Posted on: August 11, 2009 12:57 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2009 1:19 pm
Hearing a favorite NFL player is slated to be on the cover of latest installment of Madden is enough to leave a fan in a cold sweat.
In video gaming and football circles it is known as the "Madden Curse ," and it usually results in injuries or disasterous seasons for that season's cover boy.
The curse is hit or miss when it comes EA's NHL series. Some cover athletes have suffered devastating injuries or disppointing seasons. Others have experienced career years. The most notable has to be Chris Pronger, who won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1999-2000, the year he was on NHL's cover. Strangely, as Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane recently discovered, the "curse" of NHL cover boys extend to run-ins with the law.
EA published generic action shots on its NHL series covers until 1997 when Florida Panthers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck became the first to have the cover to himself.
Below is a breakdown of EA's NHL cover athletes and their highs and lows from that season:
NHL '97 - John Vanbiesbrouck
A year after guiding his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, Vanbiesbrouck backstopped the Florida Panthers to their best start in franchise history. The Cats opened the season 8-0-4 and boasted a 15-3-6 record through the first two months of the season. Down the stretch, Florida collapsed. The Panthers won just one of 10 games in late February and were defeated by the New York Rangers, 4-1, in the first round of the playoffs. Florida has not won a playoff game since.
NHL '98 - Peter Forsberg
Forsberg had an outstanding season, earning first-team all-star honors and finishing second only to Jaromir Jagr in the scoring race. His 91 points were the fourth highest total of his career. The following season, Forsberg suffered a shoulder injury which limited him to just 49 games.
NHL '99 - Eric Lindros
Like Forsberg, Lindros had an exceptional season the year he graced the NHL cover. The Flyers captain registered his fourth 40-goal season and finished with at least 90 points for the third time in his career. Things turned in March, however, when Lindros suffered the first of many concussions which would ultimately end his career. He missed the Flyers' last 18 games and his relationship with then-GM Bobby Clarke began to deteriorate. The following season he suffered a potentially fatal rib injury and openly criticized team doctors. The Flyers stripped Lindros of his 'C.'
NHL '00 - Chris Pronger, Markus Naslund
For the first time, EA released North American and European versions of the game. The cover athlete for the North American edition, Pronger had a career year with 14 goals, 62 points and a plus-52 rating. He won the Hart and Norris Trophies. Naslund's production dipped from the previous seasons. Both players saw their luck go in opposite directions the following season. Pronger missed 31 games due to injury, while Naslund experienced a breakout year with his first 40-goal season.
NHL '01 - Owen Nolan, Jere Lehtinen
Regarded as one of the league's more durable power fowards, Nolan missed 25 games the year EA selected him for the cover of NHL's North American edition. Nolan dealt with nagging abdominal injuries at the start of the season. In February, he received an 11-game suspension for elbowing Dallas' Grant Marshall in the neck. Lehtinen, meanwhile, rebounded from a disappointing 1999-2000 campaign in which an ankle injury limited him to just 17 games. He recorded his third 20-goal effort in five seasons.
NHL '02 - Mario Lemieux
Lemieux, who came out of retirement the previous season, appeared in just 24 games with the Penguins because of a nagging hip injury. He underwent surgery in November and returned in time for the 2002 Winter Games. Lemieux won a gold medal with Team Canada in Salt Lake City, but received criticism for putting his Olympic ambitions ahead of the Penguins, who finished last in the Atlantic Division that season.
NHL '03 - Jarome Iginla
One season after posting a league- and career-high 52 goals, Iginla's numbers took a dive. The Flames winger suffered a finger injury during a fight early in the season and it hampered his play. Iginla finished with a respectable 35 goals and 67 points, but many considered the effort a disappointment given his breakout season the year before.
