If you walk around a trading card show prior to the pandemic you probably noticed the only thing more prevalent than sealed wax from the ‘80’s was a large population of white males manning the booths and buying cards. For whatever reason, the card collecting community has not been representative of the multicultural composition of players in various professional leagues over the last several decades, but things are starting to change. More and more women have moved into leadership positions in the hobby which is great, but when you look at the ethnicity of people in the card collecting community, there is not a lot of diversity in the mix.
Upper Deck is working on some programs to encourage more diversity in the hobby, but one of the easiest ways is to shine a light on existing collectors like Dr. Dean Barnes. When the pandemic hit, Dean Barnes was stuck inside like many of us, looking for something to help pass the time. Dean resides in Burlington, Ontario, nearby Toronto and he thought about something he hadn’t finished while quarantining; his 1979-80 NHL O-Pee-Chee set, which included Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card. He was about 150 cards short of completing it so off he went to do so.
Dean grew up collecting cards using spare change his dad gave him to buy packs. Many of his teammates on his hockey team and friends from school collected cards together. The challenge of completing the set, took him back to his days as a kid. As the nostalgia of collecting came back to him searching the cards he needed, he thought about other childhood memories.
Dean is black so growing up in Canada, there just were not many players on the ice that looked like him. The first time he saw a black player in the NHL was first-hand in 1982 he saw Tony McKegney who played for the Buffalo Sabres. He and a friend were helping out at a Buffalo Sabres camp for kids and they earned tickets as part of their pay. Dean still loves getting on the ice and playing the game he loves.
Dean works as a superintendent with the Halton District School Board in Burlington, Ontario and he thought a bit about the education aspects of collecting. To chronicle cards of black players from the NHL would be a great way to showcase black history in the NHL. After he completed his O-Pee-Chee set, Dean made some other purchases of rookie cards from prominent black players like Jarome Iginla, Grant Fuhr and Val James, the first black American-born player to take the ice for the Buffalo Sabres. For his next collecting challenge, Dean set his focus on collecting black and biracial NHL players who had cards available.
Dean’s collection was recently featured on the NHL website which his rather exciting.
“The response has been very positive and many people have been inspired by my story,” Dean shared. “My collection is really a story of ‘black history’ and acknowledges the contributions of people of African descent to the game of hockey and NHL It celebrates the achievements of these players who have overcome many barriers to play in the NHL. As a person of colour, sharing my story helps to share other perspectives that people of colour bring to card collecting and promotes a positive and inclusive environment.”
At Upper Deck we think Dean’s story and collection is pretty awesome. We surprised Dean with a special #UDRAK package featuring cards of black players recently. Additionally, Dean and his wife will be guests of Upper Deck at the upcoming Hall-of-Fame inductions so that Dean can see Jarome Iginla inducted into the Hall in person.
For more on Dean’s story, check out an interview he did with Cardboard Culture. To see more on Dean’s collection, check him out on Instagram.
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