As he’ll tell you himself, Vic Mercredi is the answer to a trivia question: he’s the first hockey player born and raised in Yellowknife to play in the National Hockey League.
Mercredi played two games with the Atlanta Flames during the 1974-75 season, followed by three games in the World Hockey Association with the Calgary Cowboys in the 1975-76 season.
But the one thing he never had was his own trading card — at least not until now.
Mercredi is one of eight players who have been memorialized by the Upper Deck Company in its First Peoples rookie cards. The idea behind it was to give players of Indigenous ancestry a chance to have an officially-licensed NHL trading card. The series was launched on Jan. 13.
Yellowknifer spoke with Mercredi on Monday and he said he was both honoured and blessed to be a part of it.
“It’s great that my kids and grandkids and nephews can finally see what I was able to do,” he said. “I would get asked all the time if I had a hockey card and I would say no, but to have Upper Deck do something like this is really nice.”
Mercredi, who played left wing, was the Flames’ first-round pick, 16th overall, in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft following a stellar junior career with the New Westminster Bruins of the Western Hockey League and Penticton Broncos of the B.C. Hockey League. He went on to play professionally in the Central Hockey League, Pacific Hockey League, American Hockey League and one season in Sweden.
The image on the card issued by Upper Deck is Mercredi’s promotional shot from his first training camp with the Flames in 1973.
“That’s from 50 years ago and it was the kind of photo they would use for magazines and programs and that sort of thing,” said Mercredi, who still resides in Yellowknife.
When it came to his time with the Flames, he said he actually dressed for more games than he was credited with. The difference was back then, you actually had to be on the ice to get the game credit.
“I actually dressed for about 10 games, but I sat on the bench for most of them,” he said. “Back in those days, you had to be on the ice for at least one shift for it to count as a game played, so those two games I played in were games I skated in.”
It was an old-school mentality in the 1970s, he added, where veterans led the way.
“The Flames back then had guys like Pat Quinn, Noel Price, Bryan Hextall and that’s how (general manager) Cliff Fletcher did it back then — go with the old guys,” he said.
The card was designed by Jacob Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation in Alberta, while the card backs were written by Naim Cardinal of the Tallcree First Nation, also in Alberta.
Mercredi said Cardinal got in touch with him to get all of the pertinent information.
“He’s really interested in Indigenous hockey players and he told me Upper Deck was interested in doing something like this,” he said.
Once the project was completed, Mercredi said he called Upper Deck to see if he could get some cards sent up.
“I asked for four so my nephews and grandkids could each have one,” he said. “They swore me to secrecy because it hadn’t been launched.”
Upper Deck said it worked with a board of mostly Indigenous community members for guidance to properly celebrate these communities.
“It was paramount for us to do this right and involve the Indigenous community from the inception of the idea through distribution,” said Upper Deck president Jason Masherah in a press release. “We’re thrilled to give these iconic Indigenous players the recognition they deserve and get the cards in the hands of excited community members.”
The other players in the series include Ted Nolan, Dan Frawley, Johnny Harms, Rocky Trottier, Danny Hodgson, Bill LeCaine and Jason Simon.
The cards are being distributed at Indigenous hockey camps run by Nolan, as well as at two Indigenous hockey tournaments, but nothing is scheduled for Yellowknife.
“There isn’t a collectibles place in Yellowknife anymore, but they told me that they would send up a package when it was launched — I’m expecting that to arrive any day now,” said Mercredi. “It’s a great piece of history and it’s a chance to show a whole generation of kids who probably don’t realize that we’ve had two players from Yellowknife get drafted in the first round: myself and Greg Vaydik. It was a long time ago, but it happened.”
This is so fantastic! I refer to Vic’s achievements as an Indigenous NHL player often in my classroom. I remember listening to the radio and hearing his name as a First Round draft choice- amazing! A card well deserved!