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A Weekend to Remember in Montreal

A Weekend to Remember in Montreal

Owning and operating a hockey card store is a full-time job and can have a lot of demands. It also has a lot of great opportunities to connect with people across the country who also share a deep love and appreciation for the game of hockey. Once in a while you get the chance to visit some of the great hockey cities, meet with old friends, and experience first-hand the game in all of its true glory. Earlier in February, Players Choice owner Jason Wobshall got to do a little bit of everything in Montreal. A trip to the home of hockey’s most storied franchise allowed Jason to pick up some amazing new items for the store, connect with some fellow collectors, take in a Habs-Leafs game, and catch up with two very special friends of the shop.

As ever, a winter day in Montreal is a lot different from Kelowna. While our fair city gets a little glimpse of harsh weather from time to time, a major snowfall in Montreal is on a very different level. There was enough snow out that people were literally digging out their vehicles in the morning, but it never had an impact on the fans at the Bell Centre. More about that later…

The first order of business on the trip was to meet up with Yvan Cournoyer, one of the game’s all-time great players and winner of 10 Stanley Cup with the Canadiens during his storied career. Long-time supporters of the store will have fond memories of meeting the Roadrunner when he came to visit Players Choice in 2015 for an autograph session and meet & greet. He was as gracious as ever in spending several hours with Jason and other shop owners reminiscing, sharing stories, and even gifting Jason with a new bottle of aged whisky that now sits in one of the store’s display cases…oh, and a pair of tickets for a Saturday night game at the Bell Centre between the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs.

From there, Jason met up with an old friend for a special tour of the old Montreal Forum. For those who don’t know, since the Canadiens moved to the Bell Centre in 1996, the Forum has been converted into a shopping mall complete with a theatre, restaurants and one of the city’s most renowned card stores, Robert Girard Sports. Through all the changes and renovations, the old spot that used to serve as Centre Ice for Canadiens home games remains intact, a fitting tribute for fans who make the trek to visit the storied old arena.

Saturday night. Hockey Night in Canada. The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. For anybody who has ever been a hockey fan, you know how special these nights are. While the rivalry of years gone by isn’t what it was, and the two teams haven’t met in the playoffs since 1979, these games are still very special, and Jason’s experience was definitely a memorable one. In addition to attending with tickets from Mr. Cournoyer, Jason also had the rare privilege to visit the Canadiens Alumni Room. He rubbed shoulders with the likes of Vincent Damphousse, Rejean Houle, along with another old friend of the store, Bobby Hull, who was there as a special guest of Mme. Elise Beliveau. This is “the room that Jean built” as it was Mr. Beliveau’s initiative to have a special location for the Canadiens retired players to visit during the games. While in the room, Jason got to see the famous torch that was present at the closing of the Montreal Forum and gets occasionally brought out for special ceremonies.  Watch the full closing ceremony from the Forum here (including the 9-minute ovation for The Rocket).


In addition to enjoying the Alumni Room, Jason also got to run into one of hockey’s most recognizable mascots, Youppi!, during the intermission. That’s a photo opportunity you can’t pass up, because you never know when you’ll get another chance!

The game itself had a thrilling finish. The two teams were deadlocked at 1-1 after 60 minutes, and overtime was necessary to settle the score. After a great save by Carey Price on John Tavares, Canadiens rookie sensation Nick Suzuki (we will have his Young Guns rookies in stock very soon!) went in on a breakaway to have a chance to win the game. Leafs goalie Jack Campbell poked the puck away at the last moment, but it ended up right on the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk, who buried it into the back of the net, sending the Bell Centre into pandemonium. It’s been a tough season for the Habs, but this moment is a real highlight of the year for the team and its fans.

There was a lot of fun to be had in Montreal that weekend, but there was also some business taking place during this trip. Jason returned to Kelowna with a handful of new items for the store and for some of the collectors who frequent Players Choice. Some of these items will be going into private collections, but we can share some pictures of some of the great pieces that were acquired. Collectors who were in the store during National Hockey Card Day would have seen Jason wearing a new ring. That piece of jewelry belonged to Lorne “Gump” Worsley, and was his Hall of Fame induction ring.

