Category Archives: Hockey Video Game Hall of Fame

Dieter Ruehle drops some musical knowledge about NHL 94

Happy National Video Game Day! The release of Electronic Arts’ latest hockey offering, NHL 14 is finally here, and many hockey fans have been clamoring for more video puck.

The reviews of the game, which features the likeness of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, have been scattered. The game boast three improvements: a new physics engine (meaning more realistic movements on the ice), better fighting (cue obligatory Fight Club reference) and a simpler way to deke (which I always had a hard time with).

Dieter Ruehle, Kings music director and NHL 94 organistBut one of the main draws for this game is the virtual celebration of the 20th anniversary of NHL 94. This Anniversary mode has been salivated over ever since they announced it. Now having played it I can say it’s kinda disappointing.

The game touted the inclusion of being able to play the game with all the bells and whistles of the original. But when they say “bells and whistles” it”s just that. Bells and whistles. Or should I say goal horns and organs.

According to Gamespot, it’s just NHL 14 “dumbed down and sped up,” with the camera in the classic over ice camera angle, blue ice, stars under players, simplified controls and the same goal horns. Again according to Gamespot:

The result is barely a passing nod to this legendary hockey game, with the most standout detail being the bleepy-bloopy music you might remember well from long-ago marathons on the Sega Genesis.

Bleepy bloopy music? I guess. I mean I’d rather listen to Brass Bonanza than the Dropkick Murphys singing “I’m Shipping Off To Boston” when I’m playing, but maybe that’s just me.

Life In Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame
Turns out though that there’s a Hockeywood connection when it comes to the “bleepy-bloopy” music of the original. Dieter Ruehle, the Kings’ music director high above the ice at Staples Center, was tapped back in the day to provide the organ music that was played in between goals and puck drops in the game.

Because of his substantial involvement in NHL 94 and his long attachment to the Los Angeles Kings, I have decided to induct Dieter into the very exclusive Hockeywood Video Game Hall Of Fame.

I caught up with the Hall-Of-Famer earlier this summer to ask him about his experience with his brush with video game greatness.

1) How were you approached to do the organ playing on NHL 94? What was the process like?

Wow, it was such a long time ago, I don’t remember the details. All I do remember is this: I was in my first season as organist for the San Jose Sharks (after working Kings games from 89-90 thru 91-92). The folks at Electronic Arts approached me – through the Sharks – to record the organ music for NHL 94.



Q: One of the cool things about the game was each arena had specific music. Did you have a say in which songs were used? Do you remember which team got what?

A: Yes, I did have a say in which songs were used. I remember trying my best to emulate the organ songs that were heard in each specific NHL arena. Years of listening to other team’s organists in the background of hockey telecasts since I was a kid came in handy. I remember playing “Brass Bonanza” for the Hartford Whalers, “Here Come the Hawks” for the Chicago Blackhawks and “The Sabre Dance” for the Buffalo Sabres. Each of those songs were staples in their home arenas. I also remember playing other little organ cheers/prompts. “Lets Go Pens” for the Penguins, “Let’s Go Caps” for Washington, “Go Leafs Go” for Toronto , etc. 



Q: Out of all the songs you played, which one do you think was most obscure? 

A: Well, there were probably a bunch.  I think it’s all relative. “Here Come The Hawks” might be very obscure for a fan of another team that’s never heard it. Yet, it’s very familiar to a Chicago fan.

Q: A lot of those songs are arena specific. For the Kings you played The
Beatles’ “Birthday” when they score a goal. Any significance to that
selection? 

A: When I worked Kings games from ‘89 thru ‘92, I actually used
to play that song on the organ as a fan prompt. The decision to use
that as the goal song wasn’t my idea (I think the guys at EA Sports
picked that one).

Q: Did you ever consider playing the song at
the end of the periods that’s played now?

A: Ah…”The Kings March”.  I don’t remember
why I didn’t play that on NHL ‘94. Again, that might have been a case of
where the folks at EA Sports made that decision.

