Blake Harris, the author of Console Wars, has written a piece on how NHL '94 came to be. For those unaware, NHL '94 is one of the greatest sports video games ever created. This is the sort of attention to detail that made it so great:
For example, it could emulate the ambience of a game day NHL arena by including the proper organ music. The problem, though, was that each team's organist played different songs. 'That's not a problem, actually,' explained Dieter Ruehle, the organist for the San Jose Sharks (and previously for the Los Angeles Kings), 'I can do that.' True to his word, Ruehle provided EA with organ music for every team; and he didn't just provide all of their songs, but also noted which music was blasted during power plays, which tunes were used to celebrate goals, and all the other inside info needed to make each arena feel like home. Ruehle was so diligent about getting it right and capturing that home crowd essence, that during a recording session at EA's sound studio he asked:
'The woman who plays the organ for the Washington Capitals has arthritis; would you like me to play the songs how they are meant to be played, or the way that she plays them because of her condition?'
'Definitely the way she plays it!' Brook answered, after a laugh.
I think I might have to bust out the Genesis this week. Anyone wanna come over?
Anthony Richardson is back, offering his British commentary on American sports. This time it's hockey:
Mary Poppins, look how small the goals are, the size of a matchbox guarded by an overzealous beekeeper.
See also Bad British NFL commentary and Bad British baseball commentary.
Goalies in the NHL didn't used to wear masks...they didn't become common until the 60s. For an article in 1966, Life magazine had a professional make-up artist recreate the injuries and more than 400 stitches that goalie Terry Sawchuk accumulated during his 16-year NHL career.
Sawchuk has sustained other injuries not shown here: a slashed eyeball requiring three stitches, a 70% loss of function in his right arm because 60 bone chips were removed from his elbow, and a permanent "sway-back" caused by continual bent-over posture.
The NHL season is only a few days old, but Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl may have already scored the goal of the year. This is crazy:
Also, that was his fourth goal of the game. (via grantland)
When Grant Hill and Jason Kidd retired from the NBA this week, they were the last players who appeared in the NBA Jam video game from 1994. There are still three active NHL players who appeared in the classic NHL '94: Teemu Selanne, Roman Hamrlik, and Jaromir Jagr. Kotaku's Owen Good takes a look at which athletes were the last men standing from 8-bit and 16-bit sports video games.
Landeta, whose last game was in 2005, is the last man on the Tecmo Bowl roster to appear in an NFL game, beating out the Raiders' Tim Brown, the 49ers' Jerry Rice and Minnesota's Rich Gannon, all of whom retired in 2004.
If you've ever wondered if any Major League Baseball players come from your favorite city, this is the map for you. See also the 2011-2012 NHL Player map. The maps are by Mike Morton, and I'm fascinated by the fact the NHL had players from both Africa and Brazil, while MLB did not. (via @jonahkeri)
A confession: I just spent a little while watching NHL '94 highlight videos on YouTube and consider it time well spent. After all, it is one of the greatest video games ever made. I noticed quite a few of the featured goals in this video were what my little cadre of gamers in college referred to as "cheater" goals where you go across the goal and slapshot hard to the far side. We outlawed them because it was a guaranteed goal and made playing a whole lot less fun. The goal I didn't notice so much of was the "rock the cradle" goal, a beautiful goal and my bread and butter as an NHL '94 player. It happens on the break where you dribble the puck very quickly back and forth from left to right and, when it works, juke the goalie completely. The best part is that after much practice, you can do it with even the slowest players in the game against the best goalies.
Update: Some crazy souls have made a multiplayer version of NHL '94 that works over the internet. You just login to a server, find an opponent, and away you go. There are even leagues!
Reading this Salon article on sports video games brought back a ton of memories from college. I never got into Madden properly, but I played a ton of Tecmo Bowl, Tecmo Super Bowl, and NHL '94, the latter of which is, in my estimation, the best sports video game of all time (with which Stewart would agree, I'm sure). A quote from the article:
[Bo] Jackson isn't the only athlete to have achieved fame for his video game likeness. Then-Chicago Blackhawks forward Jeremy Roenick's ability to fill the net and make Wayne Gretzky's head bleed in the "NHLPA '93" game was immortalized in the 1996 cult film "Swingers."
Roenick was good in '93, but with the much-improved gameplay in NHL '94, he was a monster. He was blazingly fast, had a quick stick, could stop on a dime, had the hardest shot in the game, and was easily capable of racking up 15-20 goals in three 5-minute periods. But he also had an unfair advantage over other players in the league because the Blackhawks were such a great team. Players like Steve Yzerman, Pavel Bure, Teemu Selanne, and Alexander Mogilny matched up well with Roenick skill-wise, but their teams just weren't as dominant overall. Not to mention that you couldn't taunt your opponents with new Roenick-related lyrics to Pearl Jam's Jeremy (GarageBand karaoke version coming soon) as easily while piloting Bure or Selanne through the heart of their defense for a completely demoralizing goal. Oh, the sting of being taunted with ad-libbed Pearl Jam.
The article also links to an article by Bill Simmons for ESPN Magazine about video game football. Near the bottom of the piece, there's a list of the top video game football players of all time, on which is Randall Cunningham at #3:
The best video game QB of all-time. You could roll him out to either side, scramble for first downs, throw 70 yards with him, avoid sacks...and he never self-destructed like he did in real life. Regardless of how his NFL career turned out, he'll always have his video game career to fall back on.
Based upon my experience with Cunningham in Tecmo Super Bowl, I'd put him at #1. The Eagles, who were not a great team in the game, were unstoppable with a properly coached Cunningham at the helm, mainly because he was a double threat at all times. He had the arm of Dan Marino and the wheels of Bo Jackson. If all the receivers were covered, you could just take off running and get a first down every time.
My sophomore year in college, a group of friends and I played an entire Tecmo season and I luckily drew the Eagles out of the hat during the team selection process. With a near-guaranteed first down (or touchdown) every time I had the ball, I rampaged through the regular season with a perfect record and a ridiculous quarterback rating only to buckle under the pressure in the playoffs. In the next season we started (but never finished), the Eagles were not included in the hat. Go, Randall!