While out shopping with my wife this weekend, I was able to make a stop at my LCS to take a look at some hockey cards. Luckily for me, and not so luckily for my wife, the shop is located right at our local mall, which makes it very easy to just drop in and spend some money on cardboard when we're supposed to be doing other shopping.
Anyway, I ended up with two boxes, one of which was 2012-13 Between the Pipes. This product from In the Game is a goaltender-exclusive issue, and one of the company's cornerstones every year. The company does a great job with their sets, and in this case, I think that their lack of NHL licensing is what ends up making it such a popular product. Think about it. With no licensing, they can't show the players' jerseys, so what do they do? A lot of close-up head shots, ending up making this a set that not only focuses on the goalies themselves, but their masks.
In the past, the 200-card set was broken up into a number of different subsets, but this year, they kept it simpler and went with five. I received three Penguins cards from my box: Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun from Stars of the Game, which focuses on current NHLers, and Matt Murray, the Penguins' 2012 third round pick, from the CHL Prospects subset. There's also the return of Decades, which pays tribute to goaltenders of the past, Record Breakers, which recognizes record-breaking performances, and International Stars, which recognizes a goaltender's performance in any number of worldwide hockey events, like the Olympics, World Championships, and even the 1972 Summit Series.
The only insert produced for the 2012-13 product is their incredibly popular Masked Men set. Each box is guaranteed to contain three Masked Men 5 cards, which combine a few different chrome/prizm/finest/etc. attributes, along with a painting of an up-close view of the goaltender wearing his mask. These are fantastic looking cards in person, and my three were of Gilles Gratton, Chico Resch, and Evgeni Nabokov.
Each box also guarantees a minimum of four hits: two autos and two relics. I say "minimum," because the per-pack dispersion doesn't even out to the amount of packs in a box. There are 18 packs per box, but autographs are inserted in every seven, and relics in every eight, so for those doing the math, every couple of boxes might contain an additional autograph or relic card.
Anyway, I did receive the promised two relic cards, and both of them are pretty nice. The first one is a dual relic of Ilya Bryzgalov and Henrik Lundqvist from the Draft Day insert set, which puts two goaltenders from the same year together. This one is from the 2000 draft, when Bryzgalov was picked 44th overall by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Lundqvist was selected 205th overall by the New York Rangers. The great thing, also, about this card, is that ITG actually specifies which team the jersey is from, and they managed to stay true to the intention of the insert set, by getting Bryagalov's swatch from an actual Ducks jersey. The Hextall is also a cool card in its own right. It is from the Big League Debut insert set and features a two-colored swatch from a Flyers jersey. Of course, it's a fantastic looking card, but as an added bonus, this card is the "Gold Version" parallel, limited to just 10 copies! These tend to bring a pretty good return value, so yeah, of course I listed it on Ebay. (Here's the link) These parallels can runa wide range of prices. For example, a Rick DiPietro sold for $4.69, but a John Vanbiesbrouck sold for $66.00. Hopefully Hextall will at least get somewhere in the middle of that.
For the autographs, the Hockey Gods must have been smiling upon me, because I found three Goaliegraph cards in my box. The first was from Kelly Hrudey, who is featured as a member of the New York Islanders, but I remember him as the backstopper for the Gretzky-era L.A. Kings. He retired in 1998 and is currently working as a broadcaster with CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. My other two were of CHL prospects Garret Sparks, who was a seventh round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011, and Mathias Niederberger, who was elligible for the 2012 draft, but went unselected.
There are other companies producing hockey cards out there, no one does a genre-specific set like In the Game. Whether focusing on goaltenders, prospects, or the lineage of a specific team, they really have a good idea of what somebody who would potentially buy their product would expect, and they deliver in a big way. I have already updated my Want List with the remaining cards I need for the set, so if anyone has any to spare, be sure to let me know.