R-Rated #14: Leaf vs. Upper Deck Hockey Card War

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It’s all out war between Leaf Trading Cards and Upper Deck to sign the best young hockey talents to exclusive contracts.

Some Hockey collectors are butt hurt.

Leaf Cards owner Brian Gray allegedly sent emails to Upper Deck brash to try and call off the arms race.

The emails were posted to the Hobby Insider Forum, copies are included below.

In addition to the emails, Gray also noted Upper Deck outbid Leaf for the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) license and Topps might reenter the Hockey card market when Upper Deck’s NHL exclusive ends.

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Tale of the Tape



Leaf Trading Cards

Established: 2010
Weight: ????

Jack Eichel
Nolan Patrick
Nico Hischier
Joe Veleno




Upper Deck

Established: 1988

Wayne Gretzky
Connor McDavid
Patrick Roy
Auston Matthews

Photo: MargeauxMorin [one_half_last]


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June 2015:
The Leaf vs Upper Deck war started with the exclusive signing of NHL star Connor McDavid.

August 2015:
Leaf countered by singing the #2 pick Jack Eichel

August 2015:
Shortly after the McDavid and Eichel signings, according to Leaf owner Brian Gray he sent a letter to Upper Deck president Jason Masherah and Mike Phillips, Vice President of Hobby Sales.

[thrive_toggles_group”][thrive_toggles title=”Read Brian Gray’s 1st Email to Upper Deck” no=”1/1″] Brian Gray / Leaf Trading Cards <brian@leaftradingcards.com>

8/19/15 to jason_masherah, michael_philli.

Guys, I am reaching out as I believe for the good of our category (hockey), a discussion is warranted as we head into the 15-16 season. I believe this discussion is time sensitive and I would like to see if we can set up a call between our companies to discuss the market and specific player opportunities.

Let me know.




Things calmed down for awhile as both companies counted money from one of the best hockey card seasons in years.

February 2016:
At the Industry Summit in Hawaii, Gray allegedly went to Masherah, Phillips and Chris Carlin, UD’s Senior Marketing Manager, to once again try and broker a truce in the player exclusive battle. Specifically he recalls pledging, “I told them I was done signing exclusives if they would stop.”

The following day Gray claims to have sent another email Masherah and Phillips.

[thrive_toggles_group”][thrive_toggles title=”Read Brian Gray’s 2nd Email to Upper Deck” no=”1/1″] Brian C. Gray <brian@leaftradingcards.com>

2/22/16 to jason_masherah, michael_philli.

Guys,,…. I appreciate the time last night.

While we do not agree on the (Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel) situation, how it went down and certain entitlements we each feel, we have the ability to make collectors happy and show them that WE collectively care about what THEY want. Exclusives are the devil. We HATE them… They are BAD for business…. Once again, I would urge you to come to the table and make a formal agreement to no exclusives for 2016/2017 season.

I believe our mutual Canadian customers would embrace this and I think it would send a loud message to the hobby in general that the companies care and are willing to put aside their issues to do what is best for the hobby and collectors.

I fully expect you to reject this olive branch (or even possibly hit me with it). BUT, I feel compelled to invite you back to the table in an effort not to fracture the hockey category and avoid unnecessary conflict which will hurt both of our companies and likely our customers as well. I appreciate the consideration.

We have a lot of water under the bridge together. Despite the comments last night that I am not trust worthy, I believe I have shown incredible respect and confidentiality for our previous relationship and all the “stuff” that came with that.

Please let me know if you desire to pursue this positive direction of co-existence or if you would rather continue down the road we are both traveling at present. I am available to discuss further anytime you wish.




June 2016:
Leaf announces an exclusive autograph card deal with Nolan Patrick, although Gray later claims the deal was put in place around the time the Eichel exclusive was inked.

November 2016:
Upper Deck announces the signing of Auston Matthews to an autograph exclusive.

January 2017:
Upper Deck, signed Patrick Roy to a trading card and autograph exclusive.

May 2017:
Leaf signs NHL Draft prospect Nico Hischier to a multi-year exclusive autograph card deal.

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