A new set of trading cards featuring Indigenous NHL players will be available only at Indigenous hockey camps and one brick-and-mortar store: First Row Collectibles, owned by Indigenous people in Winnipeg.
Trading card giant Upper Deck’s First Peoples Rookie Card series is a series of eight cards featuring Indigenous former NHL players who have never before appeared on a licensed trading card.
Curtis Howson of First Row Collectibles said the response has been immense as it is the only store in the world to sell the sets, even from the family of former Atlanta Flames forward Victor Mercredi, one of the eight players featured .
“I spoke to Victor Mercredi’s niece today. She called me from Yellowknife,” he said.
“She was just telling me about her uncle and how lucky he is to have a card from himself. I guess he had photos he would autograph of himself but never actual cards. Now he has these cards to sign for his family. “
For former player, head coach, and Jack Adams Award winner Ted Nolan, his first NHL hockey card comes a little later than expected, but the former Buffalo Sabers head coach said he was honored.
“It’s like celebrating your 18th birthday 40 years later,” said Nolan, a member of Ontario’s Garden River First Nation.
“I can finally prove that I actually played in the league.”
Nolan is the patriarch of an NHL family. Sons Brandon and Jordan both played in the NHL, with the latter winning two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
“The big thrill is having a rookie card along with my sons — my son Brandon, who played with the Carolina Hurricanes, and my son Jordan, who obviously played with the Los Angeles Kings, both have their rookie cards , now it’s time to add mine,” he said.
Nolan’s work through hockey continues to this day, running 3 Nolans Hockey School with his sons. Their hockey camps are one of the other places the sets will be available.
The other six players are:
- Jason Simon (Phoenix Coyotes, now Arizona Coyotes and New York Islanders).
- Dan Frawley and William LeCaine (Pittsburgh Penguins).
- Johnny Harms (Chicago).
- Danny Hodgson (Toronto Maple Leafs).
- Rocky Trottier (New Jersey Devils).
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation graphic artist Jacob Alexis designed the set. He said he’s honored to give players and their communities the recognition they deserve.
“I’m very happy for them. It was a great honor and I hope I did them justice,” he said.
“I wanted them to be honored”
Naim Cardinal, a member of the Tallcree First Nation of Kelowna, BC, wrote the players’ stats and biographies on the back of each card.
A few years ago, he was contacted by Upper Deck after mentioning on a Facebook livestream that so many Indigenous players never made it onto the cards.
The maps are published two and a half years later.
“Someone said to me the other day that these players now have hockey cards because they’ve put in so much work,” he said.
“I’m really grateful that people are seeing and acknowledging that now. I wanted them to be honored and do the best job I could.”
There’s no word on a second set of First Peoples rookie cards, but Ted Nolan said that type of representation is key to success for Indigenous peoples.
“Seeing players who looked like me opened the door for three Garden River First Nation men to play in the NHL,” he said.
“By acknowledging me, we acknowledge our people.”