I've never been shy about the fact that when it comes to hockey card, I'm a Panini guy. Any time the company puts something puck-related out, I snatch it up without thinking twice. But there is still one other heavy hitter in the hockey market, Upper Deck. Of course, I say that, while already having picked up boxes of Series 1, Artifacts, Black Diamond, and SP Game Used. So, naturally, when they released Fleer Retro, I had to pick me up a box, just to see how this product would turn out.
Each full box contains two mini boxes, each of which are guaranteed to contain three autographs and two classic inserts (on average). I would have liked to have gotten the full box, but seeing as though I could only afford one mini box I had to go with that.
The entirety of this set, from the base cards, to the inserts, to the hits, is based solely on the Fleer products from, mostly, the mid-'90s, and nearly all of them are based on hockey product from that era. The one exception is the base set design, which is based on 2002 Fleer Triple Crown baseball. Still, the design really works well with hockey, having a white border with sharp, shiny foil. It almost resembles the skate blades on the ice.
Apart from the base cards, there were also some "Throwback" cards that put present day players in past Fleer Ultra Designs. The ones I pulled were 1993-94 Martin Brodeur & Patrick Kane, 1992-93 Jonathan Toews, and 1994-95 Claude Giroux & Ryan Miller. As somebody who was purchasing Fleer Ultra hockey cards, I can definitely appreciate how faithful they were to the source material, right down to the separate horizontal design they used for goalie cards in 1994-95.
There were also four cards based on 1997-98 Metal Universe including a Ruby Precious Metal Gems parallel of Mikko Koivu numbered 19/100. My "base" Metal Universe cards were of Pavel Bure, Tie Domi, and Jussi Rynnas.
I was guaranteed two classic inserts in my box, but I was lucky enough to pull four, including the Koivu. My other three were cards on Wayne Gretzky and Martin Brodeur based on 1996-97 Flair Showcase Row 2, and a card of Taylor Hall based on 1997-9 Ultra Stars. I must say, between these cards and the Metal Universe cards that I pulled, they really went the distance when it came to recreating the same exact look as the cards' predecessors.
My first of three autographs was on Dallas Stars right winger Reilly Smith based on 1994-95 Rookie Sensation. Smith, the younger brother of Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, spent 37 games with the pro club after playing for their AHL affiliate, Texas Stars, during the lockout. During the regular NHL season, he scored three goals and six assists, with eight penalty minutes.
My second autograph was a Brett Bulmer card based on 1996-97 Skybox Autographics. The Wild might not be my favorite team, but they are one of my "home" teams (Fargo, ND is closest to Minneapolis and Winnipeg), so it's always good to pull an auto from one of their players. Bulmer earned his rookie card in 2012-13 hockey card sets by playing nine games for the Wild during the 2011-12 season, but did not make an appearance with the pro club in 2012-13. in 43 games with the Houston Aeros during this past season, he scored four goals and three assists, with 41 penalty minutes.
While my first two autographs were of rookies and prospects, my third auto was a big one, or at least, a redemption for a big one. This redemption card is good for an autographed card of Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. After being selected in the third round (72nd overall) of the 2005 NHL entry draft and making his NHL debut in 2008, Quick has established himself as one of the NHL's premier goaltenders. He backstopped the Kings to their first Stanley Cup victory in the 2011-12 season, and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. He was also nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goaltender that same season, and was a member of the silver-medal-winning Team USA during the 2010 Olympics. He was the team's third goaltender that year, but many people expect him to take the starting position over from Ryan Miller for the 2014 Olympics.
I believe the auto is from the base card variation. I pulled his regular card out of this box, and basically, they'll be taking this card and slapping a sticker on the front, so here's kind of a look at what the card will sort of look like.
Well, this turned out to be a pretty good box. I got my three promised hits, one of which is pretty awesome, and I got a few extra inserts on top of my two promised ones. Of course, my enthusiasm of this product has a lot to do with getting a good autograph. I know other boxes have just contained three rookies, and with the rookie pool so thin this year, it might not be such a welcome sight. It's definitely a buy-at-your-own-risk type of product, but if you're willing to take a chance, you can get some really cool cards.