In addition to that exceptional piece, Jason also came back with a true treasure of hockey history: Maurice Richard’s rookie contract with the Canadiens. This item is going into a personal collection, but we have a couple of neat details about the Rocket’s original deal. He was to receive $7,500 per year for a 2-year deal, and it also came with some bonuses if the Habs finished in 1st or 2nd in the League those years. The other big detail was that if Richard scored 15 goals in a season he would receive a $250 bonus plus $25 for each additional goal. The Canadiens had to pay up in 1943-44 as the young Rocket scored 32 goals that season for a total bonus of $675. This piece will definitely be treasured by the Habs fan who owns this for many years to come.

There are a few other items that we’ll be sharing with collectors in store in the weeks ahead. Come to the store to check them out!

What is a True Rookie Card?

What is a True Rookie Card?

What is a True Rookie Card?

Richard McAdam

Richard is on the Okanagan College team of employees. When he is not volunteering his time to non-profits around Kelowna, you might find him at Players Choice Sports. On Twitter: https://twitter.com/realrgm81

One of the most common questions we get has to do with rookie cards. Because rookies are so collectible and so desirable for fans, the card companies will produce all sorts of cards in a player’s first season on the ice—usually a player will have more cards made in his rookie year than in any other season of his career. This is a long way from how things used to be back in the day, when a player would have only a small handful of cards in their first year and then as they got more and more successful they’d see a big increase in cards produced.


The phrase “true rookie card” can therefore be pretty difficult to understand when there are literally hundreds of cards made for a first year player. In recent years, we’ve seen some parallel overload from certain releases that have caused great confusion and debate among even the most seasoned veteran collectors. With RC’s usually being the most wanted cards for team and player collectors, we wanted to share “the rules” as to what makes certain cards stand out and earn that designation. This doesn’t make any parallels or insert cards less valuable, but since there are collectors who want only the “true RC” of their favourite players, we came up with this helpful guide:    


Rules for Rookie Cards:


  1. The card must come from a fully licensed product–i.e. both the NHL and the NHLPA have approved the card.
  2. The card must available on a national release level.
  3. The player must have played* in at least one NHL game.
  4. The first card featuring the player in the standard sequentially numbered set gets the designation of RC.


* For goalies, if the player dresses as the backup, he qualifies for rookie cards, even if he doesn’t play during the actual game. Example: former Kelowna Rockets goalie Kelly Guard has a number of Upper Deck Rookie Cards from the 2006-07 season. Guard was called up to the Ottawa Senators as an emergency backup, and even though he didn’t get any on-ice action he does have some cards made, which are pretty nice for local collectors here in Kelowna.


Those are the basic rules, but let’s discuss them in a little bit more detail:




For the past ten years, this means that the product must be from Upper Deck, or if it was from 2010-11 to 2013-14, Upper Deck or Panini. Cards from non-licensed producers such as In The Game and, more recently, Leaf, do not qualify. This allows a measure of control from the NHL and the Players Association to ensure that the supply of cards, especially Rookie Cards, is controlled and that we don’t see the glut of cards on the market that we had throughout the 1990’s.


National Releases 


Because many NHL teams will produce their own card sets for fans as arena giveaways or for sale in their official stores, those cards can’t be counted as rookie cards because they’re not available to everybody. They can still be highly valued since they are usually only printed in small quantities for the local market. As always, there are exceptions to every rule—for years McDonald’s released hockey cards in Canada, and in 2005-06 they included then-rookie sensation Sidney Crosby in their set. Initially the card was considered an “oddball” release but due to the overwhelming pressure from fans across Canada (and the availability of the card) people came to accept this card as another legitimate Rookie Card.


 Must Have NHL Experience


Cards are produced of players as early as their first season in the Canadian Hockey League. For many years, In The Game produced the very popular Heroes & Prospects set, where collectors could collect cards of junior league stars before they were drafted to the NHL. The first hockey cards of Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, and Steven Stamkos were all in these releases, but their Rookie Cards didn’t come until much later. These cards are often called “pre-Rookie Cards” and some are quite collectible. Also, now that Upper Deck has the Hockey Canada license, they can produce sets featuring players from the World Junior Championships such as Connor McDavid, Zach Fucale, and others. None of those cards, however, have RC designation even if the player has NHL experience because these releases have licensing from Hockey Canada, not the NHL and the NHLPA.


 Part of the Standard Base Set 


This part is where things can get very tricky for collectors. Many of the popular releases today will have, in addition to their regular base set, a number of parallels and insert sub-sets. For every release, there can be only one Rookie Card. Any other card of first-year players doesn’t get that designation. Like we said earlier, this doesn’t make other cards any more or less collectible, it just means that they are different and do not get the RC label. Some sets are very light on parallels, such as SP Authentic, which has only the Limited Auto Patch variant to go along with the hugely popular Future Watch Rookie Cards. The Future Watch cards are #’d to 999 copies, and are usually autographed on the card. They have a sharp design and are some of the most sought-after Rookie Cards in the hobby today.     


