The Beckett Blog

Breaking News: McDonald’s Canada Parts Ways with Upper Deck, Hockey Promos by Tracy Hackler

By Jon Waldman for Beckett Media

One of the longest-running and most popular food premium card series in hockey card history has come to a close, as McDonald’s and Upper Deck will not be teaming to produce a series for the 2010-11 season.

In an email, Upper Deck’s Chris Carlin attributed the cancellation of the series to cutbacks on McDonald’s side, while remaining hopeful that the partnership would resume in the future.

“I think like most companies they are making cuts to programs in an effort to operate a bit more efficiently,” he said. “We are hopeful it is a program they will bring back again in the future as there seems to be a lot of support for the program.”

Louis Payette, National Media Relations Manager for McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited, confirmed that the promotion would not continue this year, with Upper Deck or any other trading card manufacturer.

“Based on its past success which spanned nearly two decades, this was indeed a difficult decision,” he said.

Payette further noted that non-card promotions, such as the mini jersey and mini stick offerings, would also cease while the fast food chain changes its promotional targets.

“At this point in time, premium programs [including non-card memorabilia] are not part of our strategic focus,” he said.

Payette noted that the current shift away from card or other hockey products was not necessarily a permanent change. “We’re always open to the possibility of returning to the card market and are not closing any doors as we continue to develop new and innovative ways to connect with our customers,” Payette said.

After a couple of one-off promotions, including a sticker series in the 1980s, McDonald’s teamed with Upper Deck in 1991-92 to produce the first of what would become an annual trading card set. Featuring NHL All-Stars and hologram stickers, the series proved to be one of the most popular sets that year.

Upper Deck continued to produce All-Star-themed cards with McDonald’s until the 1995-96 season, when Pinnacle Brands took over the license, issuing lenticular motion cards. That season, McDonald’s also test-marketed its first non-card hockey program with a series of miniature plastic goalie masks. In subsequent years, McDonald’s produced other items either associated with NHL teams (spotlighting specific players) or dedicated to the Canadian Men’s Olympic team.

Following the Pinnacle run, Upper Deck regained the McDonald’s license and produced two ICE series, one set using the Retro theme and a special Wayne Gretzky commemorative product before Pacific Trading Cards entered into an agreement with the restaurant that ran until the NHL lockout. That year, McDonald’s did not offer a set, but returned in 2005-06 with a new series that included a Sidney Crosby card, which fueled a debate on whether or not first-year cards in the sets could garner Rookie Card designations.

Since the lockout, formats for the McDonald’s series changed as limited inserts and parallels were used along with now-standard base set and chase cards, which included redemptions for autographs and jersey cards.

This past season, no signature or memorabilia cards were included in the set.

Jon Waldman, a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, has covered sports memorabilia since 2001. Follow Jon on Twitter.


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