Before I get to the main course, let me present you with a bit of an appetizer. Sam over at Second City Hockey did an excellent question and answer with Comcast Sportsnet’s Josh Mora. Sam even did the honor of asking him my question.
Were you worried that writing a children’s book about the team you cover would be a conflict of interests?
A: I was mostly worried that people would hate it or that the story wouldn’t work. My wife, who did the illustrations, and I had a lot of personal emotional investment in this. I’ve always wanted to write in ways other than the writing I do for television. She has a long resume of professional experience as an illustrator and a designer, but she’s always wanted to illustrate books. So were putting our professional aspirations out there for everyone to ridicule. Plus, in many ways, it’s a very personal story, too. I think one of the reasons the story works is that while it’s good for kids, it also reminds us grown-up Hawks’ fans about how we first fell in love with the game and this team. So I had that out there as well. But when I started hosting the show again in the middle of last year the Blackhawks made it very clear that they didn’t want their host to be a shill for the team, but rather for Steve and I to be open and honest about what we saw on the ice. So I was pretty confident we could do the book without sacrificing my integrity as a journalist.
So the ‘Hawks didn’t want their host to be a shill for the team, but he decides to write a children’s book about the ‘magic’ uniform the team wears….Oh, forget it, this isn’t the time to be petty. Seriously, it’s awesome Sam scored an interview like that. If you want an insider’s look without silly cliches, that’s the first place you should look.
Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for about 9 inches of snow and -34 temperatures (or something like that). The reason I mention it is, Sam will be hawking (pun intended) his paper, The Committed Indian, outside the UC and inside of it will include an article written by Bob and myself. It’s a mid-season recap with a Fifth Feather twist to it. You’ll only to be able to find this article in his paper. So when you’re sprinting past him on the street, throw two bucks his way. He’s freezing his ass off so you can laugh yours off.
Ok, now to the main course. I can still remember the exact instance I played the original ‘NHL Hockey’ for the Sega Genesis (I was at a friend’s house in fifth grade after school). It was probably the coolest thing I’d ever seen. A video game with the Blackhawks in it and a center with the number 27. Come on, I was 10. Other than Madden, I would argue the best sports video games, year in and year out, are hockey games. By now, you’re dying with anticipation so I present to you the following hockey games, the gaming system, and the categories which best describe them.
The Cherry–NHLPA ’93, Sega Genesis– Made famous by the movie ‘Swingers’, this was the sequel to ‘NHL Hockey’. Instead of being licensed by the NHL, this game only had the NHLPA’s approval so instead of team names, we were left with cities, team colors, and actual players’ names. No bother, this game invented video game injuries and even had an archaic stat tracking system. The only drawback of this game other than not having team names was the goalies were soft and two moves always worked. Coming across the slot and ripping a slap shot or deking the goalie by going backhand, forehand never failed. I’ve still never had a true 1-0 game.
The (Near) Perfect Game–NHL ’94, Sega Genesis– Almost the exact same as it’s predecessor except they had NHL licensing, the introduction of the one-timer, and the goalies were vastly improved. I still remember playing this game for the first time in Funcoland in the building formerly known as Randhurst. My mom had to drag me out of the store. The only thing keeping it from being perfect was they had yet to create a season mode.
The Best Game No One Knows About–NHL Hockey ’95, PC– If you’ve ever played this game, you’ll know. Not only did it have a full season mode complete with trades, but a public address announcer called out every goal and penalty. While the SNES and Genesis models decided it was a good idea to change the way the players looked (very bad idea), this game kept the old style of player complete with full logos on the jerseys and an award show at the end of the season. I still remember Joe Murphy’s double overtime goal in Game 6 against Boston to clinch the Cup. Amazingly, I also kissed a girl for the first time this year.
Best Feature of the Worst Game– NHL ’97, Sony Playstation– The first installment of the Playstation franchise was quite disappointing unless of course you recall the amount of detail put into the goalie masks. Each goalie had their actual mask. Patrick Roy’s Avalanche mask, Marty Brodeur’s Devil mask, Jeff Hackett’s Feathered mask, you know name it, they had it. It was a sight to behold. Too bad the game was almost completely unplayable.
Most Enjoyable Game for 15 minutes until you wanted to gouge your eyes out– NHL 2-on-2 Open Ice, Sony Playstation– Ever wonder what Chris Chelios looked like doing a 360′ and firing a shot or Pavel Bure doing somersaults before unleashing a howitzer with Pat Foley doing the play-by-play. Well, this game brought together your wildest hockey fantasies. Midway’s hockey answer to their monster hit NBA Jam was fun until everything felt repetitive and scores would reach 11-9 or 14-10. There’s only so many times Alexander Mogilny can do back flips before I get nauseous.
Best Hockey Video Game.-NHL ’98, Sony Playstation– The one that had it all. You could play a full season. You could play an international tournament. You could decide whether you wanted to go into the umbrella power play or overload. You could make completely unfair and unethical trades. On top of that, the gameplay was second to none. The goalies weren’t soft. There was no set way to score every time down the ice. I’m still waiting for another game that has deflections like this one had. On the power play, you could work it back and forth between the defensemen and press a button to get a screen in front and once there was one, the defenseman would aim for their sticks. The only drawback was if the computer let off a shot from the goal line, it was going in and there was nothing you could do about it. I lost Game 5 of the Western Conference Semis to Colorado like that in triple overtime. Quick side note, I did not attend any high school dances this year.
Best Stanley Cup Victory Celebration– NHL 2002, Playstation 2– Every year I would always feel cheated at the end of the last game of the Cup Finals. Usually, one of the players magically ended up with the Stanley Cup, skated around, there was a video afterwards and that was that. This one finally quenched my thirst. Once the horn blew of the last game, it cut to Jocelyn Thibault getting mobbed by everyone pouring out of the bench. Hugs were plentiful. Then it went to center ice with Tony Amonte accepting the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman. Amonte skated around, handed it to someone else and away it went. It showed just about every one from the team skating with it. My eyes have seen Mark Bell skate with the Stanley Cup. Not many people can brag about that.
Most hyped feature which also turned out to be the dumbest– NHL ’08, Playstation 2– When this one was coming out, EA bragged about how the gamer would have complete control of his player’s stick. What they failed to mention was how utterly pointless it was. Once you try putting a triple deke on someone, the player moves to a ridiculously slow pace and more often than not, ends up face first in the glass while Jim Hughson mocks you. Not fun. More negative points for still having Trent Yawney as the ‘Hawks Head Coach even though he was fired about seven months prior and not including Kane or Toews in the game but having Denis Arkhipov still on the team.
Game which will result in me getting numerous massages to remove the knots from my back– NHL 2K9, Wii– I got this one for Christmas. After a couple of games I started to get the hang of the controls and started a franchise with the ‘Hawks. You have to stand to play and there is a lot of shaking and moving. I thought it would be a good idea to play four games in a row. I’m still stretching my back and shoulder to loosen up and this was three and a half weeks ago.
I’m sure there’s something through the years I missed. Feel free to add any categories or games I forgot about. Don’t forget if you’re attending the game tomorrow to pick up a copy of ‘The Committed Indian’.