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Upper Deck has always taken great pride in partnering with the biggest names in sports. With apologies to Sidney Crosby, there is no name much bigger in today’s hockey world than Alex Ovechkin. He has been named the NHL MVP the past two seasons and brings an excitement to the ice that has galvanized fans in Washington, D.C., and around the world. We’ve been working with Alex for a number of years and recently on Saturday, Oct. 2, we had the opportunity to do a meet-and-greet event with him in our nation’s capital.
For this event we invited members of our Diamond Club, members of the Upper Deck Volunteer Alliance and some of the biggest Alexander Ovechkin collectors we knew. Members began arriving into town on Friday night and as I met up with some of them, there was a palpable air of excitement about getting to spend time with Alex the following night. What I love so much about events like this however is bringing together a community of collectors who just love to collect. For the staff here at Upper Deck it’s really great to be able to give back to collectors through an event like this and make our trading cards come to life for them. Their contagious smiles are testament to how much they appreciate the unique opportunity to meet a player of Alex’s caliber.
On Saturday we took the majority of the group to the 2nd Annual Washington Capitals Convention and that was crazy. I don’t live in a hockey town and to see so many die-hard fans rocking the red and getting pumped for the start of the season was awesome to witness. The Capitals unveiled the uniforms they’ll be wearing for the 2011 Winter Classic game at Heinz Field against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Our guests were running around like kids in a candy shop, sitting in on panels and getting players to sign different items for them. It was a great event, but for our collectors, it was just a warm-up.
Another Upper Deck staff member and I headed over to the venue at Washington D.C.’s District Chophouse & Brewery. We had a private room downstairs in what used to be part of a bank vault. Seeing the three small tables set up, it made me realize just how intimate this experience was going to be for our fans as they would be sitting down to dinner with one of the biggest stars in the game today.
Our guests began to arrive and it was very clear the group was pretty fired up for what was about to happen. To help release any tension, we played a round of pack wars where the top eight collectors who pulled the highest numbered rookie cards would advance to the final table. At this final table Alex would stop at, we would play another round of pack wars with high-end packs like Ultimate Collection, O-Pee-Chee Premier and even a pack of The Cup up for grabs.
Guests were seated and then right on schedule Alex arrived to applause from the group. We brought them up one by one to get a photo with Alex where they didn’t need to be coaxed for a smile. Then Alex spent time with guests at each of the three tables and his fans were able to ask him questions. What I found really interesting was that Alex almost had as many questions for the collectors as he was fascinated by how passionate they were about the hobby. He was in great spirits and was just having a lot of fun with the group.
As he moved on to the last table, there were a few really unique moments. We had the eight collectors play another round of pack wars where the collectors who pulled the best cards would win some pretty unique packs. The collector who won the pack of 2009-10 NHL The Cup, got to have Alex Ovechkin open it for him. The group gathered around to see what Alex was pulling.
After Alex opened the pack he said, “Let’s open some more.” The collectors eagerly handed Alex pack after pack that he happily opened and shared with the group what he thought of the cards. Then he pulled a redemption card of himself and Evgeni Malkin. The group laughed at the irony of this and Alex got in on the fun as well by signing the actual redemption card later for the collector.
One of my favorite moments from the evening came when one of the biggest Ovechkin collectors I know of got to head over and open a pack of 2009-10 NHL O-Pee-Chee Premier with Alex. The cool thing about it is that Alex actually knew how big this guy’s collection is and even added an inscription to the photo he signed later of this particular collector that read: “To Lee, The owner of everything.”
When all the packs were opened, Alex personally signed each of the photos for the group and left again to thunderous applause. It was a really magical evening for this group of Alex Ovechkin fans and a great way for us to thank them for all their support. But who knows? Perhaps we missed one of his biggest fans. There are a lot of collectors out there and we don’t know everyone who enjoys cards of Alex Ovechkin. That being said, we have a SP Authentic Sign of the Times autograph card available to give away to an Alex Ovechkin fan. Just comment right here with at least two sentences as to why you like to collect Alex Ovechkin Upper Deck cards and we’ll randomly select a collector to send it to on Tuesday, October 19 before the Capitals take on the Bruins. Just another example of how Upper Deck gets you closer to the game’s biggest stars.