Dieter Ruehle is luckier than you. Here he is posing with the Stanley Cup, Jonathan Quick's Conn Smythe trophy and the Clarence Campbell trophy in 2013.
Q: You have been part of the L.A. Kings family off and on since 1989.
You were obviously excited like everyone else in Staples when LA
finally hoisted the Cup. As the music
director, what song would you select as THE song for the franchise? 

A: As
far as there being an ultimate song for the Kings franchise, I wouldn’t
feel comfortable only pointing out one song. Here’s why: From the 1960s
thru the 1970s, the Kings March was probably “the” tune. That song was
played when the team took the ice, left the ice, scored goals and was
even heard at the beginning and end of Kings’ television and radio
broadcasts. Yet, that changed in the 1980s, and has changed several
times in the last 25 years or so.  Due to the changes, I can’t say there
is a single “Kings” song for the franchise.

Q: Are you a gamer? (not like you have a lot of time.) But did you ever play the game and sort of have an out-of-body moment like “Hey, I did that!” 

A: For sure! I’m not a “gamer” now, meaning I don’t play video games at home like I used to. But back in the 90s, I had a Super Nintendo. And yes, I played NHL 94 (’95 &’96 too) quite often. It was really cool playing those games and having those moments of “hey, I did that!” LOL

Q: 

There’s been some teams that have have been created since the game hit shelves 20 years ago. What songs would you consider for these four teams? 

A: Well, I didn’t need to come up with songs for the NHL teams that were in existence for NHL ’94. Meaning, I was basically playing “cover tunes” of their pre existing themes and fan clappers.  What I’d simply do now is try to recreate what’s played at these four teams’ home rinks.  But IF I had to…



The Blue Jackets – Maybe some songs with “blue” in the title? 



The Wild – Born to Be Wild

The Predators – I have no idea! Maybe something country? Or Barracuda!



The Coyotes – Werewolves of London (their first goal song after arriving in Phoenix in 1996 from Winnipeg ). I’d also play “Let’s Go Kai-yotes” which is their main chant.

Thanks again, Dieter!

If you want to relive some of his work in the original game, check out some of these tunes.

The Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame: NHLPA 93 and NHL 94

(Ed. note: this post was originally written in March of 2009 and is now being reposted for the 20th anniversary of NHL 94. Enjoy!)

HOCKEYWOOD VIDEO GAME HALL OF FAME

Hockey games have been around as long as video games systems have been. And even though the games constantly evolved as computers and systems get more complex, there is one franchise that most gamers think of when they think of video puck.

Starting in 1991, Electronic Arts started mass-producing hockey video games, and while they’ve been cranking them out every season (including the lockout year), only two of them will be inducted into the Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame.

NHLPA 93 and NHL 94 are my next selections to be put into the hallowed ground, next to Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel. Why these two games? And why together? These two years happened to coincide with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers rise to the top of the hockey world, as well as the golden age of home consoles. And to include one over the other would lessen the importance of the other.

So, let’s start with NHLPA 93. Electronic Arts, having already conquering the NBA World with Lakers vs. Celtics, and the world of the NFL with Madden, decided to bring hockey into the fold. Other hockey titles, like Blades of Steel and Ice Hockey, had a sideline view, where players who skate left to right. EA turned that on its ear, standardizing a unique vertical perspective, which brought understanding of the sport to a whole new level.

NHLPA 93The first game, NHL Hockey, boasted an official license from the NHL, but not the players association. So, you could play as the Kings, but have no idea which player was supposed to be who.

So, when EA made the next game, NHLPA 93, they got an official license from the players’ association, but not the league. So now, you knew who the players were, but the teams were generic, with no logos or names. In fact, the New York Islanders were given the designation of Long Island.

No matter what the teams were named, NHLPA 93 was a great primer for average people to actually get to know the players. The game provides in an indirect way what the sport had lacked at the time, a focus on its stars.

The gameplay was fluid and fast, but so were the whistles. Some players, irritated by the fact that the goalie would often hold on to the puck long enough to have the whistle blown, would immediately try to pass the puck as soon as the goalie got possession. This could potentially lead to turnovers in the defensive end and an easy score, but that was the risk one had to endure.

