Hockey Memorabilia

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Hockey memorabilia has always been viewed as the red-headed stepchild next to baseball, football, and basketball memorabilia. A large part of this neglect is undoubtedly due to the sport's limited popularity, especially in the southern half of the U.S. where hockey rinks are much harder to build and maintain. Moreover, building hockey facilities is a losing proposition in towns where interest remains insufficient to sell tickets.

So what has accounted for the recent rise in hockey memorabilia's popularity? There are a few factors, the greatest of which is the NHL's revamped approach to marketing. By taking cues from more commercially viable leagues like the NBA and NFL, the NHL has been successful in exposing its brand. This ties directly into another reason behind hockey's renaissance, namely, ESPN, the all-sports network responsible for selling the league's (largely unknown) players to its loyal viewers.

Gretzky's Contribution to Hockey Memorabilia

A third influence on the comeback of hockey and, by extension, hockey memorabilia was the career of The Great One. Wayne Gretzky did for the NHL's image what Larry Bird and Magic Johnson did for the NBA's in the late '70s and early '80s and what Michael Jordan did for its profile in the '80s and '90s. Like the other three major sports, hockey needs stars in order to sell its product, and that's precisely what number 99 gave it.

Throughout the '80s and '90s there were other outstanding hockey stars like Mario Lemieux, Jeremy Roenick, Jaromir Jagr, and Mark Messier, but it was Gretzky who single-handedly rekindled interest in the sport throughout the lower 48. The Canadian-born star was always a hero with our neighbors to the north, especially in Ontario, where Gretzky spent his childhood. Thus, his memorabilia alone helped sustain the hockey collectibles market throughout its darkest years, which are now mostly behind it.

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