NHL 18 Review: Improvements, Flaws, and Room to Grow

NHL 18 hit the market on September 12 for the Young Stars Edition and September 15 for the standard version.  Myself, I paid the extra $20 for the Young stars edition, which simply gives you some bonuses in the Hockey Ultimate Team mode – a mode I have never had any interest in playing – for the three day early release that would allow me to explore the game enough to write this while the game is still new.

The Generic

Gameplay has gotten much more realistic in the new version of the game, probably unintentionally part of the new dangling feature that is supposed to give you much more control over your stick movements – and not something I intend to master by any point.  I play grinding games with a lot of hard shots and hitting, not fancy dangling.  Yet, my gameplay experience has been improved none the less as the fights for rebounds and interceptions have gotten a lot more realistic with light movements and you cannot always take possession of the puck – you don’t always lose the puck when someone gets extremely close.

The hits also seem a lot better this time around with them seeming to be harder than they have the past few years – but we still have none of the fun knocking the opponent into player benches or through the glass which we seem to have lost in the conversion from PS3 (or Xbox 360) to PS4 (or Xbox One).  Hitting people in front of other players can take them down as well – and it seems to happen more this time around than in the last installment.

Penalty calls have improved with the computer being much more likely to do something inappropriate to your players getting you on the power play – though it still seems to be almost always tripping – and often through dive blocks at that.  Meanwhile, plowing through the puck carrier and into someone else nearby – or hitting a player trying to pick you at the last second before hitting – is no longer registering as interference like it once did.  There are still some control mix-ups with the checking and shooting controls being one and the same (one is for when you have the puck and the other for when you don’t) which has caused me some frustration when a rush for a quick shot on the rebound turns into a check into other skaters giving interference instead.  However, most of my penalties have been charging – like they were a decade ago – instead of tripping and interference.

The new screen prepping you for a game looks beautiful; however, there is a huge problem with its design.  Looking at the two pictures below, can you tell which stats belong to which team?

Well, you might not guess that the Canucks are 89/92/93 and the Comrades are 91/100/98, but they are.  It took me awhile to catch on and I was wondering how every team I was playing was really, really good until I noticed they were the same numbers every game.  The problem shouldn’t be too hard to fix, and they should be expected to fix it in one of the first updates – whether they actually do or not.

The announcing has gone through its normal cycle of taking some commentary out and replacing it with fresh commentary as has been the pattern with new installments of the series in recent years.  I thought, to my relief, amongst the removed commentary seems to be my pet peeve comment by Eddie Olczyk: “Now that was a reactionary save.”  I still struggle to this day to think of how a save can be reactionary – does the choice between fascism or not come down to whether a penalty shot goes through or not?  But, alas, even that little annoyance peeked in while I was writing though its frequency seems to have fallen dramatically from last year.

reactionary – of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, especially extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change. – Dictionary.com

There are also a couple new stats that are tracked in the player stats that stuck out: shorthanded points – so assists shorthanded are counted – and fights.  Finally you can tell if someone has a huge penalty record due to fighting or if they just have bad discipline.

Another issue that really stood out was – and I hate to have to bring this up – stability.  NHL 15 crashed so often, even near the end of its run, that I switched back to playing its predecessor – well that and how horrible the franchise mode was at that point.  NHL 16 still had periodic crashes and if it ran for more than 24-48 hours the frame rate got so bad you had to back out and close it.  Yet, this version is running beautifully at all times – not a single crash to date – or at least that was true when this paragraph was first written, one crash since – and only a slight framerate drops in certain cutscenes during games if you leave it running, and this is at launch.

And for fans that have been waiting to get their first glimpse of the new Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, replacing Joe Louis Arena on Steve Yzerman Drive, will have to keep waiting – hopefully only for an update.  EA knows that Detroit is no longer at the Joe, but they seem awfully confused where the Wings will be playing – though this screenshot was from contracts offered at the end of year 3, not the start of the game -as you can see below:

Caesar has been vetoed

The late Mike Ilitch was sure to put his pizza company’s name on the arena in real life, but his will apparently didn’t bequeath who would notify EA.