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NHLPA 93 had some truly great features that were taken out on subsequent games. The most notorious was the ability to make a player’s head bleed, made more famous with the scene in the movie Swingers, when Trent makes Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed for Superfan No. 99, Sue. (It should be noted that the version Trent and Sue was playing in the movie was NHLPA 93, which actually still had fighting and bleeding in the game.)

There was nothing more satisfying/demoralizing as seeing one of those little pixellated players writhing around, blood pouring on the ice, especially if it was a good player. One just had to line up their opponent just right and hit speed burst, and he’d go crying home to Mommy with a broken head.

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Fighting was was another popular feature that EA included. Every once in a while, you could rough up a player by putting up your digital dukes. The gameplay would stop, and the two players would get ready to rumble. Uppercuts and body blows were your two weapons, and the player with the defter thumbs often won. (If you fought with a goon, your chances greatly improved) Often times the fight ended when one player just falls on their butt on the ice. But every so often, a player would take a beating so bad, that he’d fall to the ice, and immediately start to bleed like a stuck pig. To me, there was nothing better than to win a fight this way, sending your opponent sliding across the ice as blood gushed from his head. It was a rarity, but definitely a way to put an exclamation point on a squirmish.

Turns out those two features were so popular, that it made the NHL suits nervous. The inclusion of these things started a dispute between EA and both the NHL and the NHLPA. Neither one had signed off on these additions to the EA game, and agreed that both the blood and the fighting should be removed in the next version. This probably marks the last time these two governing bodies were ever on the same page. My guess is that they probably thought it detrimental to the NHL, which trying to clean up it’s act and become more mainstream. Leave it to Gary Bettman to continue to meddle in the game of hockey, even if it’s just a video game.

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The following year, EA pulled both the blood and fighting from the game, and they were finally able to obtain an official license from both the NHL and NHLPA. But even though EA “took out the best part” from the game, they added something that made the game ten times better: the one-timer.

The one-timer became many gamers’ bread-and-butter play. Skate in with the puck behind the goalie, flip it toward the top of the slot to a waiting player, whose blast often beat the goaltender. There was also the one-timer from the blueline, as the puck would slide five-hole. There was the cannon one-timer, where the puck was passed to a player up ahead, who then shot it toward an unsuspecting netminder. There were many different versions, but the end result was often a wailing siren. And unless someone made the defensive adjustment to stop it (i.e. sit your ass in the crease to block/deflect the pass), games often became scorefests.

But one move that was prevalent in both versions was… well… some called it The Move, others called it The Deke. In my circle of gamers, it was called The Murray. (Since I had no life and played NHL 94 nonstop for a year). Everyone has a different name for it. The Move was, by definition, a finesse shot. In contrast to the one-timer, The Move was another benchmark of a player’s skill. And it was virtually unstoppable.

EA actually has a name for this shot: the Double Fake. Technically it was called The Matulac, according to the official cardset. (Named for one of the testers of the game.) You’d basically fake outside, then inside, then shoot outside. If you had enough space from a defender, and enough room to make the opposing goaltender commit, you had “clearance,” as my friends and I referred to it. And some of the players that could pull it off were also some of the more recognizable players in the game at the time: Wayne Gretzky, Jeremy Roenick, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier… All legends in their own right, both on the ice and in the game.

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I said The Move was virtually unstoppable, but I never said it couldn’t be stopped. NHL 94 had a feature that many gamers never used, barring an exceptional few: manual goalie. You could toggle between taking control of a skater and the goalie, say in the instance of someone trying to set up The Move. Taking control of the goalie was a huge risk, especially if you didn’t know what you were doing. But thwarting an opponent by swiping the puck away… to paraphrase Jodie Foster from the movie Contact: “There are… no words.”

