Wayne Gretzky

Marian Hossa 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame debates Lowe hockey links PHT Morning Skate
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PHT Morning Skate: Hossa, other 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame debates

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

2020 Hockey Hall of Fame debates, links, information

• A compelling argument for why Marian Hossa should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. For what it’s worth, Hossa made my imaginary one, so there are definitely pro-Hossa sides to those Hockey Hall of Fame debates. [NBC Sports Chicago]

• Speaking of Hall of Fame arguments, Jim Matheson lays out the case for Kevin Lowe. “Not being able to fit your Stanley Cup rings on just one hand” isn’t a bad argument. Then again, how many Lowe-like defensemen might have achieved similar team accomplishments on the same rosters as Wayne Gretzky and/or Mark Messier? How many of those Oilers (and in many cases, brief-Rangers) should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Either way, it’s one of those prototypical HHOF debates. [Edmonton Journal]

• Oh, in case you missed it, PHT’s Sean Leahy broke down who might make up the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class. Good stuff, especially if you want to brush up for the announcements. (Or, maybe get ready to be angry? Do people still get angry about this stuff if it’s not about their own candidacy?) [PHT]

COVID-19 and NHL hub city talk, other hockey links

• Five questions with NBC’s Mike “Doc” Emrick. Emrick answers questions about his upcoming book, the possible return to play, and … announcing a windshield wiper replacement? [NHL.com]

• As you likely know, the NHL announced that 11 players tested positive for COVID-19, with reports indicating that Auston Matthews was one of them. Just about any hopeful hub city must recognize that. Interesting stuff on how Vancouver’s desire could be tested. [The Province]

• Golden Knights GM George McPhee talks up the strengths Vegas presents as a potential hub city. The expansive hotels certainly bump things up for players who might feel a little bottled up living in a “bubble” setup. [Sportsnet]

• Again and again, it’s worth noting that Kevyn Adams faces serious challenges as Sabres GM. Adams will need to show that inexperience isn’t an issue. That could really be tough when it comes to rebuilding a scouting department after it was absolutely gutted. [The Hockey News]

• While discussing Seth Jones likely being healthy for the Columbus Blue Jackets, I also wondered about his actual value vs. his perceived value. “J Fresh” takes a deep dive and backs up some of my doubts. Neither of us are arguing that Jones is “bad.” Instead, the question is whether or not Jones is truly elite. [J Fresh]

• Jets players talk to Scott Billeck about how weird it might be to play in arenas without fans. [Winnipeg Sun]

• Why the Flyers should feel good about their goalies heading into the return. [Pucker Up Sports]

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: How not to settle Gretzky vs. Lemieux

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. This time, we ponder the worst way to settle the Mario Lemieux vs. Wayne Gretzky debate: by playing their shaky video games around 1991 (or 1992).

For years — and probably in some cases, to this day — hockey fans debated Gretzky vs. Lemieux. Both sides certainly had ammo, too.

Gretzky doesn’t just lead the NHL in all-time goals (894) and points (2,857). It’s possible no one will ever generate as many points as Gretzky had assists (1,963 assists; Jaromir Jagr currently sits second all-time in points with 1,921). With four Stanley Cup trophies to go with all of those numbers, it’s pretty tough to make an argument against number 99 being the GOAT.

But, again, Lemieux fans boasted some ammo. “The Magnificent One” boasted stunning talent, and owned highlight reels with beautiful goals. Lemieux stood as the greatest player in the NHL while undergoing chemotherapy.

Most of us learned to enjoy all the greats, but if you want to have that barroom debate, you can probably find out.

Just don’t settle it based on which player’s likeness adorned the superior video game in 1991 (or 1992, really). Let’s look back at “Mario Lemieux Hockey” for the Sega Genesis, and what turned out to be a few versions of “Wayne Gretzky Hockey” ranging from PC to the NES.

Mario Lemieux Hockey, 1991, Sega Genesis

Mario Lemieux Hockey title screen Gretzky video games
via Sega/YouTube

Beginning with the start screen, you can see a pretty solid likeness of Lemieux. Now, the Stanley Cup? Not nearly as spot-on, although that might have also boiled down to Sega not wanting to get sued.

After watching gameplay footage, I see some similarities between “Mario Lemieux Hockey” and “Tecmo Super Hockey.” Both made some similar choices with perspective, player switching, and quasi-cutscenes.

That said, “Tecmo Super Hockey” came out years after “Mario Lemieux Hockey,” yet number 66’s game arguably still looked better. It seemed like a game that was friendly on the eyes, relative to its time period.

But judging from makeshift reviews I’ve found, there wasn’t much substance to back up the sizzle. This “Classic Game Room” review lacked much in positivity, and someone at Gamefaqs called it the worst hockey game they ever played.

