Friday, August 31, 2012

Oh Precious Cardboard! A Review of 2012-13 O-Pee-Chee

It’s getting close to that time of year.  Everyone has a favorite month of the year (yes EVERYONE). Mine is right around the corner.  The month when the leaves change and the nights start to cool off.  Weekends are consumed with football and a little thing called hockey training camp fires up. It’s almost September - a.k.a. my birthday month. And if all goes well, there will be an added surprise to this month as well.  More on that in future posts (I swear there will be future posts!)

For now, however, we’re still in the dog days of summer. After a brief dalliance with cooler weather, Mother Nature has revealed her ornery side once again and slammed Chicago with three straight +90 degree days.  If I had wanted this kind of weather I would have stayed in the TBA (plus I could have bitched about the problems caused by the RNC even if I didn’t set foot in Tampa all week).

So what’s the best way to overcome the lingering heat wave that has the windows closed and the poor, beleaguered AC unit running 24/7 (actually more like 4/7 – electricity ain’t cheap folks!)?  How about a review of this year’s Hopeful Chase Hopeless Set Completion Chase of The Year (Hockey Edition)?  This year’s set is the 2012-13 O-Pee-Chee flagship product. It consists of 600 cards, bunch of short prints, no big hits, random “who the hell is this guy” rookie cards and some shiny, chrome-y, parallels.

Thanks to a $5.00 coupon I saw on the back of a Beckett magazine I placed my order with Dave and Adam’s and received a decent deal on a hobby box ($53.95 after the coupon).  Even with the $9.00 in shipping it was cheaper than the local card shop so I added a few small things to the order and then sat around waiting for UPS to deliver.  Is there anything worse than expecting a package one day and missing the delivery so you have to wait a whole extra day?  Probably things like war, mass mall shootings, unemployment, stepping in a puddle and getting your socks wet, but in the context of the card world, not much.

So after a day’s delay I received the delivery and went to busting some wax.  Here are the results:

Base cards

Sigh. Another box and another whiff on Lecavalier cards. 

The reason I went with O-Pee-Chee instead of Score this year is because of the base design.  The cards are clean with a retro feel to them and Upper Deck finally stopped making the O-Pee-Chee logo so damn big. 
The cards are boarded with a yellowish, cream border AND a thin, white border at the very edge.  It’s not super noticeable upon first glance, but I think they would have been better off removing the white border all together.

There is a nice big photo of the player, the names are easy to read and I’m always a fan of generic silhouettes by the positions. There are no super exciting action shots or unique angles, but that’s not what this set is all about.  It’s mostly about representing a solid portion of each team and driving collectors nuts trying to complete the short print side of the set.

The backs are ho-hum.  Dark grey cardboard and complete career stats.

Short Prints

I forgot to scan them and am too lazy to go back and do it. So you get JesusCat in a box.

 As usual for this set, the last 100 cards are made up of rookies and “Marquee” retired players.  The Marquee legends cards feature the usual crop of stars from the past, along with their career stats on the back.  Always a good way to get younger players in touch with the past.

Having to fill up 50 slots for rookies can lead to the inclusion of a lot of players. This year O-Pee-Chee filled some slots by posting “rookie” cards of some of the players mentioned in the Marquee Legends section.  Therefore you get to see cards showing a young Mario Lemiux or Patrick Roy (quick sidenote – the Duchess opened one pack with a mocking, “if you were on a podcast you’d do this” voice and managed to handle all the other names correctly, but she did refer to St. Patrick as a “good American boy named Patrick ROY” instead of the “WaH” pronunciation.  When I huffily corrected her pronunciation she called me a dork and launched into a fit of giggles that left her crying.  After 8 years I think she finally snapped and temporarily lost her mind).


Can you please get out of Mr. Halak's way? He has a game to  play!

As much as I hate minis (and I DO hate me some minis) I love me some stickers.  Following on the retro theme, this year’s crop of stickers really stand out from the muted base set with the vibrant color scheme.  My only regret, not getting any Blackhawk stickers to stick on newspaper machines downtown.  Odds 1:3 packs. Number of stickers received: 11


Mario in the six seconds he wasn't scoring a point during his younger days.

A parallel set (because, I’m not really sure why they have to do one, but they do) that’s a one per pack insert.  If I did any research at all I would tell you what set these cards are based on.  We don’t do research here at the Hopeful Chase studios.  If you want actual, real hockey card knowledge go to Sal’s place on the web.