Adding to the gameplay of NHL 94 is the ability to keep track of records of past games: most goals, most saves and winning percentage. Again, among my Circle of Gaming Friends, we would use old players and coaches names. Since I always played as Boston (sorry, the Kings were a finesse team), my moniker was Don Cherry. It added to the replayability of the game. The 82-game season mode wasn’t introduced until the much maligned NHL 95, but the ability to play in the playoffs was more than enough to keep gamers happy. Because let’s face it, who has time to play 94 games?

Mark LesserWanna know why NHL 94 was so good? Because it was designed, in part, by the same guy that programmed the Mattel Electronics handheld game, Football. You remember that game, right? The stadium-designed toy, digital display of the scoreboard, little red blips on a field, the tinny fanfare when you scored a touchdown…. An icon of personal gaming in its own right.

Well, Mark Lesser was the programmer of that and many other games when he was approached by EA to develop NHL 94, he eagerly accepted. But he had a little secret, which he admitted to in a 2007 article for DigitalPress:


“I remember being introduced to the sport of hockey for the first time.  I knew almost nothing about hockey and had never watched a game when I appeared at EA with the contract for NHL ’94.  Some of the EA staff took me to a live hockey game and I tried to hide my ignorance.  I learned the real game from programming the video game.  I was embarrassed at first, but by the time the EA guys realized that I knew nothing about hockey, I did.”

Can you believe that? The guy who created NHL 94, the gold standard of all hockey video games, had no idea how hockey was played! I can beat that! I knew a sportswriter who came from the Midwest, who was hired to cover the local hockey team here in town. He knew NOTHING about the sport, and borrowed my copy of NHL96 to teach himself the basic rules of the game. It worked, and he was rattling off the proper names of plays before he knew it. See, video games can be educational!

PhotobucketNHLPA 93 and NHL 94 continue to excite gamers to this day. Even though it’s been 15 years, the game is still as good as ever. Can’t dig up your old Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo? You can easily download emulators for your personal computer. Think playing as teams from 1994 is fun? How about teams from 2008-09? Or how about all-time teams? Thanks to some clever gamers, you could do both. Do some poking around online, you won’t be disappointed. Personally, I played as the All-Time Kings team, and totally geeked out as I played as the Triple Crown Line.

In the pantheon of electronic gaming, NHLPA 93 and NHL 94 stand at both sides of the entrance as a constant reminder of their awesomeness.

For an excellent fan site, head over to NHL94.com. They have more information than you can shake a stick at, including downloading some of the songs from the game and other goodies.

And here’s a humorous fan video, again from NHL94.com, dedicated to the 1993 L.A. Kings, the first time the franchise made it to the Stanley Cup.

Made it to the end of the post? I commend you. As well as ask you to consider buying some fine Hockeywood finery, inspired by the greatest video game ever made: NHL 94 (and NHL 95)…

First, the best-selling t-shirt in the history of TripleCrownLine.com: “I took L.A. to the Cup

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Back when men were men, (and the ice was apparently blue.) Announce you are “Old School” with this design.

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Finally, the one thing that shows you have skills at NHL 94 and 95 is if you take control of the goalie. This shirt is proof of that.

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Kings get a home opener do over in NHL 13

NHL 13

One of the things that I looked forward to when I bought NHL 13 was the opportunity to play the myriad game options, in addition to the usual season mode.

The one that really intrigued me was the NHL Moments Live, where they offer up 26 different scenarios to see if you can rewrite the record book. In addition to that, EA says they plan on updating the Moments throughout the season.

Well the first update is in, and guess what one of the Moments that can be rewritten? Yup, last Saturday’s third period by the Kings…

From the website:

Raining On Their Parade

Summary: Last Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings took on the Chicago Blackhawks in the first game of the NHL season. This was a special night for the Kings as they celebrated their Stanley Cup® victory with a ring and banner raising ceremony. The Blackhawks were not intimidated by the champions as they got off to a fast start by scoring 3 goals in the 1st period. With the score at 4-1 in the third, the Kings got a glimmer of hope from a Jordan Nolan goal.  The comeback was short lived as Chicago’s Marian Hossa put the game away just seconds after Nolan’s tally.

