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IceCaps Insider: Virtual reality Posted by IceCaps on

Video games piece (994)

IceCaps reflect on hockey video game memories

Chris Ballard

Video games can serve as a distraction from the grind of day-to-day life for both the young and the young-at-heart.

From school children rushing home to join friends online playing the newest shiny console game to college kids dusting off their old vintage game cartridges in their dorm rooms, it’s safe to say that most of today’s youth and young adult population have strong memories associated with video games.

Members of the St. John’s IceCaps, who range from 19 to 33 years of age, fit perfectly into that demographic and are no exception to the rule.

Young hockey players across the world flock to buy the newest NHL video game releases every year, including IceCaps forward Eric O’Dell, who believes the game should be a mainstay in any hockey player’s home.

“I think every person that plays hockey definitely owns the NHL game,” he said with a smile.

“Most of the guys have Xbox 360 or PS3. I think everybody has the game. Most guys are playing it. It’s cool to have us in the game. It’s awesome.”

Hockey video games have existed since the early days of console gaming, with titles like ‘Blades of Steel’ and Nintendo’s ‘Ice Hockey’ making their debuts on the original Nintendo system in the 1980’s.

Many a Canadian hockey player has relied on these games to help create personal moments of glory or to see themselves play alongside their favourite players. These games helped fuel the passion of today’s generation of hockey players.

O’Dell fondly remembers the game that sparked his interest in hockey gaming.

“NHL 98 was the game for me growing up,” he recalls.

“I was around eight years old, that’s probably when I was able to control the guys on the ice. I had the game for Nintendo 64.”

O’Dell’s teammate Patrice Cormier wasn’t much of a console gamer but has fond memories of playing the game with his family on his computer.

“I used to play with my brother,” Cormier said.

“I played it on computer in 2002. The only ever NHL game that I owned was on the computer. I played it a lot actually. The more points you got you could buy these cards. I always used to be Colorado. I don’t know for what reason. I liked Joe Sakic. I was on his line.”

Professional athletes are a unique breed of video gamer as they are among the minority of the population that can pull a video game off the shelf and star as themselves.

Complete NHL rosters have been featured in video games for decades but as the games and systems have evolved over the years, so has the depth of detail.

Nowadays, you can fire up a game and play as your favourite team from a number of different leagues, from junior to European club teams. Gone are the days of 8-bit pixilated players. Game developers work hard to make sure players look as they do in real life.

Heck, you can even play as the IceCaps at Mile One Centre.

Both Cormier and O’Dell remember when they first saw their digital selves in the NHL video games and both were impressed with the attention to detail.

“In the summer, my buddy had the game and brought it over and we played it online,” Cormier said.

“It was fun playing online against other people. We played as the IceCaps. It’s pretty cool seeing yourself out there. I’m really happy with (how I look in the game) the equipment and everything. They do a really good job of doing it. It’s pretty neat actually.”

O’Dell was playing for the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League when he got his first glance of himself in a video game in 2008-09 and while it wasn’t perfect at first, it’s still neat to be able to see yourself in a video game.

“Everyone didn’t know what to expect when they added the CHL in there,” he said.

“I know the faces might have been kind of off but they didn’t take too much time to do that. It was cool playing as us.”

All players in the video games are ranked statistically based on their personal attributes and progress in their careers. Defenceman are ranked based on defensive stats like shot blocking and defensive awareness, while forwards get their grades based on their speed, agility and shooting.

While the ranking system is arbitrary for the most part, that doesn’t stop some guys from boasting about where they stand compared to their teammates.

“My stats are pretty good,” O’Dell said with a smirk.

“I might be a little biased, but it’s all in good fun.”

“I think I was actually the highest ranked IceCaps player in the game for the last two years,” Cormier smirked. “But it’s all fun. We enjoy it.”

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