What I can say is that I really like these cards for the purpose of Through The Mail or in-person autographs.  The cardboard stock with a clean, white background should let the Sharpie show up nicely on the card.  Since the players are going to be locked out maybe they’ll have more time to sign things. To The Post Office! Odds 1:1 pack. Number received 32.


What is Carey Price thinking about? I bet it's pancakes. Pancakes. Bathgate is thinking about nailing your mom.
Officially I believe these are called “Rainbow Parallel” cards.  To me they’re chrome.  Not much to say about them as they’re just shiner versions of the base cards. I’m sure someone collects them, but not me. Odds 1:4 packs Number Received 8

Different Shiny

I don't even have anything to say about these cards. Yea, serial numbered?

Because collectors like shiny cards that are serial numbered there is also the “Black Border Rainbow Parallel” cards.  Great, another ploy to get me to go on eBay to track down and overpay for Vinny Lecavalier cards.  They are numbered out of 100 with the numbers printed on the back instead of stamped.  No odds on this one, but I did get two in this box.

Pop Ups

OMG PK still doesn't have a contract!!!!

I think these are supposed to resemble the pop up portion of the box that you see in hobby shops selling packs of cards.  They are die-cut inserts with just the name of the player on the back.  No extra information there folks! Odds 1:16 packs.  Number received: 2

Super Extra Case Hit!

Getting a case hit is always exciting.  You feel like you beat the odds and have a card that is really worth something. That worth can be monetary (eBay) or sentimental (something rare of a team or player you collect) or tradable (more better stuff for something you don’t really want).

Getting a case hit in the first pack you open, kind of anti-climatic.  Here it is…..

It doesn't come in a tamper-proof holder. It's just the only one  I had.

Manufactured patch of the Eastern Conference logo.  Umm.  Yea? It’s cool to get a path (even if it’s manufactured specifically for the card), but of a conference logo?  Yeah, that’s not exactly in my wheelhouse. I’ll probably put it up on eBay and see what it fetches just because I don’t think they’ll be a lot of folks clamoring on my door to trade for it.

Wrap up

O-Pee-Chee meets expectations (oooh does that remind you of a work evaluation?) It’s a set designed for set builders and team collectors.  Lots of cards, no big chase cards to drive up the price or endless parallels to drive you insane.

It’s always nice to see a set that includes some extra defensemen or third line centers (Dominic Moore, FTW!) and this product delivers that. The stickers are fun inserts that provides some color in a set that is quite monochromatic.

All in all a solid product at a good price point.

Once I pick up a few more packs (or another box) I’ll post my want list.  The trade bait list will go up shortly (FYI the pop ups are already spoken for).  

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm BACK....Alas Hockey is Not

After months of contentious negotiation I am pleased to announce a new CBA has been reached with the owners of this blog (J-God’s Happyland Travel Company and Bakery Inc.) and production of poorly edited blogposts will resume. While I’m not allowed to announce the financial terms of the deal Darren Rovell reports that there will be a 53/47 split of all blogging-related revenue (estimated to be $0.00) generated by this site and a cap of no more than 4 postings a week with a posting floor of one per week. 

I apologize to the fans of this blog (hi mom!) and promise to do all that is necessary to win back your affection because you are truly the BEST BLOG FANS IN THE WORLD!

Speaking of collective bargaining agreements, it’s looking more like I’ll be having to find a way to spend my nights this fall without the National Hockey League. With less than 3 weeks before the current agreement is set to expire, the owners and the players are at the “cut off meetings early” portion of negotiation.  Soon we’ll see the “take time to explore our options” part, then the “alternative solutions presented” meeting, which leads to the “rumors of a threatened lawsuit by one of the parties”. That should lead to a lot of angry columns and rants on the internet.

Nobody needs to see Vinny in an Ak Bars jersey ever again.
It’ll also set the stage for the “meeting late in the night to resolve the dispute before the self-imposed September 15th deadline” that brings a little hope only to be dashed by the “reports that an agreement couldn't be reached” news.  A couple months of “taking our pucks and going to play in Scandinavia” leads to “talks quietly resume” which finally brings us to “an agreement in place that closely resembles the old deal has been reached in time for the NHL to kick off the season with the Winter Classic (Live on NBC and presented by Bud Light!)”.

So at least there is a process.

