McFarlane Toys appears to have discontinued their long-running NHL Sports Picks after a 14-year run dating back to 2000. No official word has been given for the cancellation, however there are rumors that the company has chosen to focus on their popular The Walking Dead line of collectibles.
Given the continued releases for the NBA and NFL Sports Picks as recently as September, it certainly looks like the writing is on the wall for the NHL line (which is also not listed in the company’s upcoming release calendar).
The last release for the NHL line was in February 2014 to mark the winter games in Sochi, and featured two Team Canada players: Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. Previous to that, a full-fledged series release last occurred in August 2013.
If it is indeed over, then it’s a sad to see a once-robust line (that saw dozens of releases every year during its heyday) ending with so little fanfare.
The main 6″ scale line celebrated the NHL superstars of today and yesteryear (such as Gretzky, Orr, and Hull in the ‘Legends’ line), as well as popular hockey icons like Don Cherry and the Hanson Brothers. Each figure had a detailed sculpt and unique pose, with limited articulation (mostly to aid in holding the stick or to pose the legs); and came with a stand emblazoned with the player’s name. Up until 2007, goalies came with a net and water bottle.
There was even a 3″ scale line for a brief time, and a few gargantuan 12″ releases as well. But it was the 6″ line that the fans clamored for, with McFarlane Toys serving up limited editions, chase variants, and retailer exclusives to lure avid collectors (who could also opt to join a Collectors Club). If you want to know just how hardcore this NHL line was, a massive 45″ x 33″ hockey rink set was released, and it was only one end of the playing surface.
Wayne Gretzky is the most popular player in the line with 18 releases, followed closely by Sidney Crosby with 16, and Jarome Iginla with 15. For goalies, Roberto Luongo is the most popular at 15 releases, followed by Patrick Roy and Carey Price, tied with 8 releases. If you want to see the complete release list, head here.
Some teams didn’t get much love from the line: Florida, Nashville, Columbus, and Minnesota only garnered one release each. Phoenix, Carolina, Dallas, Atlanta, and Winnipeg (2011) had two releases each; Buffalo had three. To put that in perspective, there were five releases for the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques.
Toronto led the way with 40 player releases, Montreal followed with 35, next up is Edmonton with 29. It should be pointed out that the owner and founder of McFarlane Toys, Todd McFarlane, is a minority owner of the Edmonton Oilers and is obviously a devout Oilers fan. It’s a conspiracy.
Some notable players who did not get the McFarlane Toys treatment: Ken Dryden, Denis Savard, Dino Ciccarelli, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Dale Hawerchuk, Mike Gartner, and Pat Lafontaine.
The only thing the line didn’t offer was a Zamboni, and that was probably for the best: it would need to be the size of a 4-slice toaster to scale with the players.
The NHL Sports Picks was McFarlane Toys first foray into sports collectibles, having previously released Spawn and horror movie-themed toys. Whatever the reason for the NHL line’s apparent demise (licensing issues, declining sales), it must have been difficult for Todd McFarlane to pull the plug. Speaking as a fan who enjoyed a few of the collectibles, I’m sorry to see this line end, however 14 years is a tremendous run.
Note: I reached out to McFarlane Toys for official comment, as of this writing I have not heard back from them. I wish I had more clout.