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NHL ’94 redux? Discussing the pros and cons of revamping that classic game


Nostalgia can be an underrated – and sometimes borderline intoxicating – force. Luckily, it’s mostly a benevolent one, because hindsight gets far worse than 20/20 when people think about the brighter moments of their youth.

Studying those times through the cruel, cold gaze of reality can unravel some of your favorite memories. Here’s a quick list of the things that stood the test of time and a few elements I wish I never revisited.

  • As it turns out, “Thundercats” was not an Emmy-worthy piece of televised art.
  • Being a fan of professional wrestling’s golden era in the 80’s was simultaneously humiliating and kind of awesome.
  • To my utter shock, “Beavis and Butt-head” has actually aged pretty well.
  • Jeff Hostetler’s mustache remains awe-inspiring.

Hockey fans have their fair share of items that have been romanticized by nostalgia. One example can be found in sweaters. It’s easy to love the duds that Wayne Gretzky wore with the Los Angeles Kings and Pavel Bure donned with the Vancouver Canucks, but my soft spots for these Penguins uniforms and the “edgy” Buffalo Sabres look remain troubling.

NHL ’94 remains a beloved hockey video game

If there’s a near-unanimous shared experience among hockey fans, it’s the brilliance of the 16-bit era of EA Sports’ NHL series. Thanks to the cult classic Swingers (NSFW), many remember NHL ’94 as the height of that era, but it’s probably safe to say that people refer to that rough time period of Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo games under that banner. (The year-specific lack of clarity is that much more obvious considering that the Swingers clip supposedly featured NHL ’93 instead.)

Whichever edition you prefer, there’s no denying the game’s hold on the hearts of sports gaming fans; it regularly tops best-ever lists and even has a devoted Web site of fans who still play the game online.* (Seriously, when you make a game that can go toe-to-toe with the immortal boxing game Punch-Out, it’s clear that you have something special.)

With the legions of nostalgic fans in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder why EA Sports hasn’t released an updated version of NHL ’94 (or a different iteration) on Xbox Live and NHL Network. Just imagine how much fun it would be to apply that classic game play to modern players. My guess is that Alex Ovechkin would be this generation’s Jeremy Roenick. Obviously, hockey fans already have NHL 12 to whet their whistles (which was released today and actually provides the option to revert to the NHL ’94 control scheme), but something tells me there would be enough room for the two hockey titles to coexist.

Would the game translate well for modern gamers?

Of course, that idea might sound better in theory than in practice. NHL series producer Sean Ramjasingh agreed that such an idea could be a hit with fans, but also made a salient point regarding whether or not the game would hold up today. Ramjasingh pointed out that NHL ’94 was included on the disc of a Playstation 2 era game (NHL ’06) but didn’t really compare to the modern version for many.

“There might be more value with the nostalgia than in the reality of being able to play it,” Ramjasingh said. “But that’s something we talk about all the time here regarding what we can do with NHL 94, because it has such a strong presence in the mind of consumers.”

Indeed, fans’ spirits might waver a bit after allowing thousands of cheesy wrap-around goals. That being said, it wouldn’t be surprising if the idea was a big money-maker for EA in a downloadable format – but maybe that’s a testament to the company’s urge to put out a quality product above all else. It’s nice to see that EA is weary of going down the road that another classic title like Tecmo did with “Tecmo Bowl Throwback,” which only generated a lukewarm response despite its authenticity.

Still, there’s a part of me that would love to test my merits against other cheap goal artists online in a revamped NHL 94. What do you think about that idea, though? Would you fork over $10-$15 to re-live those pre-polygonal memories or is that concept best left to fond memories? Let us know in the comments.

* Your guess is as good as mine as far as how legal that site really is, but credit EA for having the savvy to look the other way.

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.