PHT remembers video games

PHT remembers video games: ‘Hit the Ice’ in so, so many different ways

Every week, PHT will spotlight hockey video games you might not have heard of, ones you fondly recall, and ones we’d all like to forget. In this edition, we look at “Hit the Ice.” It’s likely best remembered as an arcade game. As you’ll find out, though, you could play “Hit the Ice” on many different machines.

With many of the games in this series, it feels like we’re reminiscing about games that cannot exist, but really they’re games that probably cannot exist as mainstream titles any longer. Bite-sized action, maybe some over-the-top humor, and possibly gory fights? EA isn’t going to release that sort of thing any longer. That said, an indie developer might come along and channel the spirit of “Ice Hockey” while adding a bunch of adult elements, for example.

We probably won’t see another game quite like “Hit the Ice,” in at least one specific way. Here’s why.

Looking at the arcade version of “Hit the Ice”

In pouring over footage of “Hit the Ice,” I felt a tinge of sadness. But it wasn’t the sort of bittersweet nostalgia one might feel while lamenting the general lack of arcade-style sports games.

Instead, it’s maybe … SOMO, the sadness of missing out?

I’m just young enough that I wasn’t quite hitting the arcades often enough to recall playing “Hit the Ice.” With that in mind, I’ll defer to others regarding how fun “Hit the Ice” was around its 1990 release.

The cartoonishness and personality seemed great, especially since it was released well before “NBA Jam” became a sensation. It looks like Taito mixed pieces of pixelated arcade games like “Wrestlefest” and The Simpsons arcade game with some of the characters (and maybe a portion of the problematic elements?) of “Punch Out!!”

The “Hit the Ice” Wikipedia page explains the inspiration for some of the game’s characters:

  • Iven Yakashev, spoof of a Soviet player from 1972
  • Phil Bunger, spoof of Phil Esposito
  • “Dicky” Fontaine, spoof of Dicky Moore
  • Al Gigliano
  • Johnny Novak
  • “Happy” Golecki (“happy-go-lucky”)
  • Pierre Bourdoir
  • Ben Dover
  • “Gunner” Hall, spoof of Glenn Hall
  • “Battleship” Boyd
  • Reggie Marsh
  • “Bo” Cleveland

So, some of that probably falls in the “So bad, it’s good” range, right?

That said, it also looked rather sluggish. The goalies also seem pretty atrocious, even relative to the time it was released.

Overall, I’ve seen enough to at least want to try it in the extremely unlikely event “Hit the Ice” would a) be in an arcade near me and b) I’d enter what would almost certainly be a magnet for germs.

The many, remarkably different versions of the game

Granted, there are other ways to play “Hit the Ice.” That actually brings me to my larger point. It isn’t the arcade style that makes “Hit the Ice” something we’ll likely never see again. Instead, it’s that “Hit the Ice” was released on so many different platforms, and rather than being carbon copies of each other, each port sounded, looked, or moved differently. Sometimes “all of the above,” so to speak.

You can go port by port in the video above this post’s headline and both see and hear what I mean. (Thanks to a very helpful and interesting video from Gaming History Source.)

First, the arcade version of “Hit the Ice”

Hit the Ice Arcade version
via Taito/Williams/Gaming History Source

So, the arcade version is the “full featured one.” Such features include … Dale Hunter-esque fights after goals? Sure!

It’s worth noting that even the arcade version of “Hit the Ice” features some charmingly bad skating sound effects, and other flaws. I’d imagine many would agree that such “features” are part of the fun. Consider me convinced.

16-bit capabilities didn’t keep Genesis, SNES, Turbografx versions from being different

While ad campaigns would remind you that Genesis does what Nintendon’t, gamers are used to ports being virtually identical on similar platforms. That clearly wasn’t the case during the 16-bit era, though. (See: Aladdin.)

Granted, the differences between the SNES and Genesis versions weren’t as dramatic as the Turbografx one. It was interesting, though, to see that some versions of “Hit the Ice” featured not just players you could choose, but also team names.

Sega Genesis version Hit the Ice
via Taito/Williams/Gaming History Source

Also, I’m pretty sure this super sweet overhead arena sequence was designed to show off Nintendo’s “Mode 7” capabilities on the SNES:

Quite a bit got lost in translation jumping from arcade to the Genesis and SNES. The lightly-loved turbografx 16 version, though? It looked quite spartan:

via Taito/Williams/Gaming History Source

Honestly, though? In losing some of the sound effects, it also seemed a little less grating. That would be a plus for any parents or people who didn’t care for games who were in its vicinity. None of that would really heal the pain of investing in a turbografx, yet it’s worth mentioning.

When you wanted to “Hit the Ice” on primitive hardware

To reiterate: there were quite a few versions of this game. Some of them weren’t even 16-bit.

At the lowest end of the power spectrum, you had the Nintendo GameBoy version. Honestly? Not bad.

via Taito/Williams/Gaming History Source

OK, it obviously didn’t look like a 1:1 conversion, but considering the brick-like handheld’s limitations, it seemed like an honest effort.

The Nintendo NES version, though? Kind of a nightmare. To be fair, this port of “Hit the Ice” did not get released, so maybe it wouldn’t make your eyes bleed? Maybe the characters wouldn’t have looked like hockey white chocolate Hershey Kisses, or something?

via Taito/Williams/Gaming History Source

Yet, even with that non-release, there was ambition. Apparently the NES version featured an RPG-style quest mode where you could improve your players over time. That’s pretty bold for the arcade port of a hockey game on an NES platform that was going extinct.

So, yeah, it’s difficult to imagine a game like “Hit the Ice” hitting different platforms in so many different versions. Even the embattled, follicly-challenged referee looked different game-to-game.

Top: Arcade version, slightly more party in the back; bottom left: GameBoy; Bottom right: Turbografx, not much of a party in the back

So, look, I’m not sure how many versions of “Hit the Ice” were worth playing, even when they were released. But the sheer variance in details — big and small — makes the ports seem like true labors of love.

Maybe sometimes the sort of things only a parent can love, but still.

PHT remembers other hockey video games:

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 reviews hockey video games: ‘Super Blood Hockey,’ a gory good time

Every week, PHT will spotlight hockey video games you might not have heard of. Previously, that meant looking back at games that are now largely inaccessible. This week’s edition, on the other hand, can be found in many spots: “Super Blood Hockey.”

As we look back at old and very old arcade-style hockey games, it’s almost inevitable to wallow in the sadder elements of nostalgia. Why can’t current games capture those good old days?

Well, games like “Super Blood Hockey” aim to do just that. After spending some time with the Switch version of the game, I think solo developer Loren Lemcke’s aim ended up being mostly on.

“Super Blood Hockey” is an evolution (and devolution) of NES “Ice Hockey”

Earlier in this series, we looked at the NES classic “Ice Hockey,” which originally released around 1988. Thanks to the Nintendo Switch’s SNES emulator (available with Switch Online), you can toggle between “Ice Hockey” and “Super Blood Hockey” on the same device.

Of course, it really might come down to letting your kids play “Ice Hockey,” but not “Super Blood Hockey.”

On one hand, SBH carries a lot of the same spirit of that Nintendo classic. There are “fat, skinny, normal” players, with the skinnier being more elusive, and the “fat” being tougher to knock off the puck than vintage Eric Lindros. Much like “Ice Hockey,” “Super Blood Hockey” only involves four skaters and a goalie, rather than the NHL standard.

Fights definitely play a role in the game, as much like in classic titles, the team that wins a fight — actually a wild line brawl — goes up one player. In fact, as I learned earlier today in researching the game a bit more, you can also go up four skaters to one.

A meaty and gory franchise mode

The not-so-family friendly stuff boils down to the gore, and the dark gallows humor of the franchise mode.

Rather than a dry GM mode setup such as games like “NHL 20,” you begin the “Super Blood Hockey” version by … giving up a kidney to afford your team?

Super Blood Hockey screen kidney
via Super Blood Hockey

When you lose a fight, you don’t just essentially go on the penalty kill. You also risk being “down a man” in a dark way. Like, say, losing your best player “Ryan Bretzel.”

Super Blood Hockey poor Bretzel
via Super Blood Hockey

The game’s lack of an NHL or NHLPA license means that you get some fun names (Adam “Pates,” huh?) and the game can go down some literal dark alleys with drug use.

 

When it comes to the humor, your results will vary. As someone who worries that players might be put at risk to return to play, there’s some catharsis in the satire of “Super Blood Hockey,” though. The tone generally works for me, possibly thanks to the throwback pixel art.

Super Blood Hockey discard
Players are inmates in this dark franchise mode. (via Super Blood Hockey)

In a May 2019 interview with Nintendojo, “Super Blood Hockey” developer Loren Lemcke explained the tone of the game:

The omnipresent evil of profit-motive haunts the US Healthcare system and poisons our compassion by injecting into us the necessary machinery to dehumanize others. One doesn’t have to dig very deep to discover a terrifying crypt of nightmarish and surreal ordeals inflicted upon the sick and dying in the name of profit. Super Blood Hockey is a mere cartoonish effigy of the very real kafkaesque horrors levied upon the poor.

(How many other sports video game franchise modes inspire use of the term “kafkaesque?” OK, beyond the microtransactions in the NBA2K series.)

Ultimately, “Super Blood Hockey” follows its retro roots as being a fairly stripped-down game. You won’t play 20+ seasons in this franchise mode, seeing Connor McDavid and Jack Hughes retire along the way.

Yet there’s a lot to like. I’m not sure how much of a difference it really makes when I tell my little pixely players to rest vs. hit the gym, but it’s fun to tweak their stats.

An impressive effort could be just a bit better with more resources

If you follow indie video games, you realize that small teams, sometimes basically one person, can sometimes will a game into existence. Sometimes that comes down to making the types of games that don’t get made any longer.

People craved another “Harvest Moon” game, so largely solo developer Eric Barone accomplished his own take on the series with “Stardew Valley.” That game became a smash hit, and Lemcke’s enjoyed his own success while making “Super Blood Hockey” an evolution and devolution of NES “Ice Hockey.”

Now, sure, there are beefs.

Above all else, it would be wonderful to be able to play games online. What better way to keep in touch with friends than to take advantage of their teams being down 4-on-2 thanks to lost fights?

And, while I’d argue that the game plays well, there can be some maddening moments. Sometimes it’s just flat-out frustrating trying to score against Pong-inspired goalies.

SBH stats
Bretzel’s sacrifice? Yeah, kind of in vain. (via Super Blood Hockey)

But with a fantastic retro soundtrack and look, and some fun gameplay, “Super Blood Hockey” could be a nice fit for those wanting an old-school hockey game. It’s often pretty cheap and on many platforms, from the Nintendo Switch to PC, to XBox One and Playstation 4.

As far as what’s next for Lemcke, well, I might need to check out his other project. If you’re of a certain age, you also have fond memories of the “Rampage” arcade games. It looks like Lemcke shared such memories, because check out “Terror of Hemasaurus.”

That looks like it might be worthy of its own movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to be honest.

PHT remembers other hockey video games:

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 remembers video games: Tecmo Super Hockey?

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 Tecmo trying to bring its Super Bowl magic to Hockey on the Sega Genesis.

Sometimes, this feature recalls games I played what would border on distressing hours of. On other occasions, there will be gimmicks that kinda sorta worked, including one starring Wayne Gretzky. There are even comforting moments where I learn that I did not hallucinate about a Fox Sports-centric game starring Mike Modano.

(That would have been a troublingly specific thing to imagine, even for a troubled mind.)

For this week’s entry, we’ll add to what’s becoming a remarkably large pile of games I never knew existed. I’m talking today about Tecmo Super Hockey. Sean Leahy clued me into this effort from the makers of Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl, a series that immortalized Bo Jackson as much as a broken bat over a knee.

