So much for a Fanatics monopoly.
On Monday, the NHL and NHLA announced a long-term agreement with Upper Deck to remain their exclusive trading card partner.
Upper Deck has maintained NHLPA and NHL trading card licenses since the 1990-91 season. According to the release, NFT trading cards will also be part of the NHLPA- and NHL-licensed offerings from Upper Deck in the future.
“Throughout our relationship, Upper Deck has demonstrated its strong commitment to NHL players and their fans. They have continued to deliver exceptional products over the last 19 months despite the difficulties brought about by the pandemic,” Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director, said in the release. “We look forward to continuing to build on our partnership and offer the highest quality traditional cards, as well as innovative digital collecting opportunities.”
Fanatics Goes 3-for-4
This comes in the wake of a huge wave of Fanatics buying exclusive rights to the other three major sports in the United States — Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League.
In August, Major League Baseball announced its 70-year relationship with Topps was coming to an end. Fanatics jumped in and secured the relationship. Licensed baseball cards will be exclusive property of Fanatics beginning in 2025.
Less than one week later, Fanatics reached an agreement with the NBA and its players’ union for exclusive licenses to produce trading cards beginning in 2026. Panini had held the exclusive license for NBA cards since 2009.
Quickly after the MLB and NBA news, Fanatics also bought into the NFL. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the NFLPA agreed to a 20-year exclusive deal with Fanatics to produce football cards starting in 2026. Fanatics is replacing Panini in this deal as well.
According to report, Fanatics’ deals with MLB, the NBA, the NFL and all three players’ unions include an equity stake in the new Fanatics card company.
Michael Rubin, who serves as chief executive of Fanatics, also happens to be a co-owner of both the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils.