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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    WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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    The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

    We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

    Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

    U.S. adds Bruins’ McAvoy, Blackhawks’ Trevor van Riemsdyk for Worlds

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    After a whirlwind of an NHL debut suiting up for the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, defenseman Charlie McAvoy is staying busy this summer.

    McAvoy and Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Trevor van Riemsdyk are the latest additions to the U.S. roster for the upcoming World Championship.

    This comes a day after a tough day for USA Hockey, as both Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews were ruled out from the competition.

    Neither of these young defensemen can match that star power, but tournaments like these can be interesting showcases, particularly for McAvoy (who’s already shown great promise at just 19).

    The Bruins threw McAvoy right into the deep end against the Senators; only Zdeno Chara‘s average time on ice of 28:46 exceeded McAvoy’s 26:12.

    It’s understandable that Matthews and others may opt for rest, particularly after a season made more hectic thanks to the World Cup. In McAvoy’s case, the Worlds represent another chance for him to get his feet wet against NHL-level competition.

    MORE:McAvoy shines in debut.

    Agent says Kucherov blasted Bolts out of frustration from missing playoffs

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    Quite the situation developing in Tampa Bay.

    Earlier today, the translation of Nikita Kucherov‘s interview with Sovietsky Sport hit social media and caught a number of people by surprise. In it, Kucherov said some of his Lightning teammates “got their money and stopped working” this season, then complained about a lack of consistent linemates.

    And that’s not all. (See below).

    When reached for comment, Kucherov’s agent — Dan Milstein — didn’t deny the remarks were made. Instead, Milstein told the Tampa Bay Times they came out of frustration after Kucherov and the Bolts failed to make the playoffs.

    More:

    Here’s the full text of Kucherov’s remarks to Sovietsky Sport (translation courtesy the Times):

    “Some guys overstayed in team. They’ve got their money and stopped working. They knew there’s no competition for their positions and the organization is not going to take someone else. They played not really well this year. You can see it in their stats and way of play. When we played together and I made a pass, they even were not expecting this. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.

    “We had great chemistry with [Vladislav] Namestnikov and [Steve] Stamkos at the start of the season. We understood each other really really well. And then Stamkos was injured, I was very upset. I think those nine games were my best in the NHL. After that coaches started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in a kaleidoscope. It was very hard to get used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos level. It’s hard to explain how I played with them. We had a lack of understanding of each other and there were some problems. I was suffering torments all season, because I couldn’t find perfect chemistry with other partners after Stamkos injury. We played with Jonathan Drouin once, and it was good. But coach didn’t put us together again for some reason.”

    It’s unclear who Kucherov is referring to in the opening graph. He had numerous linemates this year, as mentioned in the second graph. As for the money angle, the most recent Tampa Bay forwards to get lucrative paydays were Alex Killorn (seven years, $31.5 million) and Stamkos (eight years, $68 million), both of whom were signed last summer.

    Kucherov, as mentioned above, signed a three-year bridge deal at $4.766 million annually in October, then went out and provided the Bolts with terrific value. He emerged as a Hart Trophy candidate down the stretch, finishing the year with 40 goals (second only to Sidney Crosby) and 85 points (fifth-most in the NHL).

    But while Kucherov had a great individual effort, the same couldn’t be said for the Bolts. Injuries and inconsistency derailed what was supposed to be a promising campaign, given the club advanced to the Cup Final two years ago, and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

    If there is a bright side to any of this, it’s that Milstein told the Times Kucherov wants to remain in Tampa Bay long term.

    Related: Yzerman won’t blame injuries for Bolts’ playoff miss

    2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday, April 26

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    The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

    After disposing of the Calgary Flames in the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will look to take down another team from Alberta, while two red-hot goalies, Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne, go head-to-head.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

    Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online)