Today, the NHL and NHLPA announced a multi-year trading card distribution deal with Panini and Upper Deck. The terms of the agreement are not fully known, but what is known is that for the first time since 2005-06, Upper Deck will not go un-opposed in the Hockey sector of the hobby.
Panini's first 2010-11 Hockey offering is expected to be Score, which they plan on releasing at the same time as Upper Deck's Victory brand. Panini plans to bring past classics like Score, Pacific, Pinnacle, Zenith, and Crown Royale back into hockey, while bringing Certified and Adrenalyn to the ice for the first time ever.
This was indeed a shocking development, as Panini is now the only major card company in the world licensed to produce 3 of the 4 major sports. They own the exclusive rights to the NBA, share rights to the NFL with Upper Deck, and now share the NHL license with Upper Deck.
The NHL essentially felt that by adding Panini, they could diversify the Hockey card market and hopefully grow the game of hockey in the process. Hockey definitely has the stars, it also doesn't hurt that the sport is coming off an Olympics for the ages. It will definitely be interesting to see the impact of this move come August.