Bruin.  How does one come to possess this many Sergei's...I have no idea.  I originally scanned 7 of them along with the two Boston ones.  After going through a box of cards (not from the Garage), I found 4 more.  I've been Bipped by Sergei. 

Would anyone like to take a few of these off my hands?  Let me know.

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.