Today’s reason you love hockey comes from the inestimable and incomparable Earl Sleek, who really, let’s be honest — needs no introduction. It should be mentioned, though, that he was the one who suggested we run this series in the first place, so a million thanks for the idea, as well as this post! (As always, if you want to see your name in lights here, just email us your reason for loving hockey at interchangeablepartsblog [at] gmail [dot] com.)
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this “Reasons We Love Hockey” series, but I think there’s one area that’s been awfully neglected, and it’s about time I did my fucking homework anyway.
One reason why I love hockey: NHL 94 (SNES)
Hockey, above all sports, was made to be a video game. The physics of a puck moving along a flat, confined ice surface is relatively simple compared to the 3-dimensional programming required for football, baseball, basketball, or golf. It’s not surprising that in the infancy days of video games, hockey was the first sport to translate really well into pixels.
That said, the best thing about NHL 94 was its simplicity, not its sophistication. There were always two options, shoot/pass or hit/switch player. You knew your options as a skater, and you knew your opponent’s options as a defender.
If I can rant a bit about modern hockey video games, I think they have complicated things quite a bit—not just in terms of buttons, either. I have no idea in today’s games on a given play whether a goaltender will make a save or not—it just seems to rely on a complicated algorithm where great plays are stymied while simple-looking shots go in. There’s not any clear rhyme or reason to it, and while it does capture the bounce-luck of actual hockey more realistically, it doesn’t necessarily make for a better game.
Wittingly or not, NHL 94 was special in that both players knew the reliable scoring options and how they could be stopped. It was simple enough that you could play it while drunk, and it was clear-cut enough that you knew what you needed to do in order to win—its repeated playability really made for great gloating and taunting, too.
Like quite a few hockey fans, NHL 94 was my real gateway into actual hockey—it’s tough to say whether I would be a fan today or not had I not gotten hooked to the game. It was not only the right sport for that programming era, but it really had a straightforwardness to it that I genuinely miss in today’s releases. We can debate SNES vs. Genesis all we want (hey, I love one-timers), but in the end it needs to be said:
Classic video games are a very good reason to love hockey.
(Aside: I should disclose that my NHL 94 team is the Los Angeles Kings, not Anaheim. I very nearly became a Kings fan, but that’s a story for another day.)