Chris Drury

Thornton NHL 2K cover
via 2K Sports

PHT remembers hockey video games: An ode to the NHL 2K series

Every Tuesday, PHT will remember a hockey video game (or games). Since we don’t have every console or cartridge, some posts will be recollections, not reviews. This week, we look back at the NHL 2K series, which served as great competition for EA’s NHL games, particularly during the Playstation 2 era.

This past weekend, ESPN’s feed gave Twitter addicts welcome reprieve from “pick three” lists with the question: “What is the peak of your personal athletic achievements?”

Naturally, I sat that out, as my peak athletic achievements lean toward “not being chosen last in a pickup game.” Now, if you ask about the peak of my fake video game athletic achievements, the NHL 2K series etched one moment in my memory.

A personal highlight from the NHL 2K series

Allow me to set the scene.

It was late in the summer of 2006, in my deeply crummy Texas apartment. If “Guitar Hero” wasn’t on the screen, chances are, it was “NHL 2K6.”

Facing off for the first time against someone who would become a lifelong friend, I was controlling Ilya Kovalchuk. And, folks, I made the move.

If you’ve ever gotten hooked on hockey video games, you know that there are some surefire ways to score goals. In that run of NHL 2K games, this cheesy behind the net plus backhand move was money. Especially with Kovalchuk.

Yet, instead of cash registers ringing from said money, there was … nothing. Was I mad? Perhaps, but I was undoubtedly perplexed.

Well, it turns out that the money move was indeed money. Maybe Kovalchuk doing the move broke the game. The puck actually hit the very top of the glass behind the net, bounced back off of the opposing goalie, hit the crossbar, and went in.

Speaking of being mad or not, if my friend was upset, he didn’t exactly show it. We were both perplexed, and frankly in awe.

During the latter years of the Playstation 2 era, the NHL 2K series captured my attention away from EA’s offerings. That turned out to be short-lived, as EA pulled away with the “skill stick” and jump to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

NHL 2K didn’t just fall behind in the race. It ended up falling out altogether.

But, like the Blackhawks and Kings … hey, we still have the memories. And a lot of the NHL 2K memories ended up being fond ones. For a while.

The birth of the NHL 2K series

As with 2K Sports’ other sports titles, including the still-running NBA 2K franchise, and the still-beloved NFL 2K games, the NHL 2K series got its start on the all-too-briefly realized Sega Dreamcast console.

(If you want to observe people getting weird about video game hardware, do some Dreamcast deep diving.)

  • NHL 2K launched the series with Brendan Shanahan on the cover.
  • The series took a year off, returning with Chris Drury-starring NHL 2K2. It might have been the final North American release for the Dreamcast.
  • NHL 2K3 and the following release ESPN NHL Hockey both featured Jeremy Roenick on their covers. (The 2K games did this around that era, as Allen Iverson basically had a monopoly on the NBA 2K games.)

ESPN NHL 2K5: darkest spot of the golden era

There was a lot to like about ESPN NHL 2K5. It was part of the run of 2K games that were only $20, and it didn’t backfire for the NHL 2K series like it did for NFL 2K.

(People also lionize ESPN NFL 2K5 to this day.)

But whenever I saw that cover with Martin St. Louis, I couldn’t avoid thoughts about the 2004-05 lockout.

2K Sports/Youtube

Dark times.

  • Personally speaking, NHL 2K6 and NHL 2K7 were the last titles in the series that truly hooked me (and friends).

NHL 2K7 wasn’t just a swan song to many. It also featured out of place songs by way of a soundtrack with acts like The Postal Service. It’s uncomfortable that the latter stages of the series were more worthy of emo.

EA Sports pulls away

Things drastically changed when EA made a more successful jump to the next consoles thanks to brilliant execution of “the skill stick.”

  • You could really start to see the strain to catch up with NHL 2K8, which wasn’t received particularly well. Things didn’t get much better for NHL 2K9, either.
  • Consider NHL 2K10 something of the end of an era, as it was the last in the series to appear on the more powerful consoles. It’s also an oddity that Alex Ovechkin was on the cover, being that he also appeared on the cover for EA’s NHL ’07.

NHL 2K10 did cater to fans in two specific ways: being the first to feature the Winter Classic, and also helped turn the tide for the Hartford Whalers’ jerseys to appear in games again.

  • Things really fizzled out from there with NHL 2K11 (Wii and iPhone) and simply NHL 2K (mobile game) years later in 2014. Curiously, Ryan Kesler was the cover star for the latter two games.

