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One of my favorite events of the year is the NHLPA Rookie Showcase for a variety of reasons. The biggest being that we get to spend a few days with the new rookie class and I am constantly impressed by the quality individuals you find in the NHL. These young men are on the verge of becoming stars in one of the greatest leagues on the planet and with that can come money, fame, notoriety and more. But the awesome thing is they all treat you like you are their buddy from grade school. I find the players are usually polite, courteous and quality guys and at the 2012 NHLPA Rookie Showcase, that was again what I found.
As groups of the rookies started coming in, the fun started. And here is what it was like going through the Upper Deck station on day one:
The rookies had other stations to visit as well during the day including EA Sports who were taking head scans of the rookies for use in their video games. It was an active afternoon and we had 29 rookies work through our station during the course of the day.
Monday evening the NHLPA hosted a special evening event at the Hockey Hall-of-Fame for their partners and guests. To have the run of “the Hall” was truly special, but to have it with some of the brightest young stars in hockey was just amazing. One of the brightest parts of the evening was to watch Drew Mills, Upper Deck’s senior athlete relations coordinator get in goal and take on all comers including Jennifer Kallas from the NHL and two of the league’s brightest rookies in Tomas Jurco (pronounced Toe-mas Yur-cho) from the Detroit Red Wings and Nail Yakupov from the Edmonton Oilers. Surprisingly Drew had some bright moments, but there were other times where the rookies (and even Jennifer) just had too much for this amateur tender to handle. Luckily we caught it all on video.
Tuesday was a very busy day where the team woke up at the crack of dawn and headed to the MasterCard Centre to set up. Upper Deck had a variety of stations both on and off the ice to capture the next crop of future stars at their best. There were on and off ice video and photo stations and we were busy with these “Young Guns” all day. But it all started with a media scrum where a bevy of reporters showed up to get to know these players a little better. In particular, I enjoyed seeing all the young kids who practiced at the arena look on, hoping to one day be a participant in the event.
Upper Deck along with Grosnor Distribution were able to award a few guest spots at the event to some Certified Diamond Dealers and their guests. From what I heard, they all had a great time at the event.
My part was working with rookies and our old friend Andrew Long to film a series of viral videos to introduce these rookies in a fun and different way. You may have seen some of these in the past and I think this season’s videos will have hockey fans laughing and sharing the videos with their friends. Here’s an example of a video we did last season.
We also created some promotional videos that can be used in a fun way to help get the word out about some programs fans have come to love like Upper Deck’s National Hockey Card Day. Look forward to seeing all of those during the next few months.
We ended the day with an amazing event where these prospects squared off in a pick up game and we all came to realize just how good these young men were. We will all enjoy seeing them in the coming years and Upper Deck is thrilled to be able to bring hockey fans “Young Guns” rookie cards of them soon.
The brightest part of the day however for me was towards the end of the day where I walked the halls and shared Upper Deck hockey cards with dozens of the kids practicing there. In particular there was young man I shared two oversize “Young Guns” rookie cards with who was beyond excited after receiving them.
That night we closed out the evening with a special closing reception at Real Sports in Toronto. It was there we recounted all the fun we had during the previous two days while sharing packs with these young stars and seeing how much they enjoyed them. We even saw them create a fun game combining poker and opening hockey packs.
It was a truly memorable event. And the best part of it is that we will get to continue to relive it as we use content from the NHLPA Rookie Showcase for promotional and product purposes throughout the course of the season. Special thanks to Adam Larry and Marty McQuaig along with all the NHLPA and NHL representatives who helped make it such a great event! After such a great event, I’m optimistic we will see NHL action this season and I am already looking forward to this event again next year.