Still, you have to at least give the fight graphics some love:

video game fight MLH
Lol, and ow. (via Sega/YouTube)

Lemieux’s game sometimes included a puck?

Ultimately, the most remarkable things about “Mario Lemieux” and various versions of “Wayne Gretzky Hockey” probably boil down to side notes.

In the case of Lemieux’s game, Sega shipped some copies with a freaking puck.

 

I’m sure retailers loved it when they tried to sell this absolute unit, via Sega Retro:

Mario Lemieux Hockey box Sega Genesis puck Gretzky video games
via Sega/Sega Retro

OK, this is all actually pretty tremendous. That said, I can imagine a snarky review reading “You’ll have more fun with the puck than the cartridge in the box.”

Wayne Gretzky Hockey: several versions, mixed results?

Grading “Wayne Gretzky” is more elusive, much like it was difficult to consistently land checks on “The Great One.”

There are multiple similar-looking versions of “Wayne Gretzky Hockey,” including the 1988 NES version that made these fellows quite miserable:

It seems like the PC version looked quite a bit better in 1988. Either that, or I’m merely entranced by the “MS Paint” vibes of the fight video:

Fight in Wayne Gretzky Hockey video game Lemieux
via Bethesda Softworks (Game Studios)/YouTube

If you insisted on playing “Mario Lemieux Hockey” vs. a “Wayne Gretzky Hockey” video game of the time, it might be fairest to choose “Wayne Gretzky Hockey 3,” a PC release from 1992.

But, uh, again … that seems like a shaky exercise in curiosity.

Another shaky game precludes a video game titan

Fans of video games would probably do a double take at “Wayne Gretzky Hockey” titles when they realize that “Bethesda Softworks” made it.

Bethesda Softworks on boards Wayne Gretzky Hockey
via Bethesda Softworks (Game Studios)/YouTube

If that doesn’t ring a bell, consider that Bethesda is the studio behind mega-popular title such as “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” which sold untold millions of copies (one report indicated 30 million by November 2016).

Indeed, Bethesda pumped out sports video games stretching back to 1986, but then they really hit their stride once the company focused more on “nerds” than “jocks.”

With all of that in mind, it’s still surprising that the company that pumped out “Wayne Gretzky Hockey” eventually developed … this.

(That said, I can definitely see some of the roots of “Gridiron!” in “Wayne Gretzky Hockey.”)

Interestingly, “Wayne Gretzky Hockey” and Bethesda don’t represent the only example of a game company going from humble, hockey game beginnings to huge hits. As mentioned in this look back at Nintendo 64 hockey video games, Treyarch went from making the ill-received “Olympic Hockey ’98” to working on the “Call of Duty” titles.

Luckily for hockey fans, there would be several other video games starring Wayne Gretzky, and they were generally much better.

You could probably wedge Michael Scott’s favorite Gretzky quote about missing 100 percent of the shots you don’t take in there somewhere. Ultimately, though, playing “Mario Lemieux Hockey” or a version of “Wayne Gretzky Hockey” might be only slightly more enjoyable than waking up to a grilled foot.

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.

Draisaitl picks his all-time Oilers team, talks life without hockey

Oilers star (and NHL points leader) Leon Draisaitl answered several fan questions with Dave Amber for “Hockey at Home.”

Here are some of the subjects Draisaitl covered:

Draisaitl picks his all-time Oilers, talks running line without Connor McDavid

The more nuts-and-bolts hockey stuff was pretty straightforward.

Take, for instance, Draisaitl’s all-time Oilers picks. While he didn’t directly say he’d make such a team, Draisaitl admitted it would be fun to line up with Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid. His goalie choice was obvious (Grant Fuhr), but it was amusing to see him try to pick a second defenseman after Paul Coffey.

Draisaitl also discussed how well things have been going during the latest attempt to move him away from McDavid. That has indeed been going well, as Draisaitl is finding nice chemistry with Kailer Yamamoto and Tyler Ennis, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has also been in that mix.

Pondering life without hockey

That more nitty-gritty hockey stuff aside, some of the best fun comes later in the interview.

When a young fan asked Draisaitl what he would do if he wasn’t a hockey player, Draisaitl struggled. He thought that, if he wasn’t an NHL player, Draisaitl would still be involved in the game somehow.

Then, after taking some time to reflect, he stumbled upon a Plan B or C … um, soccer player? Amusingly, Draisaitl explained that he gave up hockey for a year when he was eight or nine to focus on soccer.

Thankfully for Draisaitl and the Oilers, that didn’t stick. Perhaps Draisaitl should have followed that up with “Hey, kids, maybe don’t plan your life as hockey or nothing,” but this remains a fun interview.

