Not many hockey card sets offer a bigger clue to what they're about than SP Game Used Hockey. With a memorabilia card or autograph in each pack, each box holds the possibility of all kinds of game-used goodies from the stars of the NHL.
Boxes of 2006-07 SP Game Used Hockey have six packs with three cards each, though some of the packs in my review box that contained an extra thick decoy card held only two cards. Product packaging touts one autograph and one memorabilia card numbered to 100 or less in every box on average.
With a maximum of two base cards per pack, there won't be many collectors trying to put together the entire 160-card base set by buying packs. The first 100 cards are NHL veterans depicted against a silver background, with team color panels at the sides and bottom that look like jersey mesh. The player name, position and team logo are toward the bottom in silver foil.
Card backs are pretty sparse, with a short write-up and career stats. The About.com review box had just two of the 100 common cards (the packs with only two cards were missing commons) plus a gold parallel of Mark Recchi numbered to 100.
Rookies take over for the final 60 cards, on a design that is a variation on the common cards with the addition of the words "Authentic Rookies" at the top in a futuristic font. Unlike many of today's sets, the rookies aren't tiered - all 60 are numbered to 999. While it's nice to have just as good a chance to pull the top rookies as guys you've never heard of, 999 is a pretty large print run for a rookie card in a box that will cost you $150 or more.
The rookies fall one per pack, and my review box produced the expected six first-year players, including scoring sensation Paul Stastny of Colorado.
Game-used cards are the real meat and potatoes of this product, and there are quite a few memorabilia inserts to track down. The largest of these is Authentic Fabrics, which ranges from unnumbered single jersey cards all the way to eight-swatch cards numbered to 3.
All of the memorabilia cards in my sample box were Authentic Fabrics: regular jersey cards of Michael Peca, Roberto Luongo, Pierre Turgeon and Martin St. Louis, a gold parallel Steve Sullivan jersey numbered to 100 and a dual jersey card of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mark Parrish, also numbered to 100.
Other game-used inserts include Inked Sweaters (autographed jersey cards), By the Letter (cards featuring an entire letter from the nameplate of a game-used jersey), and Legendary Fabrics (jersey cards of 10 all-time NHL greats). All of these also have patch or autographed parallels.
Most of the autographed cards in SP Game Used are of the autographed memorabilia variety, but the SIGnificance insert consists of simple, classy looking autographed cards numbered to 50. My box contained a SIGnificance card of Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe, numbered 38/50.
The other signed inserts are the Rookie Exclusive Autographs, which are numbered to 100 and have been popular in several sports for Upper Deck over the past few years. Forty-eight of the 60 rookies signed for this year's set, including Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
The Last Word
SP Game Used continues to add little wrinkles to its time-tested formula of one game-used card per pack, but it seems to be at a bit of a crossroads. It was one of the higher priced products when it debuted, but it now finds itself in the middle of the pack, and the bigger pulls it offers don't seem as special as they once did thanks to the rise of super premium cards.
It doesn't help that so many of the memorabilia cards are single jersey cards with swatches that seem to be getting smaller and smaller. That makes it tough to buy by the pack, but collectors willing to invest in a whole box should find themselves pleased with six numbered rookies, a numbered autograph and the chance for something bigger.