After watching quite a bit of gameplay and checking out limited archived reviews, it’s clear why Tecmo Super Hockey did not resonate in the same way as its pigskin counterpart. That said, it doesn’t seem like it was a total failure … just not quite strong enough to be a success.

Tecmo Super Hockey carried quite a bit of that Tecmo Super Bowl vibe

It’s easy to notice some of the hallmarks of the Tecmo football titles. Everything from the arrow indicators over hockey players heads to the sporadic action “cutscenes” carry similar vibes. Both titles also feature a horizontal view of the field/ice.

Heck, the herky-jerky animations and powerful speed bursts evoke their sprite-based pigskin cousins, too. The shared roots seemed obvious, even if one was memorable and Tecmo Super Hockey was forgotten.

Tecmo Super Hockey cutscene
Tecmo Hockey screen (via Tecmo/YouTube)

Those elements simply didn’t come together in the same way for hockey.

Maybe some ideas needed more time in the oven? Each faceoff has its own little cutscene screen, and I can imagine how that would’ve annoyed players after the novelty wore off.

Tecmo Hockey screen (via Tecmo/YouTube)

The development team might have deserved more time and resources getting the sound together. While certain aspects come across like you’d expect, others feel quite off. In particular, the skating sound effect just … doesn’t work. Listen for yourself in the gameplay footage in the video above the headline. I can imagine many 1994 parents gritting their teeth hearing those noises over and over again.

Falling short against the competition

A Game Pro review (by Slapshot McGraw!) captured how Tecmo Super Hockey fell short of NHL ’95 and Brett Hull Hockey ’95, essentially stating that players should’ve only given TSH a chance if the other two titles were unavailable.

Tecmo Super Hockey fell short of the 5 out of 5 rating “happy and yet possibly electrified” image from Game Pro.

Game Pro score for Tecmo Super Hockey
Game Pro Magazine/Archive.org

Those scores aren’t a disaster (though a German outlet rated it a 39%, yikes), but one can see pretty quickly why hockey fans chose NHL ’95 or Brett Hull Hockey ’95 instead.

Brett Hull Hockey ’95 seemed to have quite a bit going for it, including Al Michaels. As far as I can tell, it was pretty unusual in providing some play-by-play of the action. (It appears that the EA series didn’t have play-by-play until NHL ’97.) That title had its issues, too, as even in watching footage, the gameplay looks sluggish.

Meanwhile, what more can you really say about the run EA was on at the time with NHL ’95? The debate of best hockey game generally came down to which 16-bit EA title you prefer (especially since they made Mutant League Hockey,too). Just watch some of this ‘NHL 95 footage and it will feel like finding the just-right porridge after observing the other games.

It’s fascinating, by the way, that all three titles featured a different view of the game:

Tecmo Super Hockey NHL 95 Brett Hull 95 angles
Top: NHL ’95 (via EA/YouTube) Bottom left: Tecmo Super Hockey (via Tecmo/YouTube) Bottom right: Brett Hull Hockey ’95 (via Accolade/YouTube)

There’s something charming about seeing a more “Wild West” time in gaming. In the area of sports, that meant licensing (Tecmo Super Hockey featured an NHLPA license, but not NHL, so generic city names it was), and even how the “camera” worked.

Much like a hapless cornerback being stiff-armed by Bo Jackson, Tecmo Super Hockey fell as an admirable, yet unsuccessful effort. That said, if you have fond memories — or maybe stories of frustration — about Tecmo Super Hockey, do tell in the comments.

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?).
  • An ode to the NHL 2K series, which challenged and sometimes surpassed EA’s popular entries.

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

Thornton NHL 2K cover
via 2K Sports

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.

***

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 remembers video games: NHL Slapshot, a Wii oddity starring Wayne Gretzky

NHL Slapshot Nintendo Wii Wayne Gretzky
via EA Sports/Amazon

Every Tuesday, PHT will remember a hockey video game, preferably one less obvious than the “Swingers”-immortalized “NHL 94.” Due to technological limitations 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.

