Game-worn hockey jersey conventions are the equivalent of a bonfire party for collectors. Though our hobby is niche, we travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles, to huddle around museum-worthy displays that span the proud generations of hockey. Few gatherings of game-worn collectors are as heralded as the annual MeiGray Expo. This hallowed event pulls together the many unique factions of the game-worn community under one roof, including legendary Gretzky collectors like Shawn Chaulk and proud members of the NHL community like Phil Pritchard, caretaker of the Stanley Cup (and a bunch of other stuff).
This year, the MeiGray Expo featured two players from the New York Riveters, a team from the recently-founded National Women’s Hockey League. Rivs players Courtney Burke and Rebecca Russo took the time to address the crowd and discuss the many aspects of playing in a brand-new women’s hockey league. They also toured the show floor and seemed to have a fantastic time getting to know the collectors, stopping for selfies with fans and signing numerous autographs. It was a great way to showcase the continued growth of hockey in nontraditional markets and minority player groups.
The MeiGray Expo also featured a keynote address from NHL Hall of Famer Adam Oates, who touched on the challenges of coaching NHL teams and his experiences as a star forward. Naturally, many of the collectors had to take selfies with Adam, holding some of his game-worn jerseys. The line for Adam’s autograph was, as expected, quite long! Everyone wanted to take advantage of the free autograph ticket MeiGray provided to every expo participant.
On the exhibit side of things, one could find every manner of team on display, including a wonderful Winnipeg Jets display that featured a Patrik Laine Heritage Classic-style game-worn and some amazing Philadelphia Flyers exhibits from fellow collectors. No matter your taste in era, whether vintage or modern, the MeiGray collectors’ tables and special jersey exhibits had something to offer for everyone.
Of course, the expo isn’t complete without the ever-popular MeiGray grab bag, and this year was no different. Participants got to draft a jersey of their choosing based on a randomly-chosen draft order. The first-overall pick selected a Tyler Seguin away set while the second-overall pick (that’s me!) went with an Anze Kopitar set. Third-overall walked away with a nicely-worn Evgeny Kuznetsov Caps set. If you like young star power, this year’s grab bag draft was not wanting at the top of the jersey pool.
The most important part of the MeiGray Expo, however, is meeting friends old and new. As this was my first time at this gathering, I had the chance to put faces to names and talk to collectors I’d never normally see. Their enthusiasm and passion for the hobby was clear, whether it was their carefully-curated tables or the way they talked about their love for collecting and preserving history. The crucial aspect of this hobby is connection and community. Few events can help to build these bridges like the MeiGray Expo does year-in and year-out. I look forward to becoming a regular over the many expos to come.