Other product releases, however, can be a real challenge. One example is 2014-15 Upper Deck Trilogy. This set, which has some eye-popping cards, created three “levels” of cards within the regular set and also three additional parallels (Radiant Black, Radiant Blue, and Radiant Green) of each card. So Curtis Lazar, for example, has twelve cards in this release, every card has a regular set number on the back (#113, #146, and #179), and some of the cards are autographed—which one would be the Rookie Card and which would be the parallels? Unfortunately, and this is said only because of the choices Upper Deck made with the parallels and autograph usage, the card #113 with no autograph and a print run of 799 cards is the true Rookie Card. It is the first card in the set and is not a parallel, so it would be the one that gets the designation. On its own, it’s not as “cool” and probably wouldn’t fetch the same value as the Level 3 Radiant Blue autograph with the “Go Sens” inscription numbered to only 15 copies. But it does have a different type of collectability as the RC from 2014-15 Upper Deck Trilogy.


Another major determinant in Rookie Card status is print runs. The rules have been relaxed on this one in recent years. It used to be that a card had to have a minimum print run of 99 copies (as seen in high-end releases like The Cup, Dominion, etc.) so that the cards could be accessible to collectors. This was in response to 2001-02 Titanium, which had serial numbered its rookie cards to the numbers worn on the players’ jerseys. One card in particular: 2001-02 Titanium #158 Ty Conklin – was a massive headache, because Conklin wore #1. So his Titanium RC was a 1/1. The collective frustration led to the 99 copies rule. However, in the past couple years, Panini’s Titanium releases and Upper Deck’s SP Game Used have gone back to that “RC’s numbered to the player’s jersey number” model, and it has been generally accepted by the hobby that this is OK again. It makes for a great chase for set-builders and collectors alike, who get bragging rights for being able to nail down those super-rare Rookie Cards of their new superstars. 


We hope that you’ve found this reference guide to be useful and helpful to you. Remember, the hobby is all about collecting what you like and enjoy. Just because a card isn’t a “true Rookie Card” doesn’t mean it can’t be a great collection piece or that it has lesser value. But the most iconic cards in the hobby, from its humble beginnings over a hundred years ago to the sleek manufactured masterpieces we see today, feature that crucial designation.  


The 2019-20 Young Guns are released in Upper Deck Series 1 – available in store Wednesday November 6th. Family Break night scheduled for Saturday November 9 starting at 4pm. Break spots open Monday October 28th


Stanley Cup

Stanley Cup

Stanley Cup

Richard McAdam

Article by Richard McAdam. Richard joined the Okanagan College team of employees in 2013. When he is not volunteering his time to non-profits around Kelowna, you might find him at Players Choice Sports. On Twitter: https://twitter.com/realrgm81

Wednesday, November 22nd will be a day long remembered for many people in Kelowna, including us. The Stanley Cup paid a visit to our store for the evening, thrilling fans of all ages who came down to see it and get their picture taken. We were also able to help the Kelowna Food Bank, as admission to see the Cup was by donation of either food items or cash—we hope that it will help make a difference in the community. In all, with all the minor hockey teams and other fans, we think at least 400 people had the chance to see Canada’s most famous trophy.

Our adventure with hockey’s holy grail started with some awesome surprises for minor hockey teams. With the Cup safely covered in its plain black case, we were able to get it into Memorial Arena and into the locker room area. Imagine the surprise of coming off the ice as an 8-year old kid and seeing the Stanley Cup waiting for you! This was a real highlight of the day, and we hope that maybe one day one of those kids will see it again on the ice in the NHL.

The in-store event was a tremendous time for everybody. We had several other minor hockey teams in the house, including a team that came all the way from Salmon Arm to get their team photo taken. The beaming smiles and saucer-wide eyes tells us that it was definitely worth the trip for those kids and their coaches. In addition to seeing the Cup, we also handed out free packs of hockey cards to all the kids that came through the store—maybe we’ll have a new collector or two from the experience. For a solid two hours we had a lot of familiar faces and some new ones come through door and it felt like everybody had an awesome time. Whether people were kissing it, putting babies (and stuffed animals) in the bowl, looking for their favourite teams and players inscribed on the trophy, they all had a few special moments to spend with the Cup.