Objective: With 10:25 left in regulation, win the game as the Los Angeles Kings. CAN YOU CHANGE HISTORY?

I will change history. As God as my witness, I WILL CHANGE HISTORY!!!

As a lifelong gamer, this is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The game is so interactive, I can try to rewrite a scenario that I witnessed first hand days ago. Amazing.

Let me know if you do it as well… Snap a pic and send me your score…

BTW, here’s a video of the banner raising I grabbed from NHL 13 before the season started. If they actually changed the banner to the real one, then I’d be FLOORED!

Take Control with another NHL 94-inspired shirt

TAKE CONTROL

Considering how many years have passed since EA’s NHL 94′ first graced my old TV in the garage, I’ve found that my old workhorse Genesis can still bring the fun.

As you know, I love me some NHL 94. I spent days (not hours, DAYS) playing this iconic game in the garage. The game was perfect in its design, and its replayability was insane.

One of the best parts about NHL 94 was the addition of the manual goalie. By holding down the B button down, you took control of the goaltender, and you could attempt saves, dive, poke check, clear the puck… basically everything Kings goalies couldn’t do in the 2006-07 season.

It was the benchmark of a true gamer. If your opponent had a breakaway, nothing was better than becoming the goalie, then sprawling out to make the save.

In honor of the good old days of gaming, head over to our new RedBubble site and pick up your own Take Control shirt.

The Kings win the Stanley Cup! (according to EA Sports)

Brown

Quick
According to a EA Sports press release, the game’s artificial intelligence uses real data from each team, including player ratings and line combos used, as well as factoring for things like hot streaks and injuries.

According to the simulations, L.A. will take the series in six games. Game 1 will see the Kings win 4-2, while Game 2 will see Martin Brodeur snap the Kings’ road winning streak with a 2-0 shutout. Game 3 also has the Kings losing at home, 2-1. The Kings then win the next three games, 2-0, 3-2 and seal the deal at home in Game 6, 3-1.

Before you judge, just know these EA simulation has been right before. They predicted the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks as the Stanley Cup champs of that year, and also nailed the 2011 Stanley Cup Final match-up along with going 13 for 15 for the 2011 playoff match-ups.

But it’s not always correct. In April, EA (and everyone else in the world) picked the Vancouver Canucks to defeat the Kings. So there’s something to be said about actually playing the games. Peep the vids!

You can watch another simulation, complete with commentary, with the same result.

Call of Doughty: Black Ops

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Hockey players are an eclectic bunch. I came across this brilliant Photoshop on Drew Doughty’s Facebook page, posted by Hovik Sinanain. I saw that the art was created by Taylor Vause, and thought the name was familiar.

Turns out in addition to being an apparent Photoshop guru, Taylor Vause is a 21-year-old forward and the current captain of the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League. He is enjoying his best professional season, with 28 goals and 30 assists in 52 games.

In his spare time, Vause takes certain artistic liberties with NHL players, and has created 12 masterful ‘shops which are hilarious. Like the Sedin twins jumping into a pool together, a la Step Brothers. Or Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara celebrating Hangover style. Check out the gallery for yourself.

I figured with all the news swirling around Doughty’s last-second goal against the Blue Jackets, it would be a good time to post this moody piece of the Kings’ talented defenseman. Maybe last night’s goal will be the start of something special… Or maybe not.

The loss of Modano leaves Final Four in NHL 94

Mike Modano's EA CardMike ModanoOn Friday, it was announced Mike Modano was retiring after 21 years in the NHL. He was the first overall player drafted in the 1988 NHL Draft by the Minnesota North Stars at the tender age of 18. He never looked back.

He holds the record for most goals (561) and points (1,374) scored by an American-born player. He was named to the All Star team eight times. Most importantly, he hoisted Lord Stanley’s chalice in 1999 for the Stars.

A class player, Mike Modano got in only one fight in his career, and that was against fellow ’88 Draftee Rod Brind’Amour. He was a finalist for the Lady Byng in 2003.