NHL '04 - Dany Heatley, Joe Sakic
EA originally chose Joe Thornton for the cover, but decided to forego the decision after the center was accused of assaulting two police officers. EA opted for Heatley as his replacement. Shortly after the game shipped, Heatley was involved in a car crash which resulted in the death of teammate Dan Snyder. Midway through the season, EA changed its cover athlete yet again, this time selecting Joe Sakic. The Avalanche captain finished third in league scoring with 87 points and earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2004 World Championship.
NHL '05 - Markus Naslund, Olli Jokinen
Despite a lockout, EA continued with the NHL series, again with North American and European versions of the game. Both players experienced strong seasons in Europe. Naslund, who appeared with MoDo (Sweden) that year, posted 17 points in 13 games. Jokinen split time among EHC Kloten (Switzerland), Sodertalje (Sweden) and HIFK (Finland) and finished with 46 points in 45 games.
NHL '06 - Vincent Lecavalier, Tuomo Ruutu
Lecavalier experienced his best season to date, posting 35 goals. His numbers were on par with previous seasons, but Tampa Bay, the defending Stanley Cup champion, failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. On the international front, Lecavalier made his Olympic debut at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino. He returned without a medal. Ruutu, who graced the cover of the European edition, saw his season decimated by back and ankle injuries. He appeared in just 15 games.
NHL '07 - Alex Ovechkin, Teemu Selanne, Henrik Lundqvist
All three players had outstanding seasons. Ovechkin, the North American cover athlete, and Teemu Selanne, the player on NHL's Finnish edition, each recorded at least 40 goals and 90 points. Lundqvist, the cover athlete for the Swedish edition, appeared in 70 games and won 37. Selanne won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Anaheim Ducks this season. It is worth noting this is, so far, the only season in which Ovechkin has failed to score at least 50 goals.
NHL '08 - Eric Staal, Jaromir Jagr, Henrik Zetterberg, Teemu Selanne, Mark Streit
Staal rebounded from a disppointing 2006-07 campaign, but found himself in the headlines prior to the season when he and 12 others were arrested during a rowdy bachelor party. Jaromir Jagr saw his relationship with the New York Rangers deteriorate over contract issues. Despite a respectable 71-point season, the Rangers declined to pick up his option for the following season. On the flip side, Selanne (Finland), Zetterberg (Sweden) and Streit (Switzerland) each had good years. Selanne re-signed with the Ducks in mid-season and finished with 23 goals in 26 games. Zetterberg won his first Stanley Cup with the Red Wings. Streit experienced a breakout season in Montreal and too advantage of his success by signing a five-year, $20.5 million contract with the New York Islanders as a free agent.
NHL '09 - Dion Phaneuf
One year after posting a career-high 60 points and finishing as the runner-up for the Norris Trophy, Phaneuf posted a career-low 47 points. Phaneuf, who never posted a minus rating in his first three seasons, finished minus-11.
NHL '10 - Patrick Kane, Mikko Koivu, Mikkel Boedker, Mark Streit, Nicklas Backstrom
Kane, EA's North American cover athlete, is the first of this group to make headlines. He was arrested in Buffalo on August 9 for allegedly punching a cab driver over 20 cents change. The Blackhawks winger faces felony robbery charges and two misdemeanor counts. EA has slated Koivu to be on the Finnish version of the game, Boedker on the Danish version, Streit on the Swiss version and Backstrom on the Swedish version.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Chris Pronger, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Dany Heatley, Detroit Red Wings, Dion Phaneuf, Eric Lindros, Eric Staal, Florida Panthers, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Jere Lehtinen, Joe Sakic, Joe Thornton, John Vanbiesbrouck, Mario Lemieux, Mark Streit, Markus Naslund, Mikkel Boedker, Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Nicklas Backstrom, Olli Jokinen, Owen Nolan, Patrick Kane, Peter Forsberg, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Teemu Selanne, Tuomo Ruutu, Vancouver Canucks, Vincent Lecavalier, Washington Capitals
Posted on: August 10, 2009 4:46 pm
A couple days after filmmaker John Hughes died, I came across a copy of his short story, "Vacation '58 ," which the 1983 movie "National Lampoons Vacation" is based on.