I should probably be a little more bent out of shape about the whole thing after all, according to the columnists and shrieking heads on TV, I’m the one who is going to get screwed.  The players will still get paid and the owners will still be part of the 1%.  Yet, you know something, I’ll be ok.  Yeah it sucks that I won’t be able to watch the Lightning play for a few months, but in the grand scheme of things that ain’t too bad.  At least I’m not on the hook for season ticket payments for a season that is going to be shortened (sorry ‘bout that, Link).

Pretty sure second row seats 9 and 10 are Link's.

The last time the players and owners couldn’t play in the same sandbox I held my own personal strike. I forwent hockey for an entire season post-lockout.  No watching, no going to games, no buying of cards. Cut them out of my life.  Guess what, it didn’t change anything.  The only thing that happened is that I lost two seasons of enjoying hockey instead of one.  So this time I’ll wait for them to come to an agreement and then I’ll go back to watching the best game in the world.  Does that make me a mindless sheep? I guess so.  I can live with that. Also, is there a singular from of “sheep”? It just sounds weird.

For the record I’m not on either team’s side.  The owner’s offer was insane, not only are they proposing that the players take a smaller slice of pie (46% compared to the current 57% of revenues) they also want the pie to be smaller by redefining hockey-related revenue. They also want to get rid of those annoying “lifetime” contracts that they’re always so happy to announce when they sign a player to them.  Let’s not even talk about the 10 years of player control before they can enter unrestricted free agency. I’m pretty sure they got together (in a room with wood paneling and many leather bound books) and said, “Let’s throw out so many bad ideas at once that hopefully the players will let a few slip by,”  then went back to drinking brandy and watching polo or whatever rich, white guys do.

By those demands, the player’s counter-offer seems almost reasonable (according to the media), but it’s not. Reducing their share of revenues for three years only to go back to the current split in year four doesn’t solve the problem. It only delays the problem for three years. If the owners don’t like the revenue split now, they’re not going to like it in 2015. 

Increased revenue sharing is a good idea (and may be REALLY interesting in a few years if the US dollar rises in value) but allowing the trading of cap space is a horrendous idea that will further the split of the have’s and the have not’s in the league.  Teams that don’t spend to the cap as it is will use it as a way to keep their payroll down while teams who’ve already spent to the cap will be free to take on more bad contracts that will have them crying poor the following season.

The owner’s plan has a “save us from ourselves” feel to it while the players offer gives off a Pollyannaish “if we give you $500 million in revenue now you’ll agree to doing things the old way, right” naiveté to it. I will give Bettman credit, though. He managed to put an offer out there so incredulous that the players assume the salary cap is a given and aren’t even arguing it.

If we give you $500 million now, you'll give us more money later, right Uncle Gary?

Economics are like kryptonite for me (see my bank account for proof) so I can’t even come up with a plan that makes sense and offer a reasoned argument for it. However, having been through the wringer a few times as a sports fan I can predict that eventually they will come to an understanding that doesn’t drastically change the landscape of the sport.

Gazing into my cracked crystal ball (damn cats) I’m thinking the agreement will look something along the lines of a 52/48 split in revenues in favor of the owners.  There will be an expanded revenue sharing system among the clubs while contracts will be capped at 7 years with the amount of the contract spread evenly over the length of the deal. Unrestricted free agency will start after six years.  

At some point (probably in 2013) the NHL will return.  As a cheap sum’a bitch I hope they try and entice the fans back with a reduced price on NHL Center Ice so I can watch the Lightning games on a decent stream, after all it’s all about me, baby! The players and the owners will pat themselves on the back for coming to an agreement and talk about working hard to show the fans how sorry they were, but it needed to be done “For The Good of the Game”.

I’m sure the league will issue a statement about the fans being THE BEST SPORTS FANS IN THE WORLD and try to sweep all the acrimony under the rug by going out on an all-out media blitz on how exciting the young players in the game are and giving away some cheap plastic trinkets on Fan Appreciation Nights.

I’ll be sure to tune in (no trinkets needed!), because it beats watching basketball and if I’m too lazy to use the time productively (learn a new language? Yeah right). Will others?  Probably. For all of our bluster and feigned outrage the bottom line is that the NHL is the best version of hockey there is and that’s what we want to watch. The league knows it, the players know it.  If they really thought the future of the sport was in jeopardy they would ironed a deal out weeks ago.  In the meantime, hey at least you have this blog to read!

Please sign a deal soon. You do not want this man on the streets with free time. #downieforever