Friday, December 16, 2011


Well, this is it! Today is my last day of work for 2011.

Since the start of June, it has been one massive push, hitting deadline after deadline along the way. With just a couple last puzzle pieces to put in place today, I can walk away knowing that the book will be shut on 2011. I'm looking forward to the new year in the sense that it will be a fresh, empty book that we will start with (and will quickly be added to).

Anyways, sorry for the lack of posts of late. I thought this week would be a little kinder to me, but not so. In addition to work (and some Christmas shopping), I had a fun time dealing with a broken furnace. Although the temperature wasn't -30 degrees Celsius, even at -10, it got mighty cold in the home. Not fun.

Alright......on to some card talk.

I was over at my mom's place this past week for dinner and for the first time ever, she brought up the topic of hockey cards.

"So, did you hear about the new cards coming out with fighters in blood?"

I knew right there that this product will be unlike any released in the past. Ever.

For those living under a rock (or who haven't watched the news in Canada), In The Game, who have produced products like Between The Pipes, Heroes & Prospects, Decades and my favorite Ultimate Memorabilia, are about to release its newest creation - Enforcers.

NOTE: I'm going to be doing a lot of linking so you can see the product and hear the reactions first hand as opposed to getting the 'Coles Notes' version from me (I'll just be supplying my opinion).

I was first made aware of the 'Enforcers' product back at the Toronto Expo a little over a month ago (before the media storm). My first impression was "Cool. I like the concept." Much like a goalie-only product or capturing a moment in time, this release hits a niche market interested in the fighting, enforcer, goon, battler, scrapper aspect of hockey.

Knowing that Trevor Linden would not be making an appearance in this release (the guy just did not fair well when dropping the gloves), I didn't take a super close look at what the set had to offer.

That said, the press sheet and card mock-ups really impressed me. I liked the looks and designs of the cards and knew that it would be yet another popular release.

But I don't think even In The Game thought it would become this popular...

CTV news story

CBC news story

Puck Daddy blog

Slam Hockey story

In a nutshell, the 'Enforcers' product has created a media firestorm.

I don't believe it's really even about the fact that the product celebrates the role the enforcer plays on a team. I don't believe it's about the 'glorification' of fighting in hockey. I don't believe it's about the player selection for the checklist.

To me, it all has come down to the design of some of the cards.

It seems that some (Georges Laraque being one) are not happy with the 'blood splatter' background on the cards. To me, that 'some' is a very small percentage of people who the product is geared towards.

When I look at the cards, I don't see the 'blood splatter' first. I see the player photo, the autograph or jersey insert and then the overall card design. Sure, I realize that there is that 'blood splatter' look on the card, but it doesn't shoot out at me like it does to some others.

What's really disappointed me is that a lot of news stories have been getting the reaction from the general public and it's no surprise that a lot of them have a problem with it. But this product isn't geared towards them at all. I have no doubt that a lot of the people questioned have never set foot in a card shop or have opened a pack.

The reaction presented on the news is a stark contrast to the reaction on the hobby boards that I participate in. On there, the reaction was a much more positive one. People were excited for the product's release. People were thrilled to see a dedicated enforcer set to collect.

Instantly, I thought of two things - niche market and product knowledge.

Hence, it came as no surprise when my mom took the opposite side of the argument to me when discussing the cards. I think it changed slightly when I gave her my take.

My mom also talked about how the product is showing some bad timing when it comes to its release. Over the summer there have been some high-profile deaths to some of the NHL's recent enforcers. In addition, there have been some stories on research done on Derek Boogaard's brain.

National Post story

CBC story

I see the timing as more coincidental. I have no doubt in my mind that the concept and initial production steps happened way before the events this past summer. Hockey card products just don't 'spring up' out of nowhere in a couple months.

For those who do not approve of this set's timing, would there ever be a 'right time' to release a product like this. Probably not.

The one aspect of this story that I feel most uneasy about is when I hear the Belak family's response. Wade Belak (an NHL enforcer who killed himself over the summer) is included in the product. Again, this decision would have been made before his death. Hearing the reaction from Wade's mom leaves me on the fence when it comes to how In The Game should react.

You can hear some of the interview with Belak's mom on the CBC page linked above. There is a Georges Laraque interview that plays some of audio.

Clearly the product's release is something that the Belak family is not happy with. I can't help but think though "Would her reaction be the same if Wade was alive today?" 'Would her reaction be the same if there wasn't the numerous media stories on this 'Enforcers' product and fighting in general in the NHL?"

Part of me sees the Wade Belak inclusion to the 'Enforcers' product as a tribute. I know for a fact that there are numerous collectors who are thrilled to see him as a part of the checklist. Part of me also sees that it might be best to pull the card from the product out of respect to the Belak family.

Georges Laraque also wants his card pulled from the product (or at least re-designed, removing the blood).

With the product slated for release in less than a month, I don't see that happening. Dr. Brian Price, President of In The Game recently said that it won't regarding the Laraque request.

