Every Tuesday, PHT will remember a hockey video game, preferably one less obvious than the “Swingers”-immortalized “NHL 94.” Due to technological limitations (anyone have a SNES or Sega Genesis lying around, along with working cartridges?), many reviews will lean closer to recollections. Either way, hopefully these are fun — and maybe inspire people to scour a flea market or two when it becomes safe to do so.
Let’s take a walk down Unreliable Memory Lane for a moment.
It’s Christmas, probably in 1999, but — if I’m being honest — maybe 2000. As any spoiled hockey fan, I asked for EA Sports’ NHL 2000 for Playstation. Instead, what I got was … NHL Championship 2000?
“What is this strange game with Mike Modano on the cover?” I probably asked myself, while sweeping even-worse-than-quarantined hair from my pimply teenage face. On the outside, there was approval for the gift, but on the inside … grumbles.
And yet … it was good! At least, that’s how I remember it.
[Video games not enough? “Hockey Week in America” might provide your hockey fix.]
To be honest, when a weekly video game review/recollection idea surfaced, I wondered if “That Fox Mike Modano game” was an outright hallucination. After all, life tends to zap memories, even if we’re not all experiencing elaborate flashbacks like “The Dude.”
But, no, the game existed. Hurrah. It’s even available used, with amusing Amazon reviews and all.
Enjoy this shot of the front cover for NHL Championship 2000, via that listing:
But it’s really the back cover that could bring back a flood of nostalgia for gaming nerds like me of a certain age:
Magically, there’s gameplay footage on Youtube, as you can see in the video embedded above this post’s headline.
NHL Championship 2000 received solid reviews
Yes, it is indeed tempting to mock “Sports Games. FOX Attitude.” Yet, the long-departed Fox Interactive might respond, “Where’s the lie?”
The game incorporated the Fox NHL theme very nicely, including that hockey stick by way of “Spoonman” percussion. Such integration was ahead of its time even then, as modern NHL games continue to aim at TV-like presentation, sometimes with as many missed shots as top-shelf productions.
I must say, after watching some gameplay footage, the game looked surprisingly solid. Primitive video game reviews back that up to a decent degree, too.
This IGN review is jarring at times (“the eloquent Terry Bradshaw” is something you should try to drop into casual conversation), but it backs up my memories that NHL Championship 2000 was surprisingly good. That review also notes a relic of that era: multiple NHL-licensed video games … in the same year.
This is the third hockey game I’ve played for the 2000 season. At one point, I thought nothing would top EA Sports’ NHL 2000, but Fox Sports Interactive has come through in the clutch. My expectations for this game were lower than imaginable. I mean, this is the same company that brought us College Hoops 99, one of the worst games ever developed for the N64. All biases aside, they have undoubtedly created an amazing product for the PS.
As far as I can tell, the NHL Championship series was a one-and-done affair with the 2000 edition. It’s possible that a different NHL game series adapted its engine, but I couldn’t find any information to back that up. (There’s not a ton out there on “Fox Sports Interactive,” in general.)
[Keith Jones isn’t passing his time with video games. Larry David movies, though? You bet.]
Bygone era of multiple licensed NHL video games
These days, video gaming hockey fans don’t have a ton to choose from. EA’s series (most recently NHL 20) can be a little derisive, but I’ve found that it generally crosses some of the boxes. At minimum, it hasn’t been a disaster like, say, pro wrestling video games.
The NHL2K series enjoyed quite the run during the Playstation2/Original Xbox era, but never really countered the NHL series’ institution of “The Skill Stick.” NHL2K11 was the last game in the series, while NHL2K10 was the last one that appeared on contemporary platforms. (NHL 2K11 was on Wii and IOS).
Since then, it’s been EA’s NHL games or something off the beaten path, such as “Super Blood Hockey.”
Perhaps another wave of hockey video games will come that will parallel NHL Championship 2000 and those feelings of “Was there really a game with Mike Modano on the cover?” As it stands, it seems most likely that such times will remain distant memories, like glow pucks.
Hey, some memories are better than others.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.