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

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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.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal