Hockey buffs drop gloves over new 'Enforcers' cards
The hockey world is facing off over a batch of collector cards that are set to hit the shelves early in the new year.
Vaughan-based firm In the Game is poised to release its "Enforcers" set of cards. From Tie Domi, Bob Probert and Joey Kocur, to Marty McSorley and Joey Kocur the collection intends to honour the league's greatest fighters who protected the game's greatest players including Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky.
The cards come when the hockey world is still reeling from the recent deaths of Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak.
But the creator of the cards told CTV News in an email that the project was started more than a year ago, long before the deaths of Belak, Boogard, or Rypien.
"The timing of our release of Enforcers has nothing to do with articles being written on the subject of brain damage caused by fighting," said Brian Price president of In the Game.
"What would Gretzky be without Semenko and McSorley or Yzerman without Probert and Kocur? Enforcers is a tribute to the men who selflessly took on that role."
Price said the company does not plan to change the lay-out or design of the cards and noted that the players featured were told in advance of the design.
Still, some say the images of the so-called enforcers with a blood-splattered background have gone too far.
"To promote a blood-splattered card with Wade Belak is probably beyond something that his family would want," said Warren Power, the owner of a Halifax sport memorabilia store.
The deaths of the three over the past year have sparked a national debate on the links between on-ice fighting, brain injuries and depression. A cry for the total ban on fights and shots to the head has also intensified.
Georges Laraque, who amassed more than 1,100 penalty minutes in some 700 National Hockey League is demanding that the company withdraw his card from the deck if changes are not made.
"I gave them two choices," he told CTV News. "They remove me from the set or they re-do my card but without the blood."
But Price said Laraque's ultimatum is not possible.
"We signed a contract with him. He did not have any artistic control over the design of the cards," Price told CTV via telephone. "We cannot do that. If we gave that to all players we would never put a product out."
However, at least one Toronto-based sports card shop thinks the cards will be popular.
"Look at the crowd every time there's a fight on the ice," said Steve Edgar at Toronto's From Hockey to Hollywood. "I suspect the product will do fairly well. They haven't done a whole lot of product featuring the tough guys or the enforcers. So maybe it's time."
With a report from CTV Montreal's Mark Shalhoub