Hughes, as some may know, was a big hockey fan. The Lansing, Mich. native cheered for the Detroit Red Wings and owned season tickets to the Chicago Blackhawks. He attended this year's Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.
The timing of my discovery was rather apropos because of how well it applies to the Blackhawks situation.
Going into the offseason, there were high hopes and expectations for the Blackhawks to build on an impressive run to the Western Conference Finals. Yet nothing has gone well for the franchise since they stepped off the ice. The Blackhawks seem to be one metallic, pea green family sportster shy of matching the dysfunction in "Vacation."
They fired Dale Tallon, disappointing several players loyal to the general manager. Former Hawk Martin Havlat aired the team's dirty laundry via his Twitter account. Chicago signed Marian Hossa to a 12-year, $62 million contract which is under investigation by the NHL, then learned Hossa would miss the start of the season to recover from shoulder surgery. The Blackhawks botched free agent filings on restricted free agents and have been accused of overpaying those players to avoid a legal fiasco. And to top it off, their young star winger, Patrick Kane, was arrested on felony charges for robbing a cab driver in Buffalo over 20 cents.
Really, can it get any worse for Chicago?
Posted on: July 22, 2008 1:04 pm
I'm watching the NHL Network coverage of the Winter Classic press conference, and they just had Tony Esposito, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull on for a chat.
Hull had a great tale to share. He said he attended the 1963 NFL Championship between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants at Wrigley Field. In talking about the bone-chilling weather in Chicago at the time (the game was held on Dec. 29), Hull suggested there weren't enough clothes to keep him warm that day. To keep from freezing solid, the Golden Jet and his buddies passed around a flask throughout the game, tipping back quite a few. By the time Hull suited up for his game that night -- he couldn't remember the opponent -- he said he was "half in the tank."
I love hockey stories like that.
Posted on: March 7, 2008 9:20 pm
Occasionally, I will join my friends Smitty and Adam on some sort of sports-related road trip. This year's journey is to Chicago for a Blackhawks game and a side venture to Milwaukee for a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Unfortunately, I got too swamped with work to work out the details. I'm incredibly disappointed I won't be joining them.
I would have liked to experience a Blackhawks game at the United Center. The resurgence of the team, not necessarily in the standings, but as an important part of the city's fabric once again, has been a thrill to follow. Every time a Blackhawks press release lands in my inbox at work, more often than not, it contains something that makes me smile.
Home games on television. Bringing legends Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull back into the fold. A sold-out fan convention -- the first of its kind -- scheduled for the summer.
Prior to Friday's Sharks-Hawks game, Chicago honored Mikita and Hull before a number of former players and a stuffed-to-the-gills United Center crowd. Watching the legends come onto the ice and the ovations from the crowd were enough to give me chills. And, remember, I'm not a Blackhawks fan. I can only imagine what a great feeling it must be to those who are.
Even the introduction of owner Rocky Wirtz, who took over the team when his father, William, passed before the season, drew cheers. One fan in the stands, clad in his team's colors, offered a "We're not worthy!" bow as Wirtz spoke.
One of the best moments of the evening, however, had to be the ceremonial faceoff, with Hull and Mikita dropping pucks before former Hawk Jeremy Roenick and rookie star Jonathan Toews. It was an image perfectly symbolic of how this franchise has turned around, with Roenick and Toews serving as the bookends to an era many would like to forget.
Given the reaction and roar from the hometown fans, it is fair to say they already have.
Posted on: January 25, 2008 7:19 pm
Edited on: June 12, 2008 11:39 am
ATLANTA -- Obviously one of the players that was high on the list for many reporters today was former first-overall pick Patrick Kane, who is the likely favorite for the Calder Trophy. He was nowhere to be seen for the one-hour media session which ran from 5-6 p.m, making some wonder what happened to the Chicago Blackhawks future star. Now we know. Apparently, Kane was mobbed by 30-40 fans at the Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. The winger spent time signing for the fans, then hurried to Philips Arena for a brief media scrum.
