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Retail Review: 2007-08 ITG Heroes & Prospects Arena Box Break

December 1, 2010

When it comes to collecting sports cards and memorabilia, there is nothing I enjoy more than opening boxes and packs of cards.  There’s something about it that I just can’t resist.  Often this has led to unnecessary expenditures and a resulting pile of cards that I somehow need to find time to add to my eBay store, but I just can’t help myself.

The only thing I enjoy more than ripping open packs for is ripping open packs that I got for free.

When I attended the Fall 2010 Toronto Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo I received a voucher from In the Game at the gate that I could redeem for a free gift pack, so I stopped by their corporate booth later in the day to collect it. 

As a part of the promotion, collectors got to spin a wheel that contained Black, Silver, and Gold coloured spaces, with each colour representing a certain prize.  I got lucky and hit the lone gold pie slice on the wheel, and for all the effort I put into that spin I was rewarded with an Arena Box of 07-08 ITG Heroes & Prospects.

My experience with retail/blaster boxes is to set my expectations low.  Very low.  I’ve had some experiences with a number of Upper Deck products that have led me to believe setting your expectations at rock bottom might not be low enough, but that’s a story for another time.

Though I do have a bad habit of buying them more often than I ought to, typically I only pick them up if I am trying to complete a base set and decide it’s a more entertaining way of getting singles I need. 

With that being the case, I really didn’t expect much from this box at all.  How quickly things can change though.

Right from the first pack I was impressed by this set though. 

I like the retro feel of the base set design, especially with the old-school images making up the background.  The way the set is broken down by NHLers, international prospects, AHL players, CHL prospects, and the Duals subset also works for me.  

My favourites have to be the NHLers and Duals since you get a glimpse of some well-known NHL stars in photos that show them from before they made the big show.

For the most part the names of the prospects in the set are recognizable, which is a pleasant change from my 2010-2011 Score box break experience.  As shown at the top of this post, I was fortunate enough to get both Matt Duchene and John Tavares within these packs, along with a number of other top-tier prospects.

The real kicker for me in this box came in packs seven and eight, as they yielded a Mike Modano Autograph (shameless plug link #1) and an Akim Aliu Jersey card (shameless plug link #2). 

Considering the autograph is on the usually undesirable sticker, In the Game did a great job of incorporating it right into the design of the card rather than just slapping it in a place that it fit.  It also doesn’t hurt that I pulled a potential future Hall of Famer.

 

As for the jersey, I really can’t complain about pulling a player who appears to have topped out as a middling AHLer when I see a jersey swatch of that size.  Compare this card to a fourth liner who was inexplicably included in this year’s Upper Deck Series 1 with a jersey swatch that looks smaller than a dime and it’s a no brainer as to which card I would rather have.

 

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This was the most recent ITG product I have opened a box (or perhaps even a pack of) since buying a couple of boxes of Franchises during 2004-2005 lock out.  For whatever reason I just haven’t been able to get myself beyond the whole non-NHL/NHLPA-licensed thing, but I think this box may have changed my mind.

While I’m sure the two pulls from a retail box are not the norm, all told, I was thoroughly impressed by what this product has to offer, despite being three years late to the party.  Nice looking cards that appear as though some actual effort went in to developing and producing them is exactly what seems to be lacking in a lot of products these days.

What are your thoughts on what In the Game has been able to do over the past number of years in spite of the fact that they haven’t been licensed by the NHL or NHLPA?  Should there be the third company in the hockey card market?  Let me know what you think by posting a comment or sending me an e-mail at bb_bros [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Coming up on Sunday I’ll have the first post in an eight-part series about Taking my Collecting Toward Self-Sufficiency.  Until then, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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