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A Missed Opporunity for In The Game?

January 14, 2013

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Back in September, when the NHL lockout was really just underway, I mused in a post that In The Game may be the one hockey card manufacturer that could actually stand to benefit somewhat from the NHL lockout situation.

The main reason for this thinking on my part was that there were a significant number of player who would otherwise be in the NHL suiting up for the junior teams or the American Hockey League affiliate of their NHL club.

In The Game introduced collectors to its Heroes & Prospects line back when the 2004-05 lockout was taking place, a product that has featured junior and minor league players each year since then.

With players such as Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jeff Skinner, Taylor Hall, and Jeff Schultz all suiting up in the AHL instead of the NHL this year, I fully anticipated that In The Game would capitalize on the best crop of players it has had to choose from in quite some time.  Clearly, these are players whose inclusion in Heroes & Prospects would create a potentially increased interest in this product amongst hockey-starved collectors.

As I indicated in that same article from back in September, this potential was enough to get me seriously interested in buying a box or two for the first time in years.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when I received my e-newsletter from In The Game last week and discovered in the accompanying run-down of Heroes & Prospects that “… for the very first time, the entire Prospects part of the set will feature CHL players only.

The newsletter goes on to state:

“Collectors have asked for more CHL coverage and this year they will get it. We have been asked year after year to increase the numbers of juniors in the product. This year we were able to make this happen by concentrating solely on the juniors. This happens to be a great year to do so as there are some great prospects in the CHL this year.”

I definitely agree that there are benefits to taking a CHL-only focus.  From flipping through my set of 2007-08 Heroes & Prospects a while back I certainly agree that the long-term collectability lies in the CHL talent. 

And while I can’t argue that there are some great prospects to focus on in the product this year either, I simply can’t agree that “This happens to be a great year to do so…”.

In fact, I would argue that this was the worst year to do so. 

After eight seasons of releasing a product featuring CHL and AHL players, the best time to make the shift to CHL-only is when a flood of NHL talent is playing in the AHL and could help you shore-up that part of the product?  I think not.

Of course there is probably a perfectly logical explanation for this decision from In The Game’s end of things that they’re not going to make light.  It’s not exactly in a company’s best interest to announce explanations to counterpoints such as mine in advance when it is trying to sell a product.

Perhaps the licensing fees just got to be too much.  Perhaps someone else outbid them.  Perhaps company leadership misjudged how long they thought lockout would last and how many players would be skating for AHL teams for such a long time.

For the record, from what I saw in the newsletter the set actually looks pretty impressive from a design standpoint.  But while everything listed in the preceding paragraph are perfectly viable reasons for the CHL focus, they do little to temper my disappointment which in turn does next to nothing to make me want to run out and buy a box when Heroes & Prospects hits the shelves of the local card shop at the end of the month.


What are your thoughts on the shift from a CHL & AHL focus for Heroes & Prospects to a CHL-only focus?  Was this a missed opportunity for In The Game to capitalize on the collectability of some of the players who spent time in the AHL prior to the end of the lockout or was this the right move for the company?

Post a comment, connect on Facebook and Twitter, or email me at and let me know your thoughts.

Until next time, all the best in your collecting pursuits!


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