For most young hockey players, having your photo on a hockey card is only a dream. For 27 prospects it came true on Monday.
For most young hockey players, having your photo on a hockey card is only a dream. But for the 27 promising prospects that gathered at the NHL Player Association’s rookie showcase in Toronto on Monday, it’s one that just came true.
“I remember when I was younger going to the store and buying [cards] with my dad,” said Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect taken third overall pick in the 2016 draft. “It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
The event, now in its eighth year, sees young prospects and rookies, such as Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov and Phoenix’s Lawson Crouse, pose for photos and sign autographs to be used on Upper Deck trading cards that will be sold during their rookie seasons.
Islanders’ prospect Matt Barzal, taken No. 16 in the 2015 draft, was a hopeful kid with a large collection of cards. The Vancouver-born center said he had over 2,000 of them.
“I was big into it,” Barzal said. “Its really cool knowing one day I can be on a card.”
Crouse, the left winger recently traded from the Panthers to the Coyotes, said he remembers collecting packs when he was young hoping to find a Sidney Crosby rookie card inside.
“Hopefully down the road young kids are looking forward to finding one of our cards in their pack,” Crouse said.
Dubois and sixth overall pick Matthew Tkachuk of the Flames were the only 2016 draft picks in attendance as a result of upcoming rookie camps, and top-two picks Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine preparing for the upcoming World Cup.
Martin McQuaig, manager of retail licensing at the NHLPA, said the main goal of the event is to get as many players together at once to get their signatures on cards to be included in Upper Deck packs.
“Once the season starts, things get really hectic with players’ schedules,” McQuaig said. “This makes it easier for fans because they don’t have to track down players to get their autographs.”
However, McQuaig said the showcase is just as much about the players as it is the fans.
“A lot of these players collected hockey cards when they were kids, so as much as some of them they might act like it’s not that big of a deal, it’s recognition of years of their hard work,” he said.
He added that once the players are decked out in NHL gear, they start to feel how close they are to playing among some of hockey’s greatest stars.