Could NCAA teams get into EA's NHL '11 video game?

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ncaahockeygame.jpgThere are three things that got me into hockey in the mid-90s. The first was the on-ice brilliance of Mario Lemieux (and also, to a great extent, Jaromir Jagr). Like a bunch of other snot-nosed kids, the artistically devoid but nostalgically rich “Mighty Ducks” movies also drew me into the sport. The last piece of the puzzle, though, were those spectacular EA NHL video games (immortalized by Vince Vaughn in “Swingers”).

Since moving to the “next generation” of video game consoles, the EA Sports series finally woke up and got its digital act together again. Their games do a lot to introduce (or re-introduce) casual fans to the sport and one of the game’s many features is that they’re packed with different leagues from the AHL to European elite leagues.

It was recently announced that the Canadian Hockey League will be featured in the next iteration in the series, NHL ’11. That league’s greatest competition for talent and exposure is NCAA Hockey – and word is – they’re also trying to get into the action, too. Getting NCAA teams into the world’s most popular video game title would be a nice (if subtle) way of promoting the American college game, but there could be some potential roadblocks. Video game blog Kotaku shares why that would be a challenge.

It must be noted that a video game using an American university’s symbols or likenesses in a video game must go through the Collegiate Licensing Clearinghouse, and such deals are not cheap. While EA Sports already has a relationship with that authority through its NCAA Football franchise, the defunct NCAA Basketball and MVP College Baseball show the challenges of making a collegiate sport other than football sustainable.

That said, both of those titles were standalone; presumably Kelly means NCAA teams would, like the FIFA series, be included in the array of professional, amateur and world teams offered by NHL 11, which just struck an agreement with the major-junior Canadian Hockey League.

If bigger NCAA sports struggle to be profitable in polygonal form, then NCAA hockey would definitely not make sense as a stand-alone title. There’s one other big beef to remember, too. I won’t bore you with the legal details that I only half-understand, but NCAA players’ names cannot appear in games. So, back when Jonathan Toews was rocking it for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, he would have been known as “Center #19” or some goofy pseudonym.

Really, it could be a great marketing opportunity for NCAA hockey, but it probably wouldn’t be as enticing as having real player names. Still, if the deal gets done, it’s better than nothing … right?

(Besides, you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be fun to beat up on your friends with a college hockey team while they’re using Team Canada. It’s all about humiliating your buddies, after all.)

(H/T to Arthur from Anaheim Calling.)

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.