By Kevin Glew
It’s not a stretch to say that the 2005 rookie crop saved the NHL collectibles industry, and perhaps the league itself. Led by puck prodigy Sidney Crosby, this freshmen group re-energized hobbyists in wake of the NHL lockout.
“The 2005-06 rookie crop definitely rejuvenated the market. There were so many guys in so many markets, whether it was Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers or Dion Phaneuf in Calgary or Mike Richards in Philadelphia, there just seemed to be so many different rookies to collect,” said Glen Humenik, manager of Legends of the Game in Toronto.
So how many players from this rookie class remain in demand? What other young stars have cash registers ringing? Several hobby shops and memorabilia companies were asked these questions, and here’s a list of the top-10 names they provided:
1 Sidney Crosby
Pittsburgh Penguins • Age 21
Despite an ankle injury that shelved him for 29 games last season, Crosby returned to lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. The high-scoring Nova Scotia native continues to be the face of the NHL and the cream of the hobby crop.
“Crosby is still No. 1. If I can’t sell Crosby, I may as well burn the joint down,” said Kelvin Roemer, owner of Kard Sharks in Regina, Saskatchewan.
“I don’t think there is one thing that we couldn’t sell of Sidney Crosby,” said Wayne Wagner, who operates Wayne’s Sports Cards & Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta.
Brian Ehrenworth, whose company, Frameworth Sports Marketing, boasts an exclusive autograph contract with Crosby, says collectors can’t get enough of “Sid The Kid.”
“There’s not a star in the league – past or present, I don’t think – that can come close to what Crosby is doing in sales and interest level,” he said.
Crosby items are also popular in Steeltown. R.J. Kowalski, owner of Greentree Sports Cards in Pittsburgh, says that Crosby is a top seller at his store.
Key Rookie Card: 2005-06 UD The Cup Patch/Auto (/99) #180 – $5,000.
2 Alexander Ovechkin
Washington Capitals • Age 23
Though off to a slow start this season, Ovechkin is one of the league’s most charismatic stars. Coming off a 65-goal, MVP season, the happy-go-lucky Russian celebrates each goal like it’s his first.
David Miller, owner of Triple Threat Cards in Alexandria, Va., says Ovechkin singles have sold well for him.
“Ovechkin was the No. 1 seller in hockey cards last year,” he said.
In December, Hersh Borenstein, president of Frozen Pond Inc. in Toronto, will hold his fifth autograph signing with Ovechkin.
“He’s phenomenal for hockey. I had him in the store in November of his rookie year. He was already a quasi-star then and we had a good appearance. Then we had him in March that season and by then, he was a bona fide superstar, and we had one of our greatest signings ever. I think there were 1,300 people that came,” he said.
Key Rookie Card: 2005-06 UD The Cup Patch/Auto (/99) #179 – $3,500.
3 Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens • Age 21
It’s not easy tending goal for the NHL’s most storied franchise, but Price has handled the pressure remarkably well. The face of the franchise in its 100th season, the young netminder has a rabid hobby following.
Alan Pearson, of Raxan Collectibles in Kirkland, Que., says that Price outsells Crosby and Ovechkin at his store.
“We have Carey Price puzzles, pucks, mini-sticks and cards – all different kinds of things. They pretty much sell as soon as we get them,” he said.
Key Rookie Card: 2007-08 UD The Cup Patch/Auto (/99) #189 – $2,000.
4 Patrick Kane
Chicago Blackhawks • Age 19
After tallying 72 points last season, Kane was named the NHL’s top rookie.
“There’s a lot of interest in both (Jonathan) Toews and Kane cards – the two rookies from last year – without a doubt,” said John Merkel, owner of Elite Sports Cards and Comics in Chicago.
Ehrenworth, who has inked Kane and Toews to exclusive autograph contracts, receives calls from all over North America for Kane autographed memorabilia.
“Kane and Toews transcend their marketplace. Here are two guys that the team themselves, built their marketing strategy around,” he said.
Key Rookie Card: 2007-08 UD The Cup Patch/Auto (/99) #185- $1,200.
5 Jonathan Toews
Chicago Blackhawks • Age 20
Already a hero in Canada for his performance at the 2007 World Championships, Toews, who bulged the twine 24 times last year, notched a jaw-dropping goal on Oct. 19 last season that has become a YouTube favorite (search for “Jonathan Toews goal” on YouTube).
“People watch the highlights, and it affects sales almost immediately,” said Ehrenworth.
Key Rookie Card: 2007-08 UD The Cup Patch/Auto (/99) #190- $1,500.
6 Evgeni Malkin
Pittsburgh Penguins • Age 22
When Crosby was sidelined last year, Malkin took center stage, registering 47 goals and 106 points. In the process, his name leapt onto the hobby hot lists.
Ehrenworth, who also has an exclusive autograph deal with Malkin, had trouble keeping up with the demand for the young Russian’s items last year.
“When he took off, his schedule got so busy, that we had way too little product on board and we ran short,” he said.
Key Rookie Card: 2006-07 UD The Cup Patch/Auto (/99) #171 – $1,800.
7 Dion Phaneuf
Calgary Flames • Age 23
Renowned for his bone-jarring body checks, this rugged defenseman can also put the puck in the net. He posted 17 or more goals in each of his first three NHL seasons.
“Very few defenseman pop up and become as popular in the hobby as Dion Phaneuf. We’ve had some good defenseman come up, but no defenseman has garnered more attention than Phaneuf,” said Wagner.
Borenstein has hosted three successful signings with Phaneuf.
“He sells phenomenally. Alberta is the best market in hockey,” he said.
Key Rookie Card: 2005-06 UD The Cup Patch/Auto (/99) #178 – $1,000.
8 Steven Stamkos
Tampa Bay Lightning • Age 18
The first pick in the 2008 NHL draft cracked the Lightning lineup out of training camp. Initially used sparingly, Stamkos is now seeing significant power play time alongside Vincent Lecavalier.
The first non-redemption, a NHL Stamkos card will be released in November in Upper Deck Series One, confirms Upper Deck spokesperson Chris Carlin.
“There are a lot of guys asking for him, and they want his cards in the pack,” said Roemer.
Ehrenworth, has inked Stamkos to an exclusive autograph deal, says the No. 1 pick’s autographed pictures and jerseys are selling well.
“We anticipated he would do very well, primarily because he’s a Toronto-based boy. This market has their eye on him and obviously, the Southern Ontario market is the strongest market in our industry for hockey,” he said.
Key Rookie Card: TBD
9 Luke Schenn
Toronto Maple Leafs • Age 19
Starring in the world’s largest hockey market, Schenn has been one of the Leafs steadiest defenseman this season. Like Stamkos, he will make his non-redemption debut in Upper Deck Series One this November.
“He’s the first kid to come along in the Leafs organization in a long time that gives people a little bit of hope. It’s like Wendel Clark in the ’80s, really. We’ve been able to get in photos and some autographed stuff, and that’s just flying out of here. But people are quite anxious to get some rookie cards,” said Humenik.
Key Rookie Card: TBD
10 Marc-Andre Fleury
Pittsburgh Penguins • Age 23
Signed to a long-term deal in the offseason, this young netminder will be a cornerstone of the Pens for the foreseeable future.
“His stuff sells phenomenally. He is the most charismatic guy you’ll ever meet,” said Borenstein, who has hosted Fleury for a number of signings.
Key Rookie Card: 2003-04 SP Authentic Auto (/900) #153 – $100.