It took 50 years, and it was worth every minute for Vic Mercredi to see his face on an NHL rookie card.
Mercredi is one of eight Indigenous NHLers to be featured in the First Peoples Rookie Card series, from trading card company Upper Deck. He still plays hockey casually with his kids and grandkids, but it's been five full decades since he was drafted by the Atlanta Flames.
The picture on his card features a young Mercredi — a photo taken back during his first day of training camp, for the purpose of cards and programs.
"50 years later? Better late than never," Mercredi said with a chuckle.
"It is quite an honour to have something like that at this point in my life."
As word of the card spread, Mercredi said his family members and friends have been calling him up at his home in Yellowknife to congratulate him.
"It's been well-received, so obviously I've got to get the cards out to them," he said. "For my grandkids, actually, when they first looked at it they had no idea who this person was."
Aged out at 21
Mercredi is Métis. He was 20 when he was drafted in 1973, and was the first hockey player born in the N.W.T. to play in the NHL.
He recalled separating his shoulder in his first year with the league. Though the muscles healed, it wasn't until two and a half years later that he discovered he had a broken shoulder bone — a factor that led to him leaving the NHL.
"At that time, back in '74, this is when the NHL was drafting 18-year-olds ... so they were going young. So at 21, I was an old guy," he said.
"I just decided that the opportunity wasn't there any more. I was married, we had a child, and I just didn't want to drag the family around America to play hockey."
Mercredi's card comes along with cards for fellow former NHLers Ted Nolan, Jason Simon, Dan Frawley, William LeCaine, Johnny Harms, Danny Hodgson and Rocky Trottier.
In a news release earlier this month, Upper Deck said the cards would be distributed in several ways, such as at Indigenous hockey camps, at games where Indigenous Alumni teams play, and at First Row Collectibles, an Indigenous-owned hobby shop in Winnipeg.
"We're thrilled to give these iconic Indigenous players the recognition they deserve and get the cards in the hands of excited community members," stated Upper Deck president Jason Masherah in that news release.
For Yellowknifers, Mercredi said he's got a box of cards at home that he's giving out to people who want one.