Upper Deck to honor Indigenous hockey players who have never had rookie cards

The Upper Deck Trading Card company made recent headlines by unveiling their plan to come out with cards honoring those lesser known Indigenous NHL players, who have never experienced the thrill of having a rookie card.

Unlike traditional packs, these Indigenous cards will be made available at Aboriginal hockey tournaments taking place all over North America and various organizations.

Upper Deck’s Chris Carlin was joined by a special guest Naim Cardinal, who was the engineer behind this project, officially announced in early September on the You Tube show “Sports Cards Live.”

Cardinal, who represents Tallcree First Nation in Alberta, has a strong passion for Indigenous hockey cards, as he began back in 2014 collecting and preserving Indigenous rookie cards.

On the ‘Sports Cards Live’ You Tube show, when discussing the project, Cardinal also talked about his collection as he stated,

“That’s the way I stayed connected to my heroes.”

Carlin’s first step in this Indigenous hockey card project was to reach out and contact Cardinal, before putting together an advisory committee for the First Peoples Rookie Card program, consisting of those involved within the Indigenous hockey community.

“(We decided) if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right,” Carlin said. “Let’s involve Indigenous people from every aspect, from the checklist (of players included) to the design, to the card backs. And that’s what we started doing.”

A major challenge for the adversary panel has been tracking down these featured players or family members to get more information for their featured card. With some of these indigenous players, their time in the NHL goes back many decades ago.

“It has been a lot of hard work, but it’s really worth it,” Cardinal said. “Sometimes they feel like they’re forgotten about. Their career has been over for so long and they never got a hockey card. For us to remember them this way, it’s such a huge honour.”

Showing his strong devotion towards Indigenous hockey cards, Cardinal has constructed a website which displays his collection of approximately 90 current and past Indigenous hockey heroes. A prototype card has been made which showcases a special logo created by Nakota Sioux artist Jacob Alexis from the Alexis First Nation. This logo consists of a maple leaf constructed by eagle feathers, and containing nods to the original Mi’kmaq hockey sticks from the 1800’s, and lightning to honour the Thunder Beings and water as the crucial element for hockey, since it’s most needed for making the ice.

“I keep thinking about those little kids opening up those packs of cards and seeing themselves in those players from the past,” Carlin said. “For the former players to be acknowledged this way, that’s so worth it to me. That’s who I do it for.”

Currently, a release date hasn’t been made official, but Carlin is aiming for sometime in the 2021 calendar year.

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