The NHL has the unwanted distinction of being the only North American pro sports league to lose an entire season to a labor dispute. But if any other sport ever experiences a similar situation, it’s hard to imagine they will be able to rebuild their trading card market share in just three seasons.
Hockey cards represented 6 percent of all trading card sales in the hobby last year, according to Card Trade’s annual retailer survey. While it’s still the smallest percentage of the other team sports, it still represents an increase of nearly 50 percent since the year of the NHL lockout.
“We have seen a significant spike in the amount of shops that carry hockey, and the amount of collectors investing in the hockey market over the last three years,” said Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s hobby marketing manager. “This is in direct correlation with the strong performance of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin in 2005-06 and the multitude of great rookie skaters in the last two years. Collectors in the U.S. appreciate rookies who come in and make an immediate impact. Collectors in Canada appreciate rookies, but are also loyal to the sport, their teams and the hockey community as a whole.”
Prior to the lockout, the NHL had four trading card licensees: Upper Deck, Pacific, Topps and In The Game. Once the lockout ended, Upper Deck negotiated another industry rarity – an exclusive licensing agreement. The key to the deal was the promise to be aggressive in promoting the category.
“With Upper Deck managing the product assortment, very well I might add, and together marketing the category via a multimedia campaign – TV, Internet, in arena and at grass roots – the category has increased double digits,” said Dave McCarthy, senior director, hard lines consumer products marketing for NHL Enterprises. “With the changing of the guard and the impactful young players in the NHL, we can continue to grow the business.”