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Basically, the NHL 2K series went out like … erm, Ryan Kesler, actually. But like a beloved star who stayed around too long, let’s try to remember the good times instead of the sadder moments.

PHT remembers other hockey video games:

  • NHL Championship 2000, Fox’s rare foray into hockey video games, starring Mike Modano.
  • NHL Slapshot, a Wii video game with a small plastic hockey stick peripheral that even Wayne Gretzky found delightful.
  • EA’s NHL ’98, when the company hit its polygonal stride, and also featured a great soundtrack (ironically and unironically?).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Seattle leaves door open for Kraken; Flyers vs. Disney

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• John Hoven of Mayor’s Manor caused a stir during a Mayor’s Minutes Segment on NHL Network Radio, claiming that Seattle settled upon Kraken as the name. Russian Machine Never Breaks ranked among the outlets who amplified that report. (Mayor’s Manor.)

• NHL Seattle played coy (fish?) about the rumors, puffing up for this silly tweet:

• The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker did a deep dive on the subject of the team possibly using the name of a sea monster. There’s some vivid stuff in there, including details about Seattle Sockeyes not working because of a series of romance novels. Oh, and then Jami Davenport (author of said Sockeyes series) claimed that she wasn’t the holdup. It’s a lot. (Seattle Times)

• Shifting gears to the Bruins, Joe Haggerty discusses Charlie McAvoy‘s struggles this season. (NBC Sports Boston)

• Red Wings forward Givani Smith details how he used his father’s lessons to combat racism on his road to the NHL. (Detroit Free-Press)

• Sam Carchidi provides a fascinating report on the Flyers meeting with the league’s schedule-makers to address concerns. After all, they lead the NHL with 17 back-to-back sets this season, and also appear to play a lot of “tired” games. The Flyers’ biggest hurdle: Disney on Ice? (Philadelphia Inquirer)

• An argument for the Senators waiting closer to the trade deadline to move Anthony Duclair. To me, it’s all about what they’re being offered, as his value will never be higher. Actually, attentive teams might already notice Duclair’s game cooling off; he only has an assist in his last eight games, and scored his most recent goal on Dec. 21. (Sportsnet)

• Read up about Martin Frk and that 109.2 mph slapshot. (Sports Illustrated)

• If you’re of a certain (my) age, you’ll feel that much older learning that Chris Drury is the GM of the 2020 U.S. Men’s National Team. (USA Hockey)

• Hard-hitting and soft-snuggling stuff about how the Canucks are going to hug their way to glory. (Vancouver is Awesome)

• Adam Gretz provides a long-term outlook for the Penguins’ promising, term-packed defense after the Marcus Pettersson extension. (Pensburgh)

• There’s a remarkable crossover between hockey and pro wrestling fans. With that in mind, that significant portion of hockey fans will enjoy this bit about New Day Star Xavier Woods’ NHL All-Star experience. It’s a fun story, yes it is. (ESPN)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Remembering Chris Drury’s Little League World Series conquest 30 years later

Ronald Modra / Getty Images
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The summer of 1989 for the Trumbull, Connecticut little league team began with crowds featuring only their parents. By the end of August, their final game of the season saw 40,000-plus people turn out at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

On the mound for Trumbull that August 26 afternoon was a cherubic two-sport star. Chris Drury had turned 13 six days earlier and was eager to continue a winning year. Just four months before the 1989 Little League World Series, the future Stanley Cup champion and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer helped lead his pee-wee hockey team to the U.S. Amateur American Hockey Championship. His Greater Bridgeport, Conn. team went 64-2-1 en route to the title, and now Drury was trying to cap off the summer with another tournament win.

Facing Kang-Tu Little League from Taiwan, a country that had dominated the event for the previous two decades having won 13 of the 20 previous tournaments, Trumbull fell behind early but rallied with four runs in the third and fourth innings. Drury’s bases loaded two-run single extended their lead to 4-1.

After loading the bases in the top of the fifth, the Far East representatives were unable to cut the deficit any further after Drury induced a force out at third base, putting Trumbull three outs away.

“I don’t think any of us understood the magnitude of what we were doing while we were doing it,” Drury told the New York Daily News in 2009. “We were just playing baseball.”

The first two outs came way of a fly out to left field and Drury’s second strikeout of the game. When the ball came off the bat for what would end up being the final out, it first appeared like it was going over the wall as a two-run homerun, but left fielder Dan McGrath quickly settled under it on the warning track and the celebration was on.

