Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cardboard immortality: A visual history of women’s hockey cards (Regional pride)

While the 1997-98 Collector’s Choice series marked the first time that women’s hockey cards were produced by Upper Deck (in line with the Nagano Winter Games), many fans had assumed that the company would repeat the feat for the Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002. Unfortunately, other companies such as Fleer and Topps failed to issue any women’s hockey cards either.
Despite the absence of product, there were some regional issues that appeased fans. In anticipation of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, a set of cards featuring the women of the US National Team was issued. Produced by HSJ Incorporated, Gerry Thomas was the photographer for all the images in the set.
For many of the women on the US team, it would mark their first appearance on cardboard. Some of the notable players included Julie Chu (the first woman to win three consecutive Clarkson Cups) and Natalie Darwitz (the NCAA record holder for most points in one season). The one notable omission was head coach Ben Smith.
Two years later, the Chronicle Herald, a newspaper based out of Halifax issued some women’s hockey cards. As the Maritime city hosted the 2004 IIHF Women’s World Championships, a 22-card set was printed by the paper and featured in one of their daily editions. It marked the first time that players such as Delaney Collins, Colleen Sostorics and Gillian Ferrari appeared on cardboard.
For collectors, these cards are classified as regional issues, meaning that only people in a certain area (in this case, Nova Scotia) were able to acquire them firsthand. While the cards occasionally go for sale via online auction houses, its scarcity makes them unknown among the more casual collector.
When one looks at the hairstyles that some of the ladies had on these regional issues (not to mention how much younger many of them were), it does create an opportunity to reflect with a bit of humor. It is similar to baseball card collectors who look back on Oscar Gamble’s Topps card (when he played with the New York Yankees). His afro was so large that his baseball cap could hardly fit; creating a card that holds great sentimental value for many fans of the era.
For many women’s hockey collectors, the regional issues of 2002 and 2004 hold with it an equal sentimental value. Helping to bridge the gap between Collectors Choice and the presence of In the Game in 2007, these regional issues are bound to earn their overdue respect among collectors in the near future.

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