Electronic Arts' upcoming Wii game to feature hockey stick controller, Wayne Gretzky

gretzkytired.jpgIt’s no secret that Electronic Arts took over the hockey video game genre, at least on the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3, with its NHL series. There’s a reason that Take-Two Interactive decided to pull its NHL2K series off of the consoles that emphasize graphics. Yet now the one advantage Take Two enjoyed – publishing the only licensed hockey game on Nintendo’s stupidly popular Wii console – looks to be a thing of the past starting next season. EA’s game will be called “NHL Slapshot” and is expected to ship by September 7.

EA’s puck-based debut on the console isn’t the only big news, though. The software company is bringing out the big guns with the game: Wayne Gretzky will play the role of cover star and the game shall include a small hockey stick that the company claims will respond to hockey-like movements.

This, quite frankly, is the exact kind of thing hockey fans have been dreaming about since the Wii came out. Of course, Canoe.ca’s blog points out that these situations can often be too good to be true.

It’s hard to say what the biggest news is here. That EA is finally doing their first NHL game for the Wii, challenging 2K Sports on their previously exclusive turf? That Gretzky is involved as the cover athlete and in-game playable character? Or that NHL Slapshot will use a minature hockey stick peripheral that ships with each copy of the game?

Yeah, I’m gonna say it’s the stick. Because if this thing works, it could be a crazy amount of fun. If it doesn’t work, it’ll be yet another hunk of plastic discarded next to those silly third-party tennis racket add-ons, the original Guitar Hero II controller and the Tony Hawk: Ride skateboard.

Indeed, the problem with many Wii products is that they’re often under-developed and gimmicky. EA, for their part, is saying all the right things about what sounds like a very exciting innovation for hockey dorks such as myself. Steve Tilley spoke with with the game’s lead producer, Joe Nickolls.

Nickolls says that because the stick peripheral holds both the Nunchuk (in the butt end of the stick, with the analog stick used for moving your player) and the Wiimote (further down the shaft, with the trigger used as a modifier to execute certain moves), it’s more accurate than the Wiimote alone.

“Because you’re getting two signals sent to the Wii, it triangulates the signal. So it basically gives you more accuracy,” Nickolls says, adding that WiiMotion Plus won’t be supported by NHL Slapshot because it’s essentially not needed.

The stick peripheral will detect slap shots, wrist shots, body checks (done with a cross-check motion) and poke checks, with the Wiimote’s trigger used as a modifier to perform passes, dekes and other moves. The game can also be played with the Wiimote and Nunchuk alone, or even just the Wiimote.

Anyway, the story also describes some kid-friendly modes called “Peewees to Pros” that makes me worry that the game may be geared only toward children. Yet if EA can make a game that could appeal to kids as well as man-children (and women-children), then they might be onto something huge.

Especially if that goofy looking little stick actually works like a dream.

(H/T to From the Rink)

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    Report: Ekblad cleared by Panthers doctors

    NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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    Aaron Ekblad has been medically cleared by Florida Panthers doctors, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

    That’s a big relief for everyone involved after Ekblad was injured while representing Team North America in the World Cup. The injury was originally reported as a “mild” concussion, though it was later called a neck injury.

    The 20-year-old has since been back on the ice working out.

    “Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said. “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

    The first overall pick in the 2014 draft, Eklbad had already dealt with at least one concussion during his playing career. He suffered one in an international exhibition game during the summer of 2014, just prior to his outstanding rookie season with the Panthers.

    Ottawa sends Brown, 11th overall draft pick, back to junior

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Logan Brown celebrates with the Ottawa Senators after being selected 11th overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    It didn’t take long for one of the top picks at this year’s draft to be sent packing from training camp.

    On Wednesday, Ottawa announced that Logan Brown — the 11th overall selection in June — has been sent back to his junior team in OHL Windsor.

    Brown, the son of ex-NHL defenseman Jeff Brown, played in Monday’s exhibition win over Toronto and scored once. He didn’t play in Tuesday’s OT loss to Buffalo.

    Though he wasn’t expected to make the team this season, Brown, 18, is considered to be a high-end prospect, which makes his early dismissal a bit curious.

    At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, he has terrific size and the Sens wasted little time locking him in after the draft, signing him to a three-year, entry-level deal in August.

    Related: Get to know a draft pick — Logan Brown

    Seidenberg expected to sign with Islanders

    BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08:  Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against Mason Raymond #21 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Four of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    Dennis Seidenberg is expected to sign with the New York Islanders after the World Cup, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

    It’s a one-year, $1 million deal, per Dreger.

    Seidenberg is currently playing a significant role for Team Europe, a surprise finalist against the heavily favored Canadians.

    The 35-year-old defenseman was unexpectedly bought out by the Boston Bruins over the summer. He had two years remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million.

    Seidenberg was a key part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup champion team in 2011, but injuries limited him to just 61 games last season, and his average ice time fell below 20 minutes for the first time since he was with the Hurricanes in 2007-08.

    He’ll likely take on a bottom-pairing role with the Islanders, below Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, and Calvin de Haan. He may even be the extra defenseman, pushing the likes of Thomas Hickey, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield for a spot in the lineup.

    Related: Seidenberg shocked by Bruins’ decision

    Devils bolster defense, ink Quincey to one-year, $1.25M deal

    Detroit Red Wings v Columbus Blue Jackets
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    New Jersey needed some blueline depth after this summer’s blockbuster Adam Larsson-for-Taylor Hall trade and now, they’ve addressed it.

    On Wednesday, GM Ray Shero announced the club signed veteran defenseman Kyle Quincey to a one-year, $1.25 million deal.

    Quincey, 31, spent the last four seasons in Detroit, emerging as a regular fixture on defense — but ’15-16 was hardly a positive campaign.

    He missed 35 games with a serious ankle injury and, upon his return, never seemed to find his way into head coach Jeff Blashill’s good graces.

    Blashill even scratched Quincey in Game 3 of Detroit’s opening-round playoff loss to Tampa, and didn’t provide a reason why — a pretty bold move for a player that, in ’13-14, appeared in all 82 games for the Red Wings, averaging nearly 21 minutes per night.

    Overall, this move seems like a pretty reasonable gamble from the Devils. Quincey has his flaws, but the term is short and the money is relatively low.

    (Especially considering Quincey’s coming off a two-year, $8.5 million deal that paid $4.25M annually.)

    Shero could end up getting a nice return on his investment. Quincey projects  to challenge for top-four minutes in New Jersey, looking to break into a group that features the likes of Andy Greene, Damon Severson, John Moore and Ben Lovejoy.

    Jon Merrill, Steve Santini and Brandon Gormley are also in that mix, though likely to be challenging for spots on the bottom pair.