Drury and his teammates were everywhere following their conquest in Williamsport, as documented by Sports Illustrated in 1989. They appeared on Good Morning America, met Mickey Mantle at his restaurant in New York City, visited President Bush in the White House, and attended the first two games of the 1989 World Series in Oakland, with Drury throwing out the first pitch before Game 2. There was even an appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade among the many experiences the team was a part of in the months following the championship.

The winning didn’t stop there for Drury as he got older and eventually turned his focus to hockey. He helped Boston University win an NCAA championship during his freshman year and ended his collegiate career as a Hobey Baker Award winner. As he entered the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Drury won the 1999 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and two years later he won a Stanley Cup as he development a penchant for scoring big goals in the postseason. He was also a part of two silver medal winning U.S. Olympic teams in Salt Lake 2002 and Vancouver 2010.

Following his time with the Avalanche, Drury would spend a season with the Calgary Flames and three with the Buffalo Sabres before finishing his NHL career in 2011 after four years with the New York Rangers. Upon retirement, he took a job in the Rangers organization as director of player development and these days he’s the team’s assistant general manager.

The thrill of a winning a Little League World Series title stayed with Drury as he grew older and experienced success on a professional level. Nothing could top the summer of 1989.

“It made me realize at a young age how much fun winning is,” Drury told the New York Times in 2008. “I wouldn’t trade it for the Cup. I wouldn’t trade it for a national championship in college. Each one was so unique. Little League was such a big thrill at such a young age. I don’t think I could rank them. They’re all No. 1 to me.”

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.

Drury, Ruggiero, Schneider headline 2015 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class

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The United States Hockey Hall of Fame announced its impressive 2015 class on Monday: Chris Drury, Angela Ruggiero, Mathieu Schneider and builder Ron DeGregorio.

Ruggiero is a trailblazer in women’s hockey, especially for the U.S. She won four Olympic medals, including a gold in Nagano. USA Hockey notes that her 256 games in a Team USA uniform tops any other player in the country’s history.

She also joined the Hockey Hall of Fame, so this has been a big year of recognition for Ruggiero.

Drury (pictured) might as well be synonymous with “winning.” He always seemed to find himself in the right spot to score big goals during his hockey career, so it’s no surprise that he enjoyed such team success: an NCAA title with Boston University in 1995, a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001 and strong international work. He’s also the only player to win a Calder Trophy and Hobey Baker Award.

Schneider won a Stanley Cup himself with Montreal in 1993 and was part of the World Cup of Hockey team that won it all in 1996. He was a two-time All-Star.

Here is a quick excerpt from a write-up for DeGregorio from USA Hockey:

Ron DeGregorio has helped shape American hockey for more than 40 years as one the most prominent volunteers in the history of USA Hockey and has conceived programs that have resulted in acclaim from around the world.

While DeGregorio’s ingenuity is evident in many areas, perhaps his most significant concept was starting USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in 1996. A lightning rod for criticism when it was established, the NTDP has evolved into a revered program that has significantly enhanced elite player development and U.S. success in international competition.

Rangers make Ryan Callahan their new captain, tab Marc Staal and Brad Richards as alternates

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As many expected, the New York Rangers decided to make heart-and-soul winger Ryan Callahan their new captain today. The 26-year-old forward will be joined by alternate captains Marc Staal and Brad Richards.

While the team has its fair share of hustle players in depth positions, Callahan embodies the kind of playing style that head coach John Tortorella loves to see at a high-level position. Callahan is the type of player who throws his body around with reckless abandon, which indicates that he’ll have the “lead by example” part of the job nailed down. Unfortunately, that selfless style has its downsides; Callahan’s willingness to block shots caused him to miss 22 regular season games and the team’s playoff series because of two separate injuries (a broken hand and ankle).

Even after missing all of those games, Callahan produced career highs in goals (23), assists (25) and points (48) last season. That allowed him to sign a lucrative contract extension as the Rangers avoided salary arbitration with the value forward.

Jesse Spector points out that Callahan is the team’s first homegrown captain since Brian Leetch played that role from 1997-2000. In the mean time, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury donned the “C” in New York.

Rangers fans should be as delighted by this decision as they must have been when the team managed to retain Callahan and his partner in crime Brandon Dubinsky. Cally might have a tough time matching his breakout year in 2011-12, but even if he doesn’t light up the scoreboard at the same rate, he brings qualities to the ice that extend beyond the box scores.

That’s why he might be the best fit to wear the “C” at Madison Square Garden in quite some time.