Being a young kid in Northern California, I wouldn’t have considered myself a target audience for the National Hockey League. However in the early 90’s an environment existed to bring hosers, high-sticks, and hat-tricks to Northern California. It started with an NHL expansion team, the San Jose Sharks who arrived in 1991. With a new pro team in the region and Disney’s The Mighty Ducks coming out in 1992 it wasn’t long before neighborhood kids were toting around hockey sticks, strapping on roller blades, and pretending to try the flying V against Hockey’s greatest. I wasn’t exempt from these feelings and as far as I was concerned Gordon Bombay was the greatest hockey coach ever. Growing up I lived in a cul de sac and with about 7 neighborhood kids my age it was inevitable that we would partake in the street hockey sensation.
There were several groups of kids at my elementary school that were all caught up in the street hockey craze. Each group made up a semi-coherent team, and on a couple different occasions we would show up at the elementary school in our full game regalia for some serious matches. (My brother had a full blown set of goalie pads and equipment and he loved playing goalie).
As our neighborhood games and our skills improved a company developed a game that cemented my true fandom and an understanding of the game. That game was NHL 94 by EA Sports, I still feel a little piece of nostalgia back to this particular title everytime I hear their long time slogan “It’s in the Game.” While I have never really bought into the annualized sports franchises that EA develops year after year, after year, after year ( I mean come on, are there really that many new game modes and new advances in technology to warrant a new game every year, no of course not it’s mostly updated rosters [I digress-this is another topic for another article]). NHL is, without contest, the EA Sports series I buy most frequently, and it all started because of particular set of planets aligning and a game to help cement an understanding and love for the game of hockey.
Even in 1993 the graphics for the game where nothing to write home about. In fact, in comparison to other titles that existed at the time the graphics were subpar, but this wasn’t the focus for sports games. It was all about gameplay, the controls were solid, the CPU opponents were tough but they had one major weakness…. the wrap around. This move was almost a guaranteed goal, if you could get your skater and the puck behind the net the defenders would usually chase you around over and over then when you got tired of leading them around a quick shot and it usually resulted in a goal. In NHL 94 the matches were fast paced and you were constantly mashing the sprint/turbo button to make the game faster and the hits harder.
Because the San Jose Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history this year, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect back and appreciate what has brought me here. This article will post the day before game 3 in the 2016 Finals with the Sharks trailing in the series 2-0. I know if the team plays smart hockey they can beat the Penguins. So come on boys! Get in there and shut them down!
Not a Hockey speech but still inspiring. Focus on your fundamentals.