Guest reviewer Theron Ross, better known to many of you as TRDouble, checks in with a great review of the new NHL SMITI figures.  Take it away!

Despite my age, I grew up as a Mego Kid; that's nice, big 8" Action Figures with real cloth clothing. Outside of 3 3/4" G.I. Joes in the 80's, the shrinking of toys really bothered me as a kid.
So I love the renaissance of lager-sized toys again, from the now defunct DC 9" and Famous
Covers lines, through today's Marvel Legends-sized figures. But, for some reason, I am really digging these small mini figures! Since buying the imported Marvel Kubricks, I've been hooked!

Smitis, made by the Stevenson Entertainment Group, has been around for just about a year. Most of their licenses have been for Music Groups, but now they have crossed over into the world of sports, mixing the NHL with mini figures! NHL Series 1 is now out in Canada and should be
released very soon in the US, unfortunately with a few changes. More on that later.

Packaging - **
Clam shells seem to be taking over! These come in little clamshell 'cards' which are very sturdy and should suffer little shelf wear. The front clearly states that these are Smiti (Sports) and are from NHL Hockey Series 1, along with the obligatory NHL and NHLPA logos, in both English and French! The players are inside a little plastic hockey puck that clearly shows the player and stick, and has the players name, number and team logo. The player's face is also shown on the front of the package. The back of the package shows the rest of this eight player Series One line- up. The packaging is simple, but the hockey puck design is a nice touch! The French writing may not appear on the US release.

Sculpting - ***
All of the mini figures took a different approach to their design. The Smiti body is a little less blocky and adds a tad bit more realism to the body. Adding to this, Smitis use full, real face sculpts, not painted on faces. The hockey players all have fully sculpted faces and wear a non-removable hockey helmet, with appropriate hair hanging out the back. For this size and type of figure, the sculpts are well done. Some are better than others, but overall, I was impressed. The hands are the standard claw-type hands, with extensions and grooves to simulate the gloves. The hockey pants and socks are also there, helped along by the figure's articulation. Finishing it off, each player has ice skate feet, with little blades that provide good balance, and sculpted on x's for the laces. They look like they belong in the Backyard Hockey PC Game!

Paint - ***
The paint apps weren't too bad, but like with most figures, it's best to dig through and compare before buying. All of my NHL'ers faces were painted cleanly, with a touch of paint from the inside of the helmet running on to the hair. The uniforms are completely painted and the lines of the jerseys came out exceptionally clean. The Logo, the name and number on the back, even the number on the shoulder are all nice and clean. The sock lines is where is can get a little sloppy, partially due to the articulation cutting across them. The lines are not as clean and more bleeding of colors is noticeable, but it does not distract from the figures.

Articulation - ***
Mini Mates are my favorite mini figures, in part due to the great articulation. Well, Smitis are not as articulated, but they didn't do too bad! The basic points are Neck Swivel, Shoulders, Bicep Swivel, Elbow, Wrists, Waist, Hip and Knee. That's not bad at all for a figure this small. All the joints are nice and tight and allow you to put these is a variety of poses and really fiddle around with them. Unlike some mini figures, the limbs are well attached and do not come off, contributing to a very sturdy figure. It can be a bear to get the arms just right to hold the hockey sticks in decent poses; something ball-jointed shoulders would have greatly helped. And guess what? According to the Smitis Web Site, the body has been improved and will include ball-joint shoulders in the near future!

Accessories - **
I'm not really a big accessories person. Needless, non-essential accessories just end up in a box in the attic, lost until I decide to do *my* Spring cleaning in August! NHL Smitis are light on the accessories, coming with just their basic hockey sticks. This is fine, but what about the hockey puck?!? A simple little puck would have added tremendously to the display and play value of these, and it is a sorely missing accessory.

Value - ***
This depends on how you feel about these mini figures. I picked my set up in Canada for $5.92 Canadien, and after taxes and the exchange, they came out to about $4.00 US. For three more dollars, I could get a highly articulated Marvel Legends figures or a static Justice League Animated figure, both of which I own and enjoy. So, your mileage may vary. I think four bucks is a pretty good price to pay for these little guys, which includes the NHL License. I'm guessing you will pay a little bit more for these when they hit the US, and the value will probably drop at least a half star.

Overall -  ***
I really like these mini figures and Smitis are running a close second to Mini Mates as my favorite type of mini figure. Ball-joint shoulder will close the gap even more. These are yet another mini body thrown into the fray, but the real face sculpts and the non-block shape of the bodies helps distinguish Smitis a little from the rest of the crowd. There are rumblings that more sports figures may be coming, including NFL, MLB and NASCAR, along with more music figures. But, it's the sports licenses, which no other mini figure manufacturer has at the moment besides LEGO, that may help push Smitis over the top.

Where to Buy:
The Stevenson Entertainment Group released these first in hockey mad Canada, where they can be found in Wal*Mart... if you are lucky! They should start showing up in the US in late February/early March and I look for stores like Media Play / Sam Goody / Suncoast to carry them, at the least.

Note About The Us Release:
I just wanted to point out that NHL Hockey Series One in Canada is different than Series One in the US. The Canadien release contains three players - Mats Sundin, Saku Koivu, Todd Bertuzzi - from Canadien Hockey teams that will be replaced with three players from US-Based Hockey Clubs - Brian Leetch, Ron Francis, Jason Allison. To add to the madness, there were promotional figures given out at L.A. Kings Hockey games, for a total of Five L.A. King Players, including a special Smiti Box to store them in. The last figure in the promotion was Jason Allison, who is slated for retail release. The other four? I'd suggest you start hunting eBay now!
And look out for those chase figures too!

About the reviewer:  
I have been a toy, comic book, sports, computer and music junkie, in that order, for most of my 32 years of life! In the early 90's, I dropped toys altogether after the initial Toy Biz Marvel figures and concentrated on building my vast vinyl record collection, writing & recording, deejaying and creating mix tapes. In February 2000, fed up with the music industry and physically sick, I discovered the DC 9" Silver Age Batman on eBay, which reminded me of my old Megos. A winning auction and $41 dollars later, I have been hooked every since... on toys and eBay!

Figure from the collection of TRDouble.

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