A new set of trading cards featuring Indigenous NHLers will only be available at Indigenous hockey camps and at one brick-and-mortar store: Indigenous-owned First Row Collectibles in Winnipeg.
The First Peoples Rookie Card series is an eight-card set by trading card giant Upper Deck featuring former Indigenous NHLers who have never before appeared on a licensed trading card.
Being the only store in the world distributing the sets, Curtis Howson of First Row Collectibles said the response was overwhelming, even from the family of former Atlanta Flames forward Victor Mercredi, one of the eight players which was visible.
“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 happy he is to have a card of himself. I think he had photos that he would sign of himself, but he didn’t have any actual cards. Now these cards him 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 is very honored.
“It’s like celebrating your 18th birthday all over again, 40 years later,” said Nolan, a member of the Garden River First Nation in Ontario.
“I can finally show proof that I was, in fact, playing in the league.”
Nolan is the patriarch of the NHL family. Sons Brandon and Jordan both played in the NHL and the latter won the Stanley Cup twice as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.
“The thrill is having a rookie card with my sons – my son Brandon, who played for the Carolina Hurricanes and my son Jordan, who obviously played for the Los Angeles Lakers, have their rookie cards. Angeles Kings, two, now it’s time to add. with me,” he said.
Nolan continues his hockey work to this day, running Nolans 3 Hockey School with his sons. Their hockey camps are one of the other places where 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).
The set was designed by Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation graphic artist Jacob Alexis. He said he was honored to give the 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 honoured’
Naim Cardinal, a member of the Tallcree First Nation who lives in Kelowna, BC, wrote the stats and biographies for the players on the back of each card.
A few years ago Upper Deck contacted him after he mentioned on a Facebook live stream that so many Native players on cards never made it.
Two and a half years later the cards are issued.
“Someone said to me the other day that these players now have hockey cards because of all this work that’s been done,” he said.
“I’m really grateful for that, for people to see that now and recognize that. I wanted them to be honored and do the best job I could.”
There is no word on the second set of First Nations Rookie Cards but Ted Nolan said this type of representation is the key to the Natives’ success.
“He opened the door for three guys from Garden River First Nation to play in the NHL when he saw players that looked like me,” he said.
“By acknowledging me, we are acknowledging our people.”