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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    Devils place goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve

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    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Devils placed goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday night in a 5-4 overtime victory at Ottawa.

    Schneider left after the second period. Keith Kinkaid replaced him and stopped all nine shots he faced to earn the victory.

    With Schneider sidelined, Kinkaid was expected to start Friday night at home against San Jose.

    The Devils recalled goalie Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

    The Devils catch a scheduling break with a week off until their next game Oct. 27, the first day Schneider is eligible to return.

    Schneider is 4-1-0 in six games this season with a 3.30 goals-against average.

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    Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings finally settle on one-year deal

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    The contract stalemate between the Detroit Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou is finally over.

    On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the two sides struck a deal that will see the 23-year-old forward back in the lineup, at least for this season. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.387 million.

    Due to Detroit’s tight salary cap situation, the deal has not been officially registered with the NHL because general manager Ken Holland needs to free up space in order to fit Athanasiou’s contract.

    Athanasiou, who was a restricted free agent this summer, was seeking a two-year deal worth around $2.5 million per season. The Red Wings, meanwhile, were holding firm on a one- or two-year deal carrying a $1.9 million AAV. As the stalemate dragged on, he began practicing with Swiss side HC Lugano, but did not sign a contract. He had until Dec. 1 to make an NHL return in order to be eligible to play this season. The KHL card was played, but as Torey Krug showed, that move is always a clear bluff.

    The one-year pact is essentially a “show-me” deal for Athanasiou, who scored 18 goals and recorded 29 points last season. He finished second on the Red Wings in even strength goals (17) in 2016-17 and tallied a pair of overtime winners. A good year and with some salary off the books next summer, he can cash in with a longer-term contract. He’ll once again be an RFA next summer, so Detroit will control his rights, but he’ll have arbitration rights.

    According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, along with the contract Athanasiou has been promised a minutes bump from the 13:27 he played last season, as well as regular time on both special teams units.

    Detroit is off to a 4-3-0 start and averaging 3.14 goals per game. Once Athanasiou arrives from Switzerland and gets up to speed — possibly with an AHL conditioning stint — his presence will certainly be a boost to the Red Wings’ lineup.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.:

     

    NHL admits off-side challenge error that cost Avalanche a goal

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    The NHL admitted on Friday that a decision denying the Colorado Avalanche a tying goal against the St. Louis was wrong.

    Mikko Rantanen’s goal late in the third period was overturned after Sven Andrighetto was ruled to be off-side following a video review challenge issued by the Blues.

    Now here’s where the fun starts.

    Because Andrighetto was not ruled off-side by the linesman when he touches the puck in the Blues’ zone, when he leaves and re-enters the zone that’s considered a (clean) second zone entry. So the goal should have counted and the Avs should have had a power play for a failed off-side challenge.

    Here’s the NHL’s statement:

    “St. Louis requested a Coach’s Challenge to determine whether Sven Andrighetto of Colorado was off-side prior to the Avalanche goal. The video review decision determined the play was off-side but that determination was based on a play prior to the puck clearing the zone. 

    Per Rule 78. 7 (Note 1) Coach’s Challenge: ‘Goals will only be reviewed for a potential “Off-Side” infraction if: a) the puck does not come out of the attacking zone again; or (b) all members of the attacking team do not clear the attacking zone again, between the time of the “Off-Side” play and the time the goal is scored.

    Although there was an off-side, it occurred prior to the puck clearing the zone which nullifies any goal review related to that off-side. The entry in to the zone immediately prior to the goal was on-side, therefore the goal should have counted.”

    Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, appearing on Sportnet’s Hockey Central at Noon on Friday, said he believes the wording of the rule will change in the future.

    “The call on the ice was correct,” he said. “The wording in the rulebook is wrong, and that’s where we’re going to have to work with. I think that’s why the rulebook always changes because you come up with unintended consequences, and that was one of them. I don’t think anyone that watched the game last night think that’s a goal we want to count.”

    Let’s just go with NHL ’94 rules and turn off-side off, yeah? That’ll stop games from being paused and goals being taken off the board because a player’s skate blade was a millimeter off-side entering the offensive zone.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Canucks’ Gudbranson suspended 1 game for boarding Vatrano (Video)

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    Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson will miss Friday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres after he was suspended one game for boarding Frank Vatrano of the Boston Bruins.

    The hit occurred early in the first period during Thursday’s 6-3 Bruins victory. Gudbranson was given a majors for boarding and fighting, along with a game misconduct. The Bruins would take advantage with three power play goals. Vatrano would retun to the game later in the period.

    Here’s the Department of Player Safety’s explanation:

    Look at many of the suspensions the NHL’s DoPS has handed out for boarding and it’s the same thing over and over again. The suspended player has time to make a better decision on a hit, but fails to do so. Here, Gudbranson could have changed his angle, minimized contact with Vatrano or tie him up along the boards instead of plastering him into the glass.

    Gudbranson will see $18,817.20 of his salary go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.