We do have some AI issues in cut scenes.  It’s not a huge issue, but I have seen a replay through the body of a mascot who apparently swallowed a camera – the green hand moving in the peripheral was a giveaway of who I was inside – arms hugging through other players’ bodies, a zombie player who just kept skating directly into the boards, and standing players having stick shafts poked through their genitals.  So much for the claim EA made for NHL 15 that absolutely everything was now solid.

The player selection algorithm remains to be fatally flawed in this installment as it has been in recent years.  By this I am referring to switching players on the ice while not possessing the puck.  Back circa NHL 11 or so, I was amazed at how the game seemed to know exactly who I wanted to select at any given moment – I might play 20 games with 20 minute periods before it made one selection that wasn’t who I intended – I have had several occasions now where I will have to switch five or six times before it gives me the player I want to hit.  I’m not sure if other players find the same frustrations or not or if it comes down to my insistence on checking being my primary mode of defense, but I think it may have degraded slightly from last year.

I’ve noticed one new male hairstyle for sure and several female hairstyles – yet the most feminine of all the hairstyles available is the new male hairstyle – though the new female ones are appreciated.  But females need more feminine options with significant hair, not always bunned up or super short masculine options.

pigtails

The notebook/smartphone design that has become mainstay in recent installments has also been craftily switched back to coherent menus.  I had thought that whomever did come up with the idea that the smartphone aesthetic was the way of the future and should be applied to a console with a controller should have been punched in the face – and I hope that did happen – but all is finally fixed.  While it still looks in many ways similar to the smartphone aesthetic, we do not have subscreens which lead to subscreens and take 5 seconds to transition between to find what you’re looking for, they integrated nice lists that allow you to quickly find what you want and get there.

menus

Utility – beautiful utility – rather than horrifying minimalist aesthetic. Scrolling lists are once again a thing in NHL 18.

Overall, these subtle and untrumpeted changes are a great improvement that really should be selling points for the new installment – before they get ruined all over again when they redo it all in a few years.

Franchise Mode

My focus was on the Franchise mode, which originally went by the name Be a GM mode.  The mode received some attention this update, despite the major rehaul last edition, thanks to the expansion of the NHL to include the Las Vegas Golden Knights – despite their motif lacking the glamour their name and location suggests.  For an old school gamer who doesn’t give a shit about online play and seeking variety, Franchise and Be a Pro are where the fun is to be found.

Most notably, you are given three options when you start a Franchise mode game this time around: Classic, which allows you to just pick a team; 31 Team, which allows you to run through the expansion draft either as the Las Vegas Golden Knights – I admit I don’t know if you can be a different expansion team because of the next option – or protect players as an established team; and 32 team where you get to create a second expansion team in addition to Vegas.

You do get to create a custom team, or substitute for a created team – where there are no players, just the team concept.  One drawback is that you will be in the Central Division no matter which city you choose.  I had created a second New York team at first, the Dragons, before deciding that was a bad idea and creating the Indianapolis Comrades for a second try, the Flint Priests of Anpu for the third (the commentary just called them the Priests), and finally settling on the Comrades, but moving them to Flint.  In addition, you finally get to make custom AHL teams – though playing through 32 team mode, I could only edit mine and the St Louis Notes on a screen that suggested I should be able to edit Vegas’ AHL affiliate.  I tried to cycle between teams somehow with no success.  I wish you could see further expansions beyond this, but there seems to be no indication that this is awaiting us ahead in this version.

Further, NHL teams, but not AHL teams, allow for a created mascot for the first time.  The options aren’t as varied as you would hope with all the themes that teams could take, but there are quite a few heads and bodies to choose from – I would guess at 14 without looking it up.  If you cannot find a perfect fit, there are a couple fairly generic ones to choose for your team.  Zeitgeist, with his ninja head, worked in a pinch to create an Antifa theme.

We gained some new custom logos – though an old one is fairly ruined due to the similarity to the sloppy Golden Knights logo – but most of them are dominated by a state or province’s shape in the backdrop.  Michigan has a tire – as does the Red Wings logo, already, despite my childhood understanding that wings had a circular structure in them.  You also now have access to ECHL logos, but still not AHL or CHL logos.  Looking through the music collection, I cannot help but think that we lost a lot of the electronic and dubstep music, though the good ones are certainly there.

Once in the mode, you do get the joy of contract extensions – available during to be offered from the contracts screen for players during the regular season in their contract’s final year.  The extensions can be up to 15 years long as opposed to the 8 that contracts normally have.  However, this is a new feature, and there is a bug in it that comes from the fact that EA didn’t bother editing whichever file controls which features are blocked out when editing a player in an active game.

I had realized I made both of my custom defensemen offensive defensemen, and so I went to edit one to be a defensive defenseman.  He was on his last year, and so extensions were not grayed out and I also put him on a 15 year extension not sure whether he could refuse that offer when the time came or what exactly would happen.  The result was something that makes me certainly hope the bug isn’t fixed any time soon.

subban

Poor Hakim will have to do with a really cheap 15 year contract at absolutely horrid pay.

Beyond this, the draft pool has been greatly improved as well.  I have seen 50 Rest of the World players in one play through in the first season, though it quickly dwindled, and Russia regularly has 50 forwards alone.  Most years in earlier games, you were lucky to find a single Rest of the World player to scout.  One of the problems with the previous iterations is that the draft pool quickly dried up after three seasons and the draft pool wasn’t replenished fast enough.  We might not get a complete fix with this, the CHL still drops a lot, but this is a vast improvement.

Moreover, finding those players that others ignored finally makes sense.  Earlier games had all the good players well known to all teams, so they were drafted in the first round and you were down to Top 9 forwards or lower by the end of the first round.  However, I’ve found players that were expected to be undrafted with as high as low chances of being elite – though they didn’t always pan out to be what I thought I was drafting – making even seventh round picks valuable if you scout right.  Pavel Datsyuk was picked at the end of the 6th round in 1998 and is far from alone from being a good player drafted late, so this is an important advance.

However, I was shocked to find the evaluation of one of my pinned players fall from Elite to Top 9 in the course of the draft, between rounds, without being drafted.  Did this predicted to be undrafted gem show up at the draft and tell my team that he had some horrible disease or was he playing horribly on TV at the time?

Created players have a harder time getting into the draft this time around though.  If you place them on, say, a CHL team – they won’t show up in the draft.  However, if you place them in NHL free agents roster, they will be drafted if they are young enough.

The in-game screens claim that you can retire jerseys for your team this time around – something that had been missing in previous versions though you could choose whether or not to respect retired jerseys (with the exception of Gretzky’s 99), but you could not retire them yourself.  I haven’t played far enough in to let a player retire from the team, so I don’t know exactly how it works, how good it is, or if you can unretire them – something that really shouldn’t happen until 50 years in or so – but it is reportedly in there somewhere.

I believe there were great advances this time around, though there is still much more to accomplish.

The Rest

Be a Pro seems much the same, though there is a reportedly an option to ask to be traded, much like there was a couple years back, though this time you can apparently specify how you want to be traded.  I haven’t had nearly enough time to test this little feature out, especially since I like to play full simulation on Be a Pro and start in the CHL, but it seems to mainly be a small change that fans demanded be brought back.  Unfortunately, EA loves reinventing the wheel and taking existing wheels out of circulation while they reinvent it.  Just as NHL 15 should have never been released without at least patching in the old draft, or how the All Star Game – which also is now completely missing in this year’s installment, less there than last year’s notifications only – shouldn’t be missing when there was a perfectly good previous version, this really should have never been taken out and the improved version should have just been added in after the fact.

The other hyped feature is the new 3-on-3 hockey mode which is unique – unlike their NHL 94 mode – based on 1990s arcade games.  However, it also seems to have a form of advancement, which is great for players who want to try different gameplay, but didn’t intrigue me enough to even try the mode.  I’m sure there will be loyal adherents to the mode, so don’t think I’m trashing it; it’s just not for me.

Overall, this game is worth the buy despite what I would consider very poor marketing on their part.  I think the little improvements that they don’t mention made me think much higher of the product than I was expecting and did a lot of the work that they needed to do behind the scenes.  Check their website.  They don’t make the game seem that exciting – you get the idea that you get this one new gameplay mode and you can make mascots and play with the new team in the league – you have to read something like this to see the true beauty they did this time around.

But Then There’s Room for Improvement

I wanted to do this review for a different reason than your normal video game review.  I didn’t want to discuss whether you should buy the game or not, but rather I wanted to get the idea out of what fans should demand of a gaming series like this to improve over the years and put forward very specific ideas of what they should do.  I wanted to analyze the game and get expectations out there in time for the next installment while they have time to assign manpower for it.

I want Electronic Arts to read this review and take these ideas.  I want to see the game get better for next year since I tend to buy it year in and year out and enjoy the fantasy of building my own team from the ground up or playing through a career as my own player – even if I tend not to finish things up as I get an idea for making something new.

Therefore, I am stating unequivocally that EA – or anyone for that matter – may take these ideas and put them into action without providing me with any compensation whatsoever outside of providing a better product for me to purchase.  I waive any legal right which obligates any compensation or presumes any ownership of the ideas on my part.  With that said, I won’t refuse any completely voluntary compensation (via my Patreon page below) – I just don’t demand it.  Completely optional.

Scouting Revamp

There is something not quite right about the current scouting format.  As it stands right now, you have one scout that travels around to different areas on assignment with different levels of ability in different areas depending on the year.  However, teams do not have one scout – they hire several – and they do not scout one area at a time.

However, there is a great opportunity to create something much better.  Hire scouts, let them gain experience where they scout, and place them in an area season long or months at a time.  It may cost more to have multiple scouts, and teams willing to spend the money to make it happen will get better scouting results.  Teams with a single scout will be left stranded.  That will play into the next idea.

Team Improvements

Teams were once improved with investment in things like busses and airplanes and hot tubs to make your team perform better at home, on the road, or recover from injuries faster.  Now, you improve team stores and expand club seats.  However, the current model is a bit too mechanical and simplistic however much better it is to have it than nothing at all.

A bit of a mix of the two systems EA has developed over the years can create a better system than either of the two.  There is no need to ditch the current system outright, but rather expand upon it.  Perhaps bars can be added to the stadium, decoration, display cases, or even a team museum if you have existed long enough and/or accomplished enough.  Eventually, in a later iteration, it would be amazing if you could see theming objects such as statues or fountains in some of the blander flat areas that we now see employees standing in.  Vegas or a team in Atlantic City should be able to add a casino.  When expanding team stores or concession stands, perhaps being able to choose new items that are team or city specific will be a nice touch.

But bringing in the old style, you can hire different amounts of scouts or vie for head coaches that might be better for the team than cheaper ones.  Training facilities can be upgraded to help players improve faster, as well as marketing departments, just like it once was long ago.  It would be nice to bring back the television contract income as well with this.

Arena Variability

There is a vast disadvantage any custom team has in the creation of their arena.  Montreal’s arena seats 21,273, Calgary can host 19,289, Chicago can boast 19,717, and Detroit’s new arena has seating for 20,027.  Yet any custom team has a seating capacity of 18,500 and the architecture differences vary only for aesthetics.

When creating or moving a team, you should be given much more control over what you want for your arena – different formats should allow for different size crowds and different possible additions to your arena.  The city size should also have bearing on costs – whereas building a huge arena in New York should cost an arm and a leg while building the same in a small city should be considerably cheaper despite not needing as much to match the lower possible gains.

Perhaps building a larger arena will require more profits to pay back the cost before you can successfully upgrade it.  But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

True Ownership Mode

A downfall of the current ownership mode – a setting within Franchise mode – is that it doesn’t make you an owner.  Sure, you get to set the prices and make the expansions, but  you’re still playing as a GM, not as an owner.  The owner sets harsh limits on your spending and gives you a pittance to work with.  When you’re at the bottom, you can take care of repairs and make upgrades if you jam all of your money into the maintenance budget.  It’s a crippling cost – and you get $15k for meeting this expectation, $20k for that, and $50k if you’re told to win the cup.  The top extra money you have to spend is from making extra profits above and beyond what is expected by the team owner and even then it is rather low.

extrafunds

$140k for making the team owner tens of millions of dollars more than they expected to earn.  What can you buy for $140k?  Well you can buy a cheap promotion on a single night or perhaps spend it on maintenance if you didn’t already max out the budget:

bathroom fixing

But for making tens of millions more than expected, I get less than is needed to repair a couple months of bathroom use, only one of about 10 facilities that need regular repairs, at least twice a season. if you run them down into the red.  Where is the incentive to meet these goals?  To not get fired?

The problem really comes when you get into the matter of the playoffs, where you’re getting at least 2 home games and up to 16.  16 games is 19% of an 84 game season.  That’s adding up to 19% on your wear and tear, making millions or tens of millions more, and the best compensation you can hope for is $50k if you’re expected to win the cup, with no more room to spend that on repairs.  How can a good team possibly keep their facilities up?  It’s just not possible under the current system.

However, a true owner can set those maxes at wherever they want.  If I want to spend $20 million on improving the stadium, I can, if I have the cash.  A true owner doesn’t need to set defined goals.  And yes, what I truely want to do in such a mode is to be both owner and GM – not switch teams.  I just spent a lot of effort getting a team together, getting the draft picks – I do not want to take a $5 million contract from a top team and throw that all away.  Some players might want to sail from one Stanley Cup contender to the next, but I don’t.

If you want to put limitations on it, it’s simple.  You give a new owner a set fortune – perhaps they have $100 million or $200 million to start, build an arena, and anything over that has to be taken on loan, with interest.  When I have the funds, I can spend them on whatever I want, or possibly take a loan out, but the goal is still to have the most money, perhaps 50 years in rather than the maximum 25.  If I want to spend money up front, it comes at a cost.  Perhaps I want to play for 100 years or 200.  If I want to move later, I can pay for a better stadium up front with a built up fortune from making profit year after year.  I can retire numbers and then be forced to unretire them later as better players have dwarfed the past.

These kinds of details really put a new spin on the game which has been lacking – a full immersion.

Improved Relocation

Perhaps a bit of a misnomer, but where teams now relocate, it shouldn’t be necessary to always actually relocate.  Detroit moved to a new arena because Joe Louis has been in use since the 70s and is outdated – though it was a nice reminder of the days before sporting teams played in buildings that were branded by corporations.  Your players should similarly be able to create a new arena without having to change cities.  Likewise, they should be able to change the team name, logo, and uniforms in off season – even creating new jersey designs that will archive the old one as the one they wore in that past season, like established teams have.

Making the League Ours

I absolutely love custom teams and especially love that they are no longer all in Germany as they were in the last iteration before they were taken away from players about 5 years ago or so.  However, they exist only in impromptu play, I presume in HUT, and in Franchise mode.  One of the things I really wanted to see was the ability to play on a custom team in Be a Pro.  I would love to see several of these new teams in the league.  I would also like to be able to move teams from one division to another, across conferences, and make the league my own creation, automatically imported into new modes.

This means allowing for radical rule changes such as individually changing penalty occurrence for things.  Maybe I want to see all charging penalties be game misconducts – or maybe I want to see a tougher league and make charging perfectly legal, all the while keeping the incidence of tripping and interference and crosschecking the same.

Allowing league rules to be tweaked to allow players to play without helmets is a great addition you can make possible.  We all know why players must wear helmets in the NHL today – massive long term and even permanent injuries occur if they’re not wearing their headgear.  Yet, if we have it in the game, no real people are injured – just electronic avatars of mostly real people.  If I could regularly see my players with the hairstyles I created them it would make the game much more enjoyable and so easy to offer.  You literally just have to not animate the helmet.

Further, let us move draft picks around in move player mode, not just players.  If it makes a difference, it is in a single player mode – no one is harmed by any subsequent cheating, and much less from legitimate trades.

Cut Out the Paternalism

In line with that last note, there has been a lot of paternalism in the way the game has been designed in recent years.  Created players: be they drafted, picked up as free agents, or placed on teams, have been ineligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy.  We had the Be a NHL Pro mode for a couple years which allowed for creating players, placing them in the CHL or NHL, and then playing as them, was removed.  This rings the same tone as the EA simming penalty which has been optional recently and now is no longer default.

When the game modes are multiplayer, it makes a difference if one party is allowed to cheat; but it does not harm anyone in a single player mode.  As we can tell from HUT even existing, a miserable mode which copies the dynamics of freemium gaming and card games such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, your goal is not to be artistic in creating your games, but rather rather to make money.

In that same vein, what you want to do is provide your customers the gaming experience they want in order to sell that gaming experience to as many customers as possible.  These paternalistic decisions to keep players from having too easy of a time at it also robs those who would use it in such a manner from having that gaming experience which they desire.  So long as it does not infringe upon the gaming experience of others, you have no legitimate reason to withhold it from paying players.

Computer Generated Players

The computer generated players from most regions are quite well created using the limited number of names – thus limited by the fact that you have to pay voice actors to say those names and encode them into the game.  We get American names from the United States and Canadian names from Canada, including those from Québec, and Russian names from Russia.  However, there are certain areas which field computer generated players who are woefully inappropriately named.

I got my first experience at this in NHL 11 or NHL 12 where I drafted a goalie from Poland with an American sounding name – also turned out to be black.  Now, I have no issue with drafting a black goalie – my go to backup in this edition is Malcolm Subban and I place many POC on my team, almost as a point of pride.  However, if I draft a goalie from Poland, I want to see a Polish name, not an American one, with features common in Poland.  I want to draft black players from the US and Canada – 1 in 500 players may be black from Poland, but there aren’t a lot of black people living there.  I’m pretty sure very few have American names as well.  I want something that seems real.

Now, I didn’t see that exact scenario this time around, but I did see similar from France – and I don’t know how this player ended up looking since I never drafted him, but it would be more acceptable from France which has a lot of African immigrants.  Jim Jonas is not a French name – and you have plenty of ability to generate French names because you do it for Québec.

jimjonas

Furthermore, custom created players and computer generated players need more than a silhouette.  You generate a picture for be a pro based on how the player is created, and you can do this for these players as well.  While I understand you might not be able to successfully do it for every single computer generated character – we should be able to manually request photo generation for those we find important at the very least.

Custom Spoken Names

Now it is time to discuss custom designed names to be narrated for custom players or teams.  It is definitely a touchy issue because the difficulties in producing this go well beyond the technical aspects and into the legal/labor aspects as well.

Any such move would require massive negotiation with not only your voice actors, but with the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.  Beyond the fact that the negotiations would require very clear delineations, Electronic Arts was recently the target of a strike by the union in question.  By the very nature of capitalism, an entity the size of Electronic Arts cannot be expected to act in a moral manner; it is near impossible at best.

From the voice actors’ view, the creation of the system could threaten the automation or cheap replacement of their jobs.  Unemployed people overseas could be given micropayments to form individual words and sentences as corporations have recently taken to doing for some menial tasks.

