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2011-12 In the Game Enforcers Hockey Cards

2011-12 In the Game Enforcers Hockey Cards

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Like it or not, fighting is a part of hockey. Other than the occasional insert set that dances around it, the gloves are rarely dropped on modern licensed cards. 2011-12 In the Game Enforcers Hockey isn't a licensed NHL set. It takes advantage of that freedom, dedicating an entire release to hockey's greatest tough guys. 2011-12 In the Game Enforcers embraces a niche side of the hobby that has been ignored, offering a hard-hitting mix of hits and thoughtful main set content. Boxes promise five autographs, two game-used memorabilia cards and five base cards.

Product Configuration: one pack per box, 12 cards per pack
Price Point: Mid- to High-End Hockey Card
Target Audience: Hockey Fans, Fans of NHL Tough Guys, Autograph Collectors, Memorabilia Collectors

2011-12 In the Game Enforcers Box Break

  • Five Autographs
  • Two Game-Used Memorabilia Cards
  • Five Base Cards
  • 12 Total Cards

2011-12 In the Game Enforcers Product Highlights:

  • The 2011-12 In the Game Enforcers base set consists of four subsets, all of which look at a different aspect of hockey's toughest players:
    • Record Holders compiles the stats.
    • Tale of the Tape offers a glimpse at both combatants in classic battles.
    • Bloody Battles is an artistic rendition of notable scraps.
    • Tough Franchise pays tribute to the legacy of various teams' enforcers.
  • Five base cards per box.
  • Autographs fall five per box. Early signers include Marty McSorley, Tony Twist and Rob Ray.
  • Game-used memorabilia cards (two per box):
    • Instigator
    • Combatants - dual memorabilia cards
    • Tough Franchise - quad memorabilia cards
    • Fight Strap (/8)
    • Fight Strap (/1)
  • In the Game is promising a limited print run and no redemptions.

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Product Review

2011-12 In the Game Enforcers Product Review

Reviewed by Ryan Cracknell

Good: Tremendous value in every box, extremely focused, fills an underserved hockey card niche, comprehensive checklist, autographs look great.

Bad: Many of the designs are overly busy and cluttered, obscure players lead to some less-than-ideal photos being used.

The Bottom Line: Like it or not, fighting and rough play are part of hockey history. Collectors who love the tough side of the sport are going to be very pleased with 2011-12 In the Game Enforcers. Unlike a lot of modern sets where it's tough to figure out the need they're filling, this is one of the most focused sets ever produced. While it's unlikely you're not going to find a mega-hit, every box is crammed with value. For around $70 at release, boxes promise five autographs and two game-used memorabilia cards. While I wish the design of the base set was better, the autographs look great, even with stickers.

Staff Rating:
4.0 / 5.0

Card Design: 2.5/5.0

Like all of their sets, In the Game does a good job masking their lack of NHL license. Most of the photos are head shots, showing the shoulders and up. While this works stylistically, it also leaves lots of space that needs to be filled on the cards.

2011-12 In the Game Enforcers goes overboard, cluttering card fronts from corner-to-corner. For example, in the Bloody Battles subset, the art-based cards would have worked nicely with a white border. Instead, a blood spatter effect makes them far too busy. I like the style of the artwork on these cards, however it would have been nice to see more of the featured combatants. One of the cards we pulled had one face not showing at all, while the other offered a better look at the players' helmets than their faces.

Other subsets include Tough Franchise, Record Holders and Tale of the Tape. While each ties very nicely into the theme of the set, the overall look doesn't connect from one subset to the next.

Another issue comes with the photographs. The base cards we received featured a some grainy shots. This is particularly noticeable on multi-player cards where one subject has good resolution and the other does not.

Card backs are also packed, but with text, which is a great thing. Every card offers generous bios or game-specific commentary. They're insightful and extremely informative.

As a collector, sticker autographs are normally a last-resort for me. I accept them, but too often they don't hold a complete signature or they're not incorporated into the cards design. Although 2011-12 In the Game Enforcers uses stickers, they're hardly noticeable. For one, the stickers are large enough to hold even the wildest of signatures. They're also worked into the design, acting as a part of a bandage look. As far as sticker autographs go, these might be the best I've seen.

Checklist: 5.0/5.0

Because many are not superstars in the goal-scoring sense, hockey's tough guys are often overlooked in the hobby. Many are lucky to make many base set checklists. 2011-12 In the Game Enforcers gives them their due. While there aren't a ton of big-name players in the set, those that appreciate the enforcer's role will love the depth of the checklist. While the bigger names like Wendel Clark, Bob Probert and Tie Domi are to be expected, I love that are also lots of small-time players as well.

Value: 4.5/5.0

Five autographs and two game-used cards (early breaks are showing that one of the memorabilia cards is often a dual memorabilia card) for $65-70? Yes, please. It makes you wonder how other products can charge similar prices for one or two hits. Part of this is due to the fact that there aren't many superstars making acquisition costs much lower. But those buying this set hopefully know what they're buying. If not, they're going to be hugely disappointed. But those who want to dig deeper into hockey should be very pleased by the focus on overlooked players.