Here's what he had to say:
Q: How will it be to be with your old teammate Sam Gagner this weekend?
Kane: It will be fun. Hopefully I'm paired up with him or something. Hopefully, we can revive some magic that we had last year. It sure will be fun playing with him. We're good buddies, so there will probably be some jokes about some plays and be fun in general.
Q: Being a rookie and a rising star in this league, how do you feel about this weekend?
Kane: I think it will be fun, obviously. It's nice to be part of the All?Star festivities in any way you can your first year. So just being here as a Young Star and as a player. That is part of the whole process. It should be fun, and I'm looking forward to it.
Q: How do you think your game has changed since you joined the NHL?
Kane: Well, I mean last year I thought I kind of viewed myself more of a goal scorer. And obviously playing with players that could dish the puck and make a lot of plays. But this year I seem to be more of a passer this year. Hopefully I can add the goal scoring a little bit more to my arsenal at this level. But I think it will just take some time and just got to adjust a little bit.
Q: Has anything surprised you, been too easy for you or too hard for you?
Kane: It's kind of what you expect coming in. So I mean, obviously it's the NHL. It's the best league in the world. And there are going to be times when the game might be a little too fast. You're playing against men now, so it's something you're going to have to work with and adjust at times. But I think the biggest thing probably will be adjusting to the speed of the game. The players are still there, but they just happen so much quicker, so it's something I had to adjust to a bit.
Q: Have you been working on any trick shots?
Kane: I've got a few tricks up my sleeve that I am working on, so it should be a fun game. If I have the opportunity to pull one of those moves, I'll try it.
Q: Are you going to outscore Gagner?
Kane: Nah, we're on the same team. We'll try to get the same amount of points and win.
Q: How many are you going to get?
Kane: I don't know. It's 3-on-3, so maybe 9 or 10?
Q: Nine or 10? That's pretty ambitious.
Kane: Yeah, but it's a short game, too. We'll see. As long as we get on the board once, we'll be good.
Q: Can you talk about the resurgence of hockey in Chicago?
Kane: There's a lot of young players there. Obviously Jonathan Toews and myself, there are players in the AHL farm system, players coming up through the CHL ranks. The team looks pretty good for the future. You look at our D, you've got Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook. They're leading the way and they're only 23, 24 years old. It's pretty exciting for Chicago. We're trying to make the playoffs this year. It would be a big thing for us if we made the playoffs. That's what we're working for now.
Q: What do you think it is going to take to get the fans back into the arena like they were 20, 30 years ago?
Kane: Probably the biggest thing would be to keep winning. When we win games there, the crowds will start coming out and when your top players are playing good, it makes it more exciting. I think it starts with guys like myself and Jonathan to get the fans excited and make them have something to cheer about for the next 10, 15 years, hopefully.
Q: Are you surprised you got mobbed at the airport this afternoon?
Kane: (laughs) I was telling everyone I wasn't an all-star! I don't know why they were mobbing me. But it was good. It was funny going into the airport, and even in the airport itself, having people come up to you and ask for autographs. It's pretty exciting.
Q: Will it be fun to play with (U.S. junior teammates) Erik and Jack Johnson again?
Kane: Yeah. They're good players obviously, a big part of the World Junior team last year. They're good buddies of mine, as are a lot of players on the team, so it should be fun.
Q: What about the all-stars? Is there somebody you'd like to meet that you haven't yet?
Kane: I haven't seen (Alex) Ovechkin in person. So that will be fun to watch him. I met (Sidney) Crosby at last year's NHL awards. I think maybe I'll say hi to Ovechkin and watch him play.
Q: Maybe see if he'll teach you that diving shot?
Kane: Yeah, I don't know if I can do that one. I don't have that trick up my sleeve.