And the Award goes to…..

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 CherryNHLPA ’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 GameNHL ’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 AboutNHL 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 GameNHL ’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 outNHL 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 CelebrationNHL 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 dumbestNHL ’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 backNHL 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’.

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13 Responses to And the Award goes to…..

  1. Tom Stanley says:

    I was on Yahoo and found your blog. Read a few of your other posts. Good work. I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Tom Stanley

  2. ChicagoKill says:

    I always have a soft spot for the damn near impossible to play original “Ice Hockey” for the NES. The one with the fast skinny guys, the average normal guys, and the strong fat guys..

    I do still get drunk with friends and play NHL ’94 though – Blackhawks are usually outlawed due to the near god-like qualities of Roenick though

  3. Bob says:

    Thanks for reading, Tom. Please come back and see us again.

    As for John, ChicagoKill and the video games, you guys are on your own. John’s recollection of specific effects in video games is the eighth wonder of the world.

  4. Sam says:

    This was the best blog about hockey ever written, or at least in the team photo. I have to say, though, this NHL ’09 on Xbox is as close to the top, which is NHL 94, as I’ve seen. The Be A Pro mode is wonderful, and I finally made my way out of Rockford and to the big club. Now I know the joy of escaping Rockford….

  5. John says:

    Can’t believe I forgot about ‘Ice Hockey’. I’ve always loved that game but can never find any friends who want to play because it is so difficult to play. The shootouts are ridiculous. I’ve yet to play NHL ’09 and I’ve only heard amazing things about it. Sam, never forget Rockford. The mere memory of it should provide more than enough motivation.

    Bobby, I didn’t even include my Madden memory or the one Triple Play game we played, Cubs vs. Sox. Rod Beck on to close with two on and two out. Robin Ventura. Three Run DONG. I think that’s when Rod Beck decided living in a trailer was for him.

  6. Mike says:

    Randhurst is still there for a little longer before they tear it down. FUNCOLand however is long gone.

    good list. I may have to get the game for Wii.

  7. John says:

    Randhurst is still there physically but that place’s soul died about nine years ago.

  8. Kevin says:

    NHL ’09 for 360 is pretty sweet. I too just got promoted from Rockford, thank the lord. NHL ’94 was awesome, but my brothers and I still play Ice Hockey for NES . . . the best part is getting into fights when the whole team gets into the scrum. Classic.

  9. Eric says:

    How does a hockey video game post not include Blades of Steel?

    That game was almost, sort of, close to, but not really the greatest hockey game…at least as 8 bit games were concerned. The fighting was great, the penalty shots were fun if you played against a friend. People would cheat by looking at their opponent’s controller to see what direction they were holding the d-pad. And the tournament play was kind of fun, with the bonus of a great (if not artificial by today’s standard) celebration after winning the Cup. The end song was like a Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA jingle!

    I have to say NHL 94 was great but it sucked that they took out the blood, which if you recall has the whole Swinger’s scene debate at heart.

    NHL 95 added a GM function and a full season, but it was a bit dysfunctional. Plus, players actually skated with their sticks up and not on the ice all the time, unfortunately EA should’ve kept the NHL 94 engine because when something works don’t try to fix it.

    NHL 96 fixed the GM and trade features to where it was usable, plus they added give-and-goes (although the implementation was a little wacky since the game engine seemed light years faster than NHL 95). Oh, and they brought back fighting, which was gone since NHL 93.

    There are so many hockey games worth listing, but I’ve already said (typed) too much. I still love Ice hockey on the NES. I use to use Russia and pretend they were the Hawks because of the red unis and face the USA pretending they were the Blues. Again…I’ve said too much.

    Go Hawks!

  10. John says:

    Eric, Blades of Steel was purposely off my list. The reason why the original ‘NHL Hockey’ was so great was because it proved how bad Blades of Steel truly was. The game is almost unplayable now as compared to the rest of the games on the list. Time has not been kind to it.

    You can’t lift the puck. The goal celebrations are quite lame. The only saving grace for the game are fights and the penalty shots. Unfortunately, that meant you had to waste the whole game skating the puck around waiting for time to run out and get to penalty shots. If anything, I could’ve done a category called ‘We didn’t know how bad we had it’ and put Blades of Steel in there.

    Little fact about ‘Swingers’ people always confuse. The guys are actually playing ‘NHLPA 93’ but they’re describing ‘NHL 94’. You can tell when they pause it to pay back Mikey and when Trent makes Little Wayne’s head bleed.

  11. blackhawkbob says:

    I’m out.

  12. Eric says:

    John,

    See, that’s where I guess I disagree. Maybe I’m older than you and can remember the just plain awful hockey games that came out on systems like the Commodore and Atari systems. I’m sure you’ve seen them, games with two rectangular sticks and a moving sphere. Or stick figure players.

    When Blades of Steel came out it was light years better than any prior hockey game, maybe even including Ice Hockey (zamboni in-between period shots notwithstanding). Everything becomes dated, and of course none of the NES hockey games can hold a candle to the next generation ones on the Sega and SNES. The same goes for the current PS3/Xbox versions that blow away the old EA games from the 90s. I guess I’m partial to all the fun I had with old friends (some long since passed) playing games like Tecmo Bowl, RBI Baseball, and Ice Hockey or Blades of Steel all weekend long.

  13. John says:

    Yeah I remember that stuff…barely. I guess my point was it hasn’t aged well whereas games like RBI, Tecmo, NHLPA, and even Ice Hockey can still be played today without thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ Take it from the guy who four months ago spent a ‘couples’ weekend in Lake Geneva with four other guys playing RBI for endless hours. I can’t imagine doing that with game like ‘Blades’, that’s just my personal taste. But I definitely agree with you about how far ahead of its time it was when it came out. The team’s colors matched actual teams and the tournament mode was the first of its kind.

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