After playing for one season in Detroit, Modano signed an honorary contract with the Dallas Stars. There’s no mistake how much Modano means to the Stars franchise. He was the last player to have played in both cities as a Star, and was captain of the team from 2003-05. He also served as alternate captain from 1995-2003 and 2006-10.

While all that is important to note, I think it’s more devastating that now there’s only four active NHL players who were on the perennial video game NHL 94. (Not counting Owen Nolan, who is trying to find a spot on the stacked Canucks roster or the 12 players overseas.)

With Modano leaving the game, that leaves Jaromir Jagr (who is returning to the NHL and signed in Philly), Teemu Selanne (who is still with Anaheim), Nicklas Lidstrom (just off winning his seventh Norris Trophy in Detroit) and Roman Hamrlik (who signed a two-year deal in Washington). Talk about impressive company.

Like any gamer of the last 15 years, NHL 94 has become the definitive video game for hockey fans. I know I spent many long hours in the garage, playing countless games against my friends and the computer. Trash talking, instant replays, everything you saw in Swingers happened in my inner circle. (Well, everything except anyone calling the Kings a b**** team.)

The replay value was ridiculous, and the game coincided with the NHL’s popularity peaking in the mid 90s. With Gretzky on the West Coast and Messier on the East Coast, it was the last time the top two markets in the nation had premiere teams. My love for NHL 94 is well-documented.

Modano is hotBecause I spent many long nights playing NHL 94 with my friends, we would take to blindly selecting teams. My friend Dave loved to play with the Stars, in part because of Modano. It was Dave who cribbed the taunt “Mo-Da-No! Mo-Da-No! Mo-Da-No!” referencing Robin Williams in that famous scene from The Birdcage.

Actually, Modano was the only player worthwhile on Dallas. Basically, if you could stop Modano, you could stop the Stars. Funny thing is Modano enjoyed the best seasons of his career in the 1992-93 and 1993-94 season. I always wondered why he wasn’t ranked higher in the game.

To be honest, Modano’s stats in NHL 94 were confusing at best. He was ranked with “five pucks” in speed, shot power, stamina, stick handling and agility. Not sure if I agree with those rankings, although I never thought handling or agility mattered much in the game. He was also ranked with four pucks in offensive and defensive awareness, more odd categories that I doubt factored in the gameplay.

But the weird stat was his shot accuracy: for someone who have a monster shot, great offense awareness and speed, he was ranked with two pucks in shot accuracy. He also had two puck rating for checking, which is probably the only stat that is right on.

Because he was dinged in those two categories, he had an overall ranking of 82 (The pic on the right says 83, because he was on a hot streak). That put him behind such players in the game as Theo Fleury, Gary Roberts, Joe Sakic, Mark Recchi and the Kings’ own Luc Robitaille.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a formidable player. In the right gamer’s hands, like Dave’s, Modano could be deadly. Especially if you skated down and caught him on a one-timer down the middle, or skated from behind the goal and unloaded a shot at the faceoff circle. The only problem was he was stuck on a mediocre team (in NHL 95, that is. The Stars had an overall 67 rating. Only six teams had a worse overall rating. The Ducks were the worst at 51. Snort.)

It may be up for debate whether or not Mike Modano is a true Hall of Fame player, but he’ll certainly go down in the annals of NHL 94 as a legend. At least in my garage.

Jeremy Roenick in a Kings jersey again?!?

I was wandering aimlessly on the Interwebz, looking for nothing in particular, when I came across this awesome video, featuring Fox Sports’ Bernie and Pizzi playing NHL 94 with Hall of Famer and legendary NHL 94 player, Jeremy Roenick. However, there’s a unique twist to this clip, as you can see…


The Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame presents: Konami’s Blades of Steel

This is the second in an occasional series on the greatest hockey video games of all time. For the first entry, go here.

When I started the compile my short list of hockey video games that I would include in the Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame (all rights reserved), there were two games that first came to mind. Konami’s Blades of Steel was one of them.

