The Be A Player name holds fond memories for many hockey card collectors, and Upper Deck has taken a page from the recent past and added a bit of its own spin to create this season's set. Autographs are the primary draw, with one signed card in each pack.
Hobby boxes of 2006-07 Be A Player Hockey come with eight packs of five cards each. On average, each box will contain one card with two (or more) signatures.
For 2006-07, Be A Player has a 215-card base set that depicts 170 NHL veterans and 45 rookies numbered to 999. The veteran cards have a photo set inside a blue border against a white background, with the picture embossed to make it really stand out. A position logo is on the right side with player name, team name and the BAP logo on the bottom. The rookie cards are similar, but with black borders and gold backgrounds.
Interestingly, some of the top young players in the game - like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Henrik Zetterberg - are not included in the base set. This may be because all of the veterans (except for San Jose's Joe Thornton) have an autographed parallel, and Upper Deck could not secure enough of their signatures to use in the set. Eight of the rookies, notably Boston's Phil Kessel and Montreal's Guillaume Latendresse, also have signed parallels.
About.com's sample box produced 29 cards from the base set (26 veterans and three rookies, plus an autographed parallel of Nashville rookie defenseman Shea Weber.
Autograph collectors should love the return of an autograph per pack to the Be A Player brand. The main signed insert is Be A Player Signatures, a 170-card set of NHL veterans. Still no Crosby, but the checklist does include Ovechkin, Dany Heatley, Joe Sakic, Vincent Lecavalier and many other top names.
The cards make use of stickers, but they are transparent and don't detract much from the overall design. A little more than half of the set has parallel levels numbered to 25 and 10.
Falling at a rate of one per box, Be A Player Duals have two signatures from NHL teammates or countrymen. Collectors can also find cards with three or four signatures on Be A Player Trios and Be A Player Foursomes, with print runs of 25 and 10 copies respectively.
My review box held five regular BAP Signatures, plus a Duals card featuring Stanley Cup-winning teammates Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz and a Trios card of Blue Jackets Sergei Fedorov, David Vyborny and Gilbert Brule.
Another Be A Player tradition is insert cards that help collectors get to see NHL players away from the rink. This season's edition includes just such a set in Up Close and Personal, which features 60 players out of uniform.
Unmasked Warriors takes a look at 10 top netminders, while Be A Player Profiles dishes out info on 30 more NHL stars. All of the inserts are numbered between 999 and 99, and most of them have an autographed parallel - with the Unmasked Warriors parallels limited to a single copy.
I pulled three inserts from my sample box: two Up Close and Personal (Michael Peca and Justin Williams) and one Profiles (Jay Bouwmeester).
The Last Word
Hockey fans shouldn't overlook Be A Player Hockey for releasing so far after the actual NHL season, because it's definitely a winner. Combining nine (or more) signatures with several numbered rookie cards in a box that can be found for less than $100 equals value most products in any sport just don't offer.
Hopefully Upper Deck will find a way to work Sid the Kid and some on-card signatures into next year's set, as those are really the only things standing in the way of a five-star rating. Be A Player is one of the best hockey sets of the season, and well worth tracking down in stores or online.