What made this experience even more cool for us was that this was the real Stanley Cup, the same trophy that the players receive on the ice after the Finals, the one held high by legends like Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr, Beliveau, and so many others. This was a surprise for us, as we expected to be hosting the replica version that travels throughout Canada and around the world. You can see the scratches and dents, and little unique things that exist as the telltale signs. One thing that we learned is that when the next ring gets added after this season, some of the game’s greatest names will be coming off the Stanley Cup. In order to keep it roughly the same size and weight, the bands have to be removed or else the trophy would be eight feet long already. So while today’s stars get added, stars from the 1950’s and early 1960’s will soon be taken off, including Maurice Richard and the Canadiens dynasty that won five straight championships from 1956 to 1960. The bands get flattened out and remain on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This day was all made possible by the Hockey Hall of Fame, so we want to thank them for this great opportunity. Thank you also to Mike Bolt, the “keeper of the Cup” that we got to spend the day with and hear some amazing stories about the Cup’s history and activities with the players that have won it. If you ever get the chance to go to Toronto, make sure to stop at the Hall of Fame to see some of the incredible history of hockey on display.

We are so proud to have made so many people happy by hosting the Stanley Cup. We hope you had as much fun as we did. Thanks for coming down, be sure to share with us all your photos and memories of this very special day.

Get the KelownaNow News story on this Stanley Cup event here.

Bobby Hull Signing

Bobby Hull Signing

Richard McAdam

Richard is on the Okanagan College team of employees. When he is not volunteering his time to non-profits around Kelowna, you might find him at Players Choice Sports. On Twitter: https://twitter.com/realrgm81

Bobby Hull, known as “The Golden Jet,” is one of the greatest players in the history of hockey. In a storied career that lasted more than two decades, Hull tormented goaltenders with his booming slapshot and frustrated opposing defenders with his dazzling speed and stickhandling skills. His immense talents helped make him professional hockey’s first “million dollar man” when he joined the fledgling WHA’s Winnipeg Jets, and he instantly became the rival league’s greatest star. His epic career was capped off in 1983 when he was selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Hull’s pro career began with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1957-58 season, where he scored 13 goals in his rookie season. It did not take long for him to emerge as an elite star—two seasons later he earned the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s highest scorer in 1959-60, registering 39 goals and 81 points. With his fearsome shot, rumoured to have been clocked at a velocity as high as 118mph and augmented by the so-called “banana blade” curved stick, Hull would have even greater goal scoring success in the years to come. He became the third man in NHL history to score 50 goals when he reached that plateau in 1961-62, and was the first to ever score more than 50 when he lit the lamp 54 times in 1965-66. Not only was Hull a great scorer, he was a key teammate on a strong Blackhawks squad that won the Stanley Cup in 1961 and nearly repeated as champions the following season before falling to the Maple Leafs in six games.

Though he was one of the NHL’s top stars for many years, Hull did not feel appreciated for his talents. He exuded skill and was highly personable with fans, but the NHL at the time did not award the high contracts that one sees today. He joked that he would jump to the rival World Hockey Association if they offered him a million dollars—but it was no joke when the Winnipeg Jets offered him a ten-year deal that included that princely sum as a signing bonus. Hull quickly established himself as the WHA’s top man, and his offensive prowess reached even greater heights. For four consecutive seasons (1972-73 to 1975-76) he scored at least fifty goals, including a then-unprecedented 77 in the 1974-75 season. Hull led the Jets to three WHA Championships during his time with the team.

On the international stage, Hull dazzled with the 1976 Team Canada squad in the Canada Cup, registering five goals in just seven games. Because of his jump to the WHA, Hull was not a part of the more famous 1972 squad.

After injuries shortened his career once the WHA merged into the NHL, Hull retired in 1980 after just nine games played with the Hartford Whalers, where he was teammates with another legend, Gordie Howe. Despite spending several prime years in the WHA, when he retired Hull’s NHL numbers were good enough for 2nd (610) and 9th in points (1170) in League history, a testament to his scoring prowess. His famous #9 is retired by the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets—after the original Jets relocated to Phoenix, the team allowed his son Brett to wear the famous number during his short tenure there in the 2005-06 season. Hull is still recognized as one of the greatest players in history, honouring him at the recent NHL All Star weekend celebration of the top 100 players in the NHL’s first 100 years.
To learn more about Bobby Hull, read his 100 Greatest NHL Players story here:

Bobby Hull – 100 Greatest NHL Hockey Players