And not just because of this fan’s hat:

fan Oilers Leon Draisaitl Hockey at Home

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.

Wayne Gretzky’s advice to top NHL prospects: ‘Embrace every moment of it’

There will be an 2020 NHL Draft at some point, but for now the top hockey prospects will have to wait. As they continue training at home, five of the potential early-round picks joined Wayne Gretzky for a conversation during the latest #HockeyAtHome episode.

Alexis Lafreniere, Jamie Drysdale, Jake Sanderson, Quinton Byfield, and Tim Stutzle took part in a video call with The Great One and were given this advice as they prepare to take the next step in their hockey careers.

“My advice to you is embrace every moment of it,” Gretzky said. “It’s the greatest game in world. To play in the National Hockey League is a thrill, it’s a pleasure, and it’s an honor. And when you think you’ve worked hard, you work that much harder because there’s nothing like being an NHL player. And if you get that early on in your mind how great the game is and everything that goes with it — the practices, the travel, the media — you’ll embrace it that much quicker.”

The 2020 draft was supposed to be in Montreal on June 26-27, but was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whenever it is rescheduled it will be held virtually. The next step is the NHL figuring out if It should take place before or after the resumption of the 2019-20 season.

The prospects then flipped the tables on Gretzky and got to ask him a question. Drysdale wanted to know if No. 99 played today who would be his most-desired linemates.

“There’s so many good players, that’s a tough question because you guys like [Sidney] Crosby and [Auston] Matthews and [Mitch] Marner and [Alex] Ovechkin, Connor [McDavid], and [Leon] Draisaitl” Gretzky said. “For me, probably Connor because of his speed, he would open up the ice, and Ovechkin because if we get him the puck you know he’s going to hit the net or at least have a chance to score, so, those two guys would be fun to play with.”

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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.

NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: Hecht, Briere lead Sabres in most recent playoff win

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This week’s Hockey Happy Hour on NBCSN (5-7 p.m. ET) will feature memorable “on this date” games in playoff history.

The Sabres and Rangers clashed in a high-scoring affair combining for nine goals in the contest. Led by Jochen Hecht’s two goals and Daniel Briere’s three assists, the Sabres emerged with a 5-4 victory to claim what remains their most recent playoff series win, 13 years to the day.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire called Game 6 from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y.

Emrick reflects on significant hockey moments that have taken place on May 6 over the years throughout the broadcast.

Wednesday, May 6 on NBCSN
#HockeyAtHome: Wayne Gretzky Interviews Top 2020 Draft Prospects – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Buffalo vs. New York Rangers (2007 Round 2, Game 6) – 5:30 p.m. ET (Live stream)

Thursday, May 7 on NBCSN
NHL Player Gaming Challenge – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Boston vs. Philadelphia (2010 Round 2, Game 4) – 6 p.m. ET (Live stream)

Sunday, May 10 on NBC
• 2018 Olympics Women’s Gold Medal game: USA vs. Canada – 3 p.m. ET

#HOCKEYATHOME: WAYNE GRETZKY INTERVIEW WITH TOP 2020 DRAFT PROSPECTS – WED. 5 P.M. ET,  NBCSN
The hockey legend will interview five of the top prospects in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft – Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Jamie Drysdale, Jake Sanderson and Tim Stuetzle – as part of the NHL’s #HockeyAtHome series.

NHL PLAYER GAMING CHALLENGE – THUR., 5 P.M. ET, NBCSN
NBCSN will present the NHL Player Gaming Challenge at 5 p.m. ET, between Arizona vs. Boston. The competition features Clayton Keller and Conor Garland representing the Coyotes against Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk of the Bruins. The month-long initiative will pit NHL players from all 31 clubs facing off against each other in EA Sports NHL 20.

Following the hour-long broadcast at 5 p.m. ET, a matchup between Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers and Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals will be available on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and the NBC Sports YouTube channel.

USA-CANADA (2018 OLYMPICS WOMEN’S GOLD MEDAL GAME) – SUN., 3 P.M. ET, NBC
Team USA and Canada faced off in the gold medal game at the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018. Behind the game-winning shootout goal by Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, the Americans won, 3-2, to claim their second-ever Olympic gold medal. The win also snapped the Canadians’ streak of four straight Olympic titles.

Airing on Mother’s Day, the broadcast will have numerous new elements, including NBC Sports’ NHL host Kathryn Tappen interviewing Team USA captain Meghan Duggan on her memories about the gold medal game and celebrating Mother’s Day as both a mother and as a daughter. NBC’s broadcast will also feature a Mother’s Day tribute essay penned by Mike Emrick, as well as a profile on American forward Hilary Knight, who scored the opening goal for Team USA in the 2018 gold medal game.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.