Generations of hockey fans have enjoyed the practice of collecting hockey cards, filling binders and backpacks with pint-sized pieces of cardboard featuring players from the NHL's earliest days to its present day.
But something new might be on the horizon for NHL fans and collectors alike. The league has turned its attention to the burgeoning NBA Top Shot marketplace, which allows people to buy and sell digital trading cards called "moments," such as a 3-pointer by Stephen Curry or a dunk by LeBron James.
This past Monday, one particular James dunk sold for a record US$208,000. That sort of price tag inspires a question: Can the NHL be able to capitalize on a similar craze?
“It’s impossible for all these leagues not to notice what’s going on here and say, ‘We have to find out about this,’" Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said during the Headlines segment of Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada. "They’ve begun discussing this with the NHL, the players’ association and the alumni. There are obviously rights issues, there are issues about who gets a piece of what percentage of each sale."
Whether or not this non-fungible token (NFT) product is "the future of the trading card market" — as it's being billed by some — there are clearly lots of paying customers with a real interest in the industry. According to Darren Rovell of The Action Network, the Top Shot marketplace has generated $206 million in sales over the past month.
So it's no surprise the NHL is looking to acquire a piece of the digital pie. The NBA Top Shot site is run by Vancouver-based Dapper Labs, but it works in partnership with the NBA and its players' association. Perhaps a similar arrangement could exist in the hockey world.
"Of course, the leagues and the players want as much of a share of (the sales) as they can negotiate," Friedman said. "But this is something that has begun to explode over the past five or six weeks, and the NHL is certainly — and the players — are looking into, ‘How can we capitalize on this, too?’”