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


The sports trading card landscape saw seismic changes in 2021.

After renewed interest and spending on the hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fanatics made a power play and within a few months was able to get rid of the exclusive licenses from Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association.

Fanatics doesn’t even have a trading card division yet. But they’re building one to launch when the current exclusive deals for Topps and Panini expire, after leaving long-term legacy brands out in the cold and likely looking for solutions in the near future.

Upper Deck was the only so-called mainstream card company that could withstand Fanatics’ push for expansion. Upper Deck and the NHL and NHLPA extended their exclusive deal this week, which sources say lasts for at least five years, eliminating any chance Fanatics will wipe out the big four sports leagues in North America.

“I think for us, I can’t really imagine a world without the NHL and NHLPA in Upper Deck licenses,” said Upper Deck president Jason Masherah. “There was an opportunity with the whole changing landscape to have a conversation and say, ‘How do we really make this thing last and execute our long term vision? “”

Masherah said he has been in discussions with the NHL and NHLPA for a few months about extending the exclusive license. For the league, it was a safe game with a traditional partner.

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