The Fun Factor: 4.0/5.0

I had a blast busting through an Enforcers box. Sure, it was over in about the same amount of time as it took Tie Domi to drop his gloves, but the varied elements and generous text made me revisit them more than I normally do. Plus, it's pushed me to look up some of the smaller players I'm less familiar with.

2011-12 In the Game Enforcers probably isn't a set for everyone. It doesn't try to be. It caters to a small but enthusiastic audience that will likely be very receptive to it. Over the past couple of months, the set has received lots of mainstream media attention, much of it unjustified and petty. A set for dedicated hobbyists, they're the ones who understand where In the Game is going with the concept. They're also the ones who are going to love every bit of the release has to offer.

Ryan is a former member of The Cardboard Connection Writing Staff.   His collecting origins began with winter bike rides to the corner store, tossing a couple of quarters onto the counter and peddling home with a couple packs of O-Pee-Chee hockey in his pocket. Today, he continues to build sets, go after inserts with cool technologies, chase Montreal Expos and finish off his John Jaha master collection.

User Reviews

ITG Enforcers Packs a Big Punch

Now that I have your attention I think it’s time to talk about this hockey release, just this release, and nothing else. I liked the way the cards came out of a plastic holder and from that point on the hits just keep on coming (didn’t do that on purpose).

Each box gives you 12 cards, including five from the 90-card base set and seven hits. I don’t think many set collectors will attempt to make a master set but some may go after the 37 Bloody Battles cards. Lots of big-time hockey fans will have some sort of connection to one or more of these cards. I had one in the form of the Probert vs. Domi card, which gave me chills. I was at this game February 8, 1992 and sitting with a Red Wings fan. Domi motioned that he was “The Champ” using his hands in a belt gesture similar to Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown dance. What a great memory. Isn’t that what trading cards are all about. The subset has a lot of other great pairings, as well.

The five autographs that I pulled were:

Dave The Hammer Schultz
Marty McSorley
Dave Brown
Bryan Watson
Denny Lambert

Two Broad Street Bullies in the form of Dave Schultz and Dave Brown. Marty McSorley has three Stanley Cup rings. Right there, I’m doing pretty well. The design of these cards, with the band-aid stickers (great idea), bring it all together. These cards will do very well on the secondary market. I do wish that there was some biographical information on the back of the autograph card.

My first memorabilia cards was a Combatants card of Tie Domi (Leafs) and Jeff Odgers (Avalanche). The card has two swatches, each with a different material texture making me think one was from a patch. Again, a very good box, but I wasn’t done yet.

The last box hit was a two-color swatch of Denny Lambert’s Ottawa Senators jersey and was titled Instigator and has a good looking design.

For my other base cards, I got two Enforcers dual-player cards and a Florida Panthers Tough Franchise quad card. The card back are very well written and the inclusion of Wade Belak (who passed away this past year) is a nice tribute. I know he wanted to be in this set and he was a player who liked what he did on the ice.

This set does a great job of paying homage to these pugilists rather than exploit them, as some are suggesting because of a few blood spots in the design. Get a box or two before the price starts to go up (you can get it for around $63 right now) because I believe it will.

Good: A very unique collection of some of the lesser-known ‘tough guys’ from the history of the NHL, card designs are colorful and bring a much-disputed part of the game of hockey to the forefront, gives team collectors a nice new addition to their collections.

Bad: Will definitely bring some controversy to the argument about the role of fighting in the NHL, not crazy about the blood spatter design on some of the cards.

The Bottom Line: At about $75 per box, 2011-12 In The Game Enforcers is a relatively affordable box for many collectors. With seven hits in the box (including five autographs), it comes out to about $10 per hit. That is pretty good value. I don’t think there are huge hits in this product, but it’s great for team and player collectors to find new cards of overlooked guys.

Card Design: 4.4/5.0
I like the new designs In The Game used with these cards. They have the In The Game ‘feel,’ but the backgrounds are different from previous products. I also like how they have included old-time pictures with pictures of newer players in the same product. The painted Bloody Battles cards add a nice dimension to the product.

Checklist: 4.3/5.0
The checklist is full of hockey’s tough guys. The product is not for everyone. Team collectors won’t be disappointed with names like Marty McSorley, Rob Ray, Stan Jonathan and Dale Hunter. Those looking for big-name prospects and superstar players may be disappointed, though. A limited print run and zero redemptions are pluses as well.

Value: 4.5/5.0
With only 12 cards in the box, one would think that the value rating would be a lot lower. But seven of those cards are guaranteed hits. Even the base cards seem like inserts. At around $10 dollars per hit, this is a must-buy for die-hard hockey collectors. But from looking at the checklist, there is no real chance for a high-value cards, except for one-of-one fight strap and jumbo patch cards.

The Fun Factor: 4.6/5.0
Although I feel that fighting has its place in hockey, not everyone is going to agree with the product. I wasn’t crazy about the Bloody Battle cards, but the idea of the product certainly made it interesting to open. There is something to be said for opening an innovative box like this, and looking for relics and autographs of some of the lesser-known players from your favorite teams.

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