Beckett Media story

I am glad to see that there is some representation of In The Game's side of the story when it comes to this release. I don't feel like there has been enough of it though in the mainstream media. I think it is important to get both sides of a story before coming to a conclusion or creating an opinion.

Just yesterday, Dr. Price was involved in a chatroom talk on the hobby boards I go to often. While I was not able to participate or even listen to, I have heard that a transcript of the event will be made available in the near future. I look forward to reading it. I think it will give me a very strong insight when it comes to the position In The Game has on the whole situation.

Ultimately, the product is one that I support. I have enjoyed the past releases from In The Game and see this series as a tribute to the 'tough guys'. I have no doubt that the 'Enforcers' set will be hugely successful (in part to the numerous news stories presented).

My March, this topic will pass right on by. Much like all the other previous hockey card releases.

Sorry for the long post....and I didn't even introduce the angle of "the influence of the card's blood design on kids". Ooops...I guess I just did.

So, where do you stand on the 'Enforcers' product?

What are your thoughts to the press given to the cards?


  1. I am very much FOR this product and can't wait for it to come out. In fact, I may actually buy my very first box of ITG stuff because of Enforcers.

    The timing is, indeed, unfortunate and I understand the position of the Belak family. Laraque, on the other hand, I'm a little confused about. I guess I get his objection to the blood or whatever, but really, it is something went with his role. If fans didn't like fighting, then the NHL would make a real effort to get rid of it (instead of their regular, we don't condone it/we don't condemn is stance). And if fighting was all bu nixed, a guy like Laraque would probably never have sniffed the NHL.

    My biggest takeaway on this is that the autos are stickers, which I had suspected but couldn't find definitive proof. The fact that Laraque objects to the blood splatter means that he didn't see the cards his signature would appear on. I wonder if this was a premeditated decision by ITG. I wonder how many of these tough guys would have signed the actual card if they had seen the design? Instead, they just sign a sheet of stickers and PRESTO!

    Sorry, this is sort of rambling/incoherent now.

  2.'re not rambling at all.

    And you bring up a very good point about the sticker autos.

    I don't think that it is premeditated by ITG. I think it is a much used option by all card companies these days.

    I think it allows autograph cards to be produced faster (and for multiple sets) by getting stickers signed.

    And ITG's policy has always been that there would be no redemption cards made. If they don't have the signatures in time to make the cards, that person does not go on the checklist.

    Thanks for your input.

  3. Mr Belak's inclusion aside, has any of these people read a comic book lately? Or watched their kids favourite cartoon?
    The amount of bloodshed and worse is far more prevalent in mediums far more accessible than an $89 pack of hockey cards.

    People need to calm the heck down. There are far more greater atrocities our news programs could be focusing on at this time of year than the world of hockey cards.

    That said, with the amount of Lyle Odelein and Chris Nilan cards in this set, my wallet may be in for a rough time.

  4. It is nice to see an article written from the card collector's perspective.

    We make our cards for collectors. We don't sell them retail at Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, K-Mart, Target and Costco. We sell them to hobby stores.

    We feel that these are the kind of cards collectors want in this category - The Enforcers.

    Our Hall of Fame product, Enshrined had a completely different design that reflected Hall of Famers.

    The blood effect on the cards goes along with the job these players had in hockey. These players are as popular with the fans as the goal scorers, that says something.

    How many goals would Gretzky have scored without Semenko and McSorley.

    Thanks again for bringing out both sides in your well-written article.

    Dr. Brian H. Price
    In The Game, Inc.

  5. I think people are making a story out of nothing. This product is not even controversy worthy. It's freakin hockey cards, it's not the end of the world. Also if you're scared of how this will affect your children and their view of the game think of this: like Cap'n said it's 89 bucks for like 12 cards. What 10 year old will fork out that cash alone. And if you're the one that buys this product for your kid, then you're the stupid one in this situation.

    This also made me laugh:

    Fighting and the other dirty nonsense is the reason I turned the game off and my kids will never play it.

    HAHA!! Grow a pair!

    Maybe it's just me, but I don't like another controversy surrounding my sport. Guys that don't like the little violence that is left in the game (compared to the 60's, 70's etc) shouldn't hold their kids back from the sport.

  6. Looking forward to it.
    Although I do see the blood splatter as sort of gimmicky. ITG had to know that it might cause a stir, one they have probably welcomed. This will be a hot product once it is released.
    What would have been cool if they did some sportflics cards, so you could rotate the card and watch the fighters punch each other.

  7. It's clear to see from the comments that this product is definitely creating some talk.

    Thanks very much everyone for the comments and for taking the time to read my post. And a special thank you to Dr. Price. I appreciate your input and your kind words.

  8. Many of the objections are unreasonable. The biggest objection has been that it 'glorifies violence'.

    However, Fighting and Enforcers are a big part of the game - and it is condoned by the NHL. This set of hockey cards is just a reflection of the game in its current state.

    If people are against fighting, they need to lobby the NHL to do something about the current issue. A set of cards created for hockey fans will have zero effect on the game itself.

    -Anonymous Paul-