Fortunate enough to have a Super Nintendo as a youngen, I have been glued to the television screen, playing video game hockey since NHL ’93.
In the early days, I gained a competitive edge by tricking my younger sister into believing her team’s back-up goalie, “Pull”, was her best option. As the years went on, I moved up to whooping Silverman’s ass every Friday after High School (*Editor’s Note: BULLSHIT). Most recently, I could be found throwing my controller across my college dorm room out of frustration while playing online. I was all about the NHL video game series.
As we await the release of the latest installment of EA Sports’ NHL series, which will seemingly include an homage to past NHL series greatness, I counted down my personal favorite players to light the lamp with over the years. In no particular order, here are probably the 5 most unrealistic, overrated and misrepresented video game characters who have ever taken over my living room.
NHL 93 – Cliff Ronning
Throughout his tenure as a Vancouver Canuck in the early 90’s, Cliff Ronning was a consistent 20-30 goal scorer. This was not the case in NHL 93. Ronning was the deadliest offensive weapon in hockey video game history, way ahead of any other name on this list. With one tap of the B-button, Ronning would be halfway down the ice and he was always a sure thing to bury a nasty one-timer. His NHL ’93 counterpart was so dominant that the name Ronning will be forever be more well-known as a video game character than as an actual human being. By far the most talented video game athlete ever created, and yes that includes your Create-A-Player self.
Most of the overly epic player-renderings on this list are more than likely the result of happenstance. But Cliff Ronning says his video game greatness was no accident; Our friends over at Puck Daddy discovered its true source:
NHL 02 – David Legwand
The early 2000’s weren’t the NHL’s most scoring-filled years, so in order to give fans their fix, EA gifted us with David Legwand and his ridiculous one-timer skills. Pass this guy the puck anywhere on the ice surface in NHL ’02 and he’d slap that biscuit home with ease. Unmatched strength, precise accuracy and a wheelhouse the size of an Olympic swimming pool propelled the Predator forward into the next level. The former No. 2 overall pick only had only two campaigns of 50-plus points in his career, but the video game David Legwand could routinely tally 100-plus goals in season mode.
NHL 09 – Byron Bitz
Size, puck control, speed, vision and a wicked wrister: Am I describing Zdeno Chara or Milan Lucic? No. I’m talking about another Bruin, albeit one who is no longer on the team or even in the NHL: the former 4th rounder out of Cornell, the NHL 09 version of Byron Bitz. Coming off arguably his best season — he potted a whopping 4 goals in 35 regular season games and added one more in 5 playoff games — the crew at EA Canada decided to give this guy an extra helping of boss sauce in NHL 09.
Don’t be deceived by his low overall rating and his spot on the Bruins’ depth chart, the ’09 video game Bitz was a diamond in the rough. At 6’5″, 215 lbs, Bitz was nearly impossible to knock off the puck. All you had to do was walk in, snipe and repeat. Yes, it was that simple.
NHL 03 – Saku Koivu
After returning to the Canadians at the end of the ’01-’02 season, having successfully beaten Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and leading his team past the heavily favored Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, the Montreal media was ready to anoint their captain as the next Habs legend. Apparently so were the programmers. Koivu was, and still is, a hero to the Montreal faithful, which must have included half the staff over at EA Canada.
The combination of the latest in deking technology and video-game Koivu’s new-found, unquenchable thirst to dangle filthily launched the Finnish center into EA sports immortality. Although the real Koivu posted a career best 71 points in the subsequent season, doubling those numbers would’ve been child’s play if he had nearly half the skills of his video game self.
NHL 94 – Jeremy Roenick
I’ll stick to my guns: ’93 Ronning is the best there’s ever been. But if anyone comes close it’s this guy.
Jeremy Roenick is well known for his skills on the ice. Today, he is identified by younger hockey fans as an analyst, small-time actor and overall badass (well at least until he cried on live television). In other words, Roenick transcends all realms of the entertainment industry. As one of the more recognizable American hockey players of his time, you’d expect JR to be the stud on an already-loaded Blackhawks roster in NHL ’94. Those expectations were well beyond exceeded. The pixelated, thumb-sized version of Roenick was a Super Nintendo mega-beast/borderline-god.
Forever cemented into video game history by this infamous scene in movie history in which he destroyed the great one himself, JR was sprung into EA Sports stardom.
This cemented video-game Roenick as “the guy behind the guy behind the guy.” Seriously, he was so f’n money.
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