By Jeremy Appel
(ANNews) – Leading trading card manufacturer Upper Deck has released a “First Peoples Rookie Card Set,” featuring eight Indigenous hockey players who have yet to be featured on hockey cards.
The eight-card set, which was released Jan. 13, is only available at 3Nolans First Nation Hockey School, Hockey Indigenous Development Camp and the Indigenous-owned hobby store First Row Collectibles in Winnipeg, according to a news release from Upper Deck.
The cards were also distributed at games where Indigenous NHL alumni played in different Indigenous communities, such as St. Paul and Tallcree First Nation, on Jan. 13 and 15.
They will be handed out again at the Mushkegowuk Cup, an annual minor hockey tournament that brings together First Nations teams and fans, from Feb. 17 to 19, and the Little Native Hockey League Tournament from March 13-18.
Jacob Alexis, an Indigenous artist from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation in Alberta, designed the cards, and Tallcree band member and Indigenous card collector Naim Cardinal wrote the information on their backs.
The set features rookie cards for Dan Frawley of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Johnny Harms of the Chicago Blackhawks, Danny Hodgson of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Victor Mercredi of the Atlanta Flames, Rocky Trottier of the New Jersey Devils, William LeCaine of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ted Nolan of the Detroit Red Wings, and Jason Simon of the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I’m honoured to work with Upper Deck to help shine a spotlight on Indigenous hockey legends and be a part of bringing these cards to life,” Cardinal told Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation.
Upper Deck contacted Cardinal, who resides in Kelowna, B.C., a few years ago about collaborating on this project after a Facebook livestream where Cardinal mentioned how there are no hockey cards of Indigenous NHL players, CBC reported.
He told the public broadcaster he is enthusiastic about “bringing attention to the careers of all of the hockey players in the set.”
Upper Deck president Jason Masherah said it was “paramount” that Indigenous people be involved in the cards’ creation at every step of the process.
“We really focused on creating a set that is for the community, by the community… that would positively reflect their community,” Upper Deck senior marketing manager Paul Nguyen told The Hockey News.
Ted Nolan, who in addition to the Red Wings played for the Penguins and coached the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders, told the CBC he was inspired by other Indigenous players who played before him “because they looked like me.”
“I’m hoping with the same process here I can inspire some kid in northern Ontario, sitting on a small reserve” who has NHL ambitions, Nolan added.
“And they look at this card and say, ‘Man, if that little skinny Ojibwe kid from Garden River First Nation could make it, maybe I have a chance too.’”
In an interview with Sportsnet, Nolan likened seeing the card to “somebody calling you 40 years after your 18th birthday and saying, ‘Hey, you’re turning 18.’”
“We had a lot of our elders and a lot of our chiefs that showed the way for us, and especially the survivors of the residential schools and how hard they fought to maintain who we are,” he added.
“I’m just another part of that, trying to build on that legacy of our forefathers and make the next generation even stronger than this generation.”
Nolan’s sons also played in the NHL. His eldest son, Brandon, played for the Carolina Hurricanes and his youngest son, Jordan, played with the Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues, winning the Stanley Cup twice.
“To have a card with my two sons, where Jordan has his rookie card, Brandon has his rookie card, and now I have a rookie card — even though it’s 40 years later — to have a rookie card with them is special,” Nolan told CTV News.
Jason Simon, who played five games for the Coyotes in the 1990s, got emotional when he saw his card for the first time.
“You know, really, it’s just a card, right? But for that little boy inside me, it meant so much,” he told the CBC.
Those interested can view the cards and find out about any additional opportunities to take home a pack at upperdeckblog.com.
Jeremy Appel is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.