Now if you’re an old-school gamer, I’m sure you’ve played Blades of Steel on the Nintendo. It’s one of those games that transcends all platforms, a gold standard, if you will. Originally, it was released as an arcade game, as many games were at the time.

Buoyed by the success of its arcade hit Double Dribble and its subsequent port over to the Nintendo, Konami decided to catch lightning in a bottle again by releasing their hockey game over to the Nintendo system. Not only did they copy their success from Dribble, they surpassed it with Blades, in my opinion. (Then again, I write a hockey blog. What do you expect me to say?)

Having already introduced to hockey by Nintendo’s Ice Hockey, I was looking for a more realistic hockey. Such as less cartoony action. more realistic skating, and better adherence to the rules. Simply put, I wanted five men on the ice.

No more playing ike both teams had a man in the box. Four-on-four hockey is too wide open, an opinion I stand by today. Having that fifth guy on the ice really makes it feel like there’s traffic in front of the goal. Blades has the feel of real hockey, especially with the addition of fighting.

Ah yes, fighting. The great equalizer. If you were getting your ass handed to you, bump an opposing player three times and, GAME ON! You got that cut-scene where you throw off the gloves, and try to tag your opponent five times, Loser goes to the box, winner gets to keep skating. A simple rule that some fans say the NHL should institute today. The other thing was if you caused too many fights, you would get whistled for roughing. Some would say there’s too much fighting in the game. I tell those gamers to shut their pie-holes. It’s all part of the game, so nut up and swing your purse, Francine.

Blades was the first hockey game to really focus on the sweet science on the ice. You could aim low and high, block and duck. It was quite ingenious. The format has been copied by several future hockey games, some of which will appear in the Hockeywood Hockey Game hall of Fame. It allowed the most fervert of button-mashers to put their virtual foil on and bring the pain.

Blades also had something Ice Hockey didn’t, aggressive artificial intelligence. It was almost harder to play the computer than another human, because at least there’s that learning curve for people. The computer was unrelenting, and stopping a puck shot with the goalie was really hard to do. At least you could tone back the difficulty level.

Other than choosing easy, medium and hard (which was distinguished as junior, college and pro), you could select a city. However, only four of the Original teams are on there: New York, Montreal, Toronto and Chicago. No Boston and no Detroit. Suck it, Red Wings. Rounding out the eight teams are Vancouver, Edmonton, Minnesota and… Los Angeles? Look, I’m not complaining, but doesn’t L.A. stick out like a sore thumb here? Actually, I think L.A. was included when Gretzky shocked the hockey world and came to L.A.

Each team is represented reasonably close to their real-life colors: NY is blue/red, Chicago is red/gray and L.A. is yellow/blue. We used to pretend the yellow and blue L.A. team was actually the Charlestown Chiefs, and we were playing with the Hansons. But because the game wasn’t officially licensed, some of the jerseys were way off. Like Montreal’s gold and red outfits. It felt like you were playing with a team of Iron Men. And don’t get me started with Edmonton’s green and yellow.

Thing was, L.A. switched up their colors when Gretzky came aboard. No longer did they wear the purple and gold uniform, but the sleek black and white unis. So, if you wanted to be L.A., you had to choose between L.A. or Minnesota. For me, personally regional pride was more important than uniform accuracy. Plus, there really wasn’t any discrepancy between the teams so it really just came down to personal preference and individual skill.

The controls were realistic as well, as the players took a little time to skate in a particular direction. This was another subtle reason to like the game. The game designers actually factored such movement into the game. The ladder-tiered tournament mode was also a nice touch, allowing players to try to obtain the Stanley… er, Konami Cup.

The game was also one of the first games to include voice sampling on the NES. Just the opening “BLADES OF STEEL” just begs for players to mimic it. The one thing I never understood was the constant “…with the puck” whenever you had a successful pass. It almost sounds like the computer is asking “what the *uck.”

Blades of Steel deserves to have its own wing in the Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame. Widely considered one of the cornerstone games of any sports gamer enthusiast, Blades is quite possibly the greatest hockey gamer ever made. Don’t believe me? Play it for yourself online for free.