Winnipeg store lone distributor of new First Peoples Rookie Card set
Indigenous players profiled never made it onto a hockey card during their NHL careers
A new set of trading cards featuring Indigenous NHLers will be available only at Indigenous hockey camps and one brick and mortar store: Indigenous-owned First Row Collectibles in Winnipeg.
The First Peoples Rookie Card series by trading card giant Upper Deck is a line of eight cards featuring Indigenous former NHLers that have never appeared previously on a licenced trading card.
Due to being the only shop in the world where the sets are being distributed, First Row Collectibles' Curtis Howson said the response has been immense, even from the family of former Atlanta Flames forward Victor Mercredi, one of the eight players featured.
"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 guess he had photos he would sign of himself, but never had any actual cards. Now he has these cards 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 Sabres head coach said he is honoured.
"It's like celebrating your 18th birthday again, 40 years later," said Nolan, a member of Garden River First Nation in Ontario.
"I can finally show proof that I did, in fact, play in the league."
Nolan is the patriarch of an NHL family. Sons Brandon and Jordan both played in the NHL with the latter winning a Stanley Cup twice as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.
"The big thrill is to have a rookie card along with my sons — my son Brandon, who played with the Carolina Hurricanes and my son Jordan, who obviously played with the Los Angeles Kings, both have their rookie cards, now it's time to add mine," he said.
Nolan's work through hockey continues to this day, running the 3 Nolans Hockey School with his sons. Their hockey camps are one of the other places 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).
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation graphic artist Jacob Alexis designed the set. He said he's honoured to give the players and their communities the recognition they deserve.
"I'm really happy for them. It was a great honour and I hope I did them justice," he said.
'I wanted them to be honoured'
Naim Cardinal, a member of Tallcree First Nation living in Kelowna, B.C., wrote the stats and biographies for the players on the backs of each card.
A few years ago he was contacted by Upper Deck after mentioning on a Facebook livestream how so many Indigenous players never made it onto cards.
Two and a half years later the cards are released.
"Someone said to me the other day that these players have hockey cards now because of all this work that's been done," he said.
"I'm really grateful for that, that people get to see that now and recognize that. I wanted them to be honoured and do the best job I could."
There is no word on a second set of First Peoples Rookie Cards but Ted Nolan said this kind of representation is the key to success for Indigenous people.
"Seeing players that looked like me opened the door for three men from Garden River First Nation to play in the NHL," he said.
"By acknowledging me, we're acknowledging our people."