When EA Sports announced NHL Slapshot for the then-red-hot Nintendo Wii, some groaned as if they blocked an actual slapper. It ended up working out better than expected, just not enough to be a smash hit.

Plenty of game companies tried to emulate the “even kids and grandparents can play it” genius of Wii Sports, but most failed. Mix that copycat mentality with all of the “shovelware” being released and expectations were low for NHL Slapshot. A game where you morph a video game controller into a virtual hockey stick? Yeah, good luck with that.

(Oh yeah, this was also around the time when EA was repeatedly being voted “the worst company in America,” which is almost too absurd to type. Avid gamers are not always the most reasonable people.)

Yet, instead of being a shameless, half-baked cash grab, NHL Slapshot ended up being … quite good. It simply didn’t put enough elements together to draw attention from enough of those kids and grandparents.

NHL Slapshot was better than expected, but maybe didn’t hit the sweet spot

This “controller trailer” captures many of the basics for NHL Slapshot. Basically, players would insert the Wii’s strange “nunchuk” controller setup into a plastic mini-stick included in the game’s box. Then they’d use it to play an arcade-style game.

EA Sports deserves a lot of credit — it was a pretty ingenious setup.

But, frankly, my overriding memory of owning NHL Slapshot was that dealing with the controller was kind of a pain. While it wasn’t that difficult to put together, it was just frustrating enough. Being that it was a MacGyver-style setup to turn that controller into a hockey stick, you’d have to take the controller out if you wanted to play another game. Unless you decided to have a controller devoted solely to NHL Slapshot. It could be a little uncomfortable at times, too.

That stick controller stands as a microcosm for the game overall. It was clever, but didn’t quite find that sweet spot. NHL Slapshot didn’t quite appease hardcore sports fans, and was a bit clunky for casual audiences.

Not quite there

Sometimes “better than it has any right to be” translates merely to a nice novelty that fades.

Matt Bertz captured the mixed-bag feel of NHL Slapshot in a Game Informer review back in 2010:

Performing the real-world gestures for crosschecks, slap shots, wrist shots, and poke checks triggers the corresponding moves in the game. The game tracks your checking and slap shot motions admirably, but the rest of the moves don’t have much accuracy. Backhands are particularly unresponsive, as are wrist shots in those moments where you pick up a loose puck around the net and must get off a shot in nanoseconds before getting checked or losing possession. The deking moves are very rigid in comparison to the analog stick movements in NHL 11, and given the slight controller lag, the poke check and stick sweep options aren’t effective strategies on defense.

Don’t take this as totally dragging EA, though. The game did quite a lot right, and that was reflected in some pretty solid reviews, as you can see at Metacritic. An aggregate score of 76 really isn’t half-bad for an experimental, family-friendly game like NHL Slapshot.

NHL Slapshot brought out Gretzky’s inner gamer

Even if the game was a total failure — which, again, it was not — this charmingly awkward footage of Gretzky playing the game would justify its existence.

This footage, unearthed from the game’s Amazon listing, includes:

  • Gretzky making the “I’m playing a game” face, especially in the beginning.
  • “The Great One” attempts to get his kid interested in playing a game, and largely being ignored.
  • Gretzky sounding like a kid when he says that he wants to play as Alex Ovechkin.

Tremendous, right?

Pondering slight potential for a spiritual successor

As I mentioned before, NHL Slapshot seemed a touch before its time. It was a noble effort, but the lack of a sequel cements the notion that it didn’t quite come together.

It does make me wonder, though. What if EA or another company put real effort into a hockey video game that takes advantage of virtual reality?

Now, that hypothetical game would absolutely count as a niche within a niche. Even so, virtual reality games sometimes go that far, and a company like EA could conceivably bundle a hockey game with golf, football, and other sports. Sure, that sounds like a long shot, but NHL Slapshot was unlikely (and pretty solid) too, so who knows?

MORE: Remembering NHL Championship 2000, starring Mike Modano.

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.