It’s in the game, and so were we



So today the good people at Electronic Arts, who have been responsible for me wasting hundreds of thousands of hours over the last 21 years, are set to release NHL 14.  No big deal, from the few ad’s I’ve seen it really doesn’t look much different than the last 6 have been.  But in this game they will feature “NHL 94” mode.  They can try to fix it up anyway they want, try and let kids believe that is how it was in 94.  But no matter what they do, it will never be the original.


Now to you, the original may mean terrible audio, graphics, unrealistic play.  For me, it was going to battle with my friend Tyson Lowrie as we attempted to bring the Cup home.  SHOT GOT REAL.  You don’t have succesful Cup runs using the likes of the Senators, Sharks, and Whalers in 94 without being dead serious about it.  If you’re wondering why those were the teams used, it’s simple.


You can’t play with a team like the Canucks.  Bure, Ronning and Linden would just snipe all day and Kirk McLean would stop everything in site.  If one of those 3 were to go down with a severe concussion for a period, Geoff Courtnall was there to pick up the slack.  And there was no getting around that blueline, Lumme and Babych allowed the forward group to apply a high pressure forecheck all game long.  So you don’t play with the Canucks and you play with the awful teams and put in the work to really earn it.


We would need to do our own scouting reports on our opposition.  I’m not saying that EA Sports analyst Ron Barr was on the take, but he failed to give us any real in depth scouting reports.  And for whatever reason, we always seemed to run into the same official every single game.  Playoff game, exhibition game, he was there.  Never did catch his name.  And man alive was he corrupt.


I don’t know how many times Lowire and myself would be screaming about the non calls.  I especially was never one to hide my emotions.  I chewed the guy out over several non calls, and even when we would finally get ones to go our way I would still be reminding him of his incompetance.  “I guess so stripes, I f***ing guess so!” after just about every single call that actually did go our way.  Needless to say that we were indeed “in the game”.


But you had to be.  Playing with a teammate isn’t like playing alone.  When you play 94 alone it isn’t exactly challenging weather you’re 10, 20, or 30 years of age.  But when you’re a team it is a whole different animal.  It takes time to get the right chemistry, agree on line combos, put together a game plan, which one of you will bring the beer, which house you are playing at, if you’re younger then which mom will let you stay up later, if you’re older than will girlfriends be understanding of the sacrifice it takes to win a Cup…or 2, it just isn’t as simple as crushing shots and playing a game…although that is very much so a part of it.


When you play a playoff game at home in 94, you need to understand that it is VITAL to get your fans into it.  You need to keep them energized with a lot of big hits and high tempo play (actually, the crowd only cheers big hits and every save and since you don’t really want to allow shots on goal, you just have to run around and smoke fools all game).  Gotta get that peak db level up to ear shattering levels.  There is no real reason you need to do this, but since they have a crowd meter it seemed pretty important.


Another struggle, was finding enough ink in pens to write down the password if the time came where we had to shut it down for the night, mid playoff run.  A 16 character password left the hand cramped and of course if you didn’t double and triple check it you ran the risk of it being 1 mistake away from total disaster and losing everything you had built up.  A Jay Feaster offer sheet wasn’t anywhere near the disaster that writing down the wrong password to recover your playoff was.


But while this all sounds like work, and it was, there was always that reward.  Setting up one timers to not only win OT games, but sweep Stanley Cup finals.  Todd Elik, Andrew Cassels, Sylvain Turgeon, Kelly Kisio, were all great hero’s up front.  The netminding of greats like Peter Sidorkiewicz, Jeff Hackett, and Frank Pietrangelo really were the backbone’s of many great victories.  And the d-men…well….they really did nothing but lay good hits and sometimes knock out star players, only to make miraculous recoveries from what appeared to be severe concussions and play the next period.


I GUESS it will be cool to have 94 mode in NHL 14, but it will be nowhere near what it was.  Racking up hours upon hours of playing (and drinking) for the grand prize of hearing the crowd roar 3 times and players look as though they’re having a seizure as they hold something grey that looked basically nothing like a Stanley Cup for maybe 10 seconds…never once giving it to any other of the 4 players on the ice (for some reason, goaltenders failed to show any emotion upon the ultimate victory).  So worth it!


Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

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