However, this is necessary to create the customization necessary to give customers the variety they desire and there is a fair way to limit the use of this capability.  Ironclad contracts that guarantee voice actors their full pay for creating the words and ensuring them something like triple the pay they otherwise would have earned if they had manually done the work, plus damages, if the company uses it in any way outside of user generated content.  In this way, voice actors are relieved of these fears and the use of the technology is limited to end users.

On the technical side, it involves the creation of a list of every sound human languages make, every consonant and every vowel.  The voice actors match these sounds and they are saved into a database.  The player then uses this database and a simple internal application to string these sounds together to make the name they are trying to create – most likely to be used to create their own last name.  Then, each voice actor’s voice is encoded to make a file that contains the name in the same format the rest are stored.  If it needs to be used in different intonations at different points, that can be adjusted automatically behind the scenes.

For online play, team names alone should be possible, not player names, and the requested files should be whitelisted after approval, to keep wildly offensive names I dare not start to come up with from offending other players.

Other Custom Content

Going against the grain of how games are structured in PS4, the ability to upload custom music and, more importantly, team logos for their use.  The designing of these logos can be done through an outside program such as MS Paint, Photoshop, or GIMP following instructions on size and separate color specifications – since they will be able to use custom colors like the logos available now.  Import them and treat the logos alone with the same approval for online use as the team names.

A Real Anniversary Mode

NHL 94 mode was a great disappointment – I believe I saw it described as the normal game with blue ice.  However, you have the tools to create a true anniversary mode the next time it comes around.  Rather than reintroducing the graphics of the old games, allow the playing of teams from yesteryear as they were in the years starting in 1994 – or possibly earlier.  Whether it is pitting the 1997 Red Wings against the 2016 Penguins (both were Stanley Cup winners in their respective years) or starting a Franchise mode or Be a Pro mode in times long gone, it would certainly give an anniversary feel to the game.

Now, the difficulties in this may be data-related or there may be some large fee for including players’ likenesses in the game, so I don’t know if this one will be ultimately possible.

However, for players like me who are approaching hockey retirement age – I’m 35 now, a point where most players retire – this would give us an amazing opportunity to play the game in its current iteration with all it has to offer where we can realistically create ourselves.  I would have been eligible Between 2000 and 2002.

I certainly wasn’t considered for the draft, though I was good enough to have been placed on a crooked house team full of players that could have all made travel teams and left enough of an impression on a mother from another team that she ran up to me after seeing my jersey in those eligible years certain I must be playing in the NHL – I was nowhere near that level.  However, it would be be great to be able to pretend again.

Fall Down Goalies

Another addition that would help me out and probably make the game a lot more exciting is the addition of fall down goalies to the styles of goaltending available.  I was a falldown goalie – a scrapper who wasn’t disciplined enough to do the methodical butterfly style who would often skate up the blue line and back.  The style may not be as effective as the butterfly, but it is a lot more exciting with dynamic diving saves, quick recovery, and a sort of drunken master style to it.  We don’t see double pad stacks in the game with the butterfly and standup, nor do we get the excitement of kicking the puck, midair, with the pad back offsides.

Hell, for dramatic effect, I recall one moment where I had committed in a double pad stack dive, laid sideways on the ground while an offensive player beckoned I should get up so I could block the coming shot.  After refusing, he tried to chip it over – I raised my top leg up, blocked it, and jumped to my feet prepared for any rebound.  It just would be fucking fun to watch.

Goalie Fights

Another great readdition would be goalie fights.  The last time we had it, it was only goalie vs goalie, but we need to honor the memory of Ron Hextall, the first goalie to get in a fight in the NHL.  Note that there were not two first goalies to fight; he fought a skater.

Featured Image via NHL.com.  Fair Use.

This work is unpaid because this is not a for-profit site.  If you want to help support this work and more like it in the future, please consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon on my page.  Funds will not only help me transition to writing full-time but will allow me to purchase professional images for the articles.

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