Upper Deck continues to bet big on the NHL in rapidly changing card universe – The Athletic

The sports trading card landscape went through seismic changes in 2021.

Fresh off a renewed interest, and spending, on the hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fanatics made a power play and over the course of a couple months was able to wrestle away the exclusive licenses for Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association.

Fanatics doesn’t even have a trading card division yet. But they are building one that will launch when the current exclusive deals for Topps and Panini expire, having left to of the long-term legacy brands out in the cold and likely scrambling for solutions in the near future.

Upper Deck was the lone so-called traditional card company that was able to withstand the expansion push by Fanatics. Upper Deck and the NHL and NHLPA extended their exclusive deal this week, which according to sources is at least five years in length, killing off any chance of Fanatics making it a clean sweep of the four major sports leagues in North America.

“I think for us, I can’t really picture a world without the NHL and NHLPA within the Upper Deck licenses,” said Upper Deck president Jason Masherah. “There became an opportunity with all the changing landscape to have a conversation and say, ‘how do we make this thing really last and execute our long-range vision?’”

Masherah said he’d been speaking with the NHL and NHLPA for a couple of months about extending the exclusive license. For the league, it was a safe play with a traditional partner.

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