Friday, September 12, 2008

Brandon Sugden Fights to come out of Retirement

Ok, here’s the latest pile of hockey related horseshit to slide across my desk...

Picture this: You’re an NHL calibre enforcer. You’ve been close to cracking the NHL for about 10 years, but never made it. Not a single game in the big show.

Then, your Dad gets cancer. You return home to help out the family business and be with him. In the meantime, you’re a hockey player, so you join a part time minor league.

A year later, a real live NHL team actually comes calling, inviting you to training camp for the upcoming season! The dream is at hand!

However, because you signed so-called ‘retirement’ papers two years ago and then played in the most minor of minor leagues, now the NHL (just 3 possibly 4 teams out of 30!) will not let you participate in camp.

Welcome to the Brandon Sugden Story. Only the latest in a long line of public relations nightmares for the NHL, and I would advise them to make this situation right ASAP. I’ve signed the petition, but unless the NHL feels they’re going to lose significant money on Brandon Sugden merchandise, it is assumed they will do nothing.

The team with the invite is the New York Islanders, so it’s believed that the other teams in their division do not want Sugden on the ice against their teams. Pure class. As if Sugden playing a few games this year would make any sort of long term difference to their success, either on or off the ice.

How many shifts is he really going to get? How many fights? If he does fight, he’ll only be fighting other fighters...what’s the big fucking deal? The NHL loves fighting. Fighting sells tickets, gets on YouTube, ESPN (Bettman’s dream network!). May I suggest that Sugden may even help sell tickets in other cities were he to travel to them! Ah, got your attention now, don’t I, you greedy fuckers!

Unacceptable. I’m not even that big of a hockey fight guy, but I know when I see something that is not fair. I don’t know why I’m so passionate about this, but it just strikes an absolute chord with me as soon as I heard about it. It’s just such a common sense thing I guess.

You add in the cancer angle of this story, and it is an absolutely shameful disgrace that anyone would ever possibly feel the need to block Brandon Sugden from going to training camp. If absolutely nothing else, for the sake of another human being, just let the kid’s dad finally see him make the big league! That’s all I’m asking. Jesus Fucking Christ.

Lemme tell you something about hockey dads and moms. They are the salt of the earth, I sound like Don Cherry, but seriously. Well, not the ones that go nuts in the stands and fight other parents...those ones suck. But I'm talking about the good ones. The ones you don't hear about. These people sacrifice, they work hard, they forfeit about $200k over the course of your development, all for the potential and minute chance of the dream to see your spoiled ass make the NHL. Show them some bloody respect!

Those three teams know who they are, and I bet the managers or whoever it is in charge making this wrong choice, once played hockey when they were a kid. Even if they didn't play, they sure as hell have watched games growing up, and now they watch games for a living! So they know what it's like to dream the dream, and think someday I can do it too.

It is up to them, and only them, to change their minds and do the right thing. The NHLPA can’t fight the battle, Sugden isn’t a member...yet. Best of luck man, and a lesson to all us, especially Mats Sundin: Don’t sign anything that says ‘retirement’ on it!

Go here for more on this story.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NHL 09 - Proud Owner for the past 6 hours...

Well I whipped over to the mall after work and plunked down the $60. So far, so good!

I've only played the much hyped "Be a Pro" mode so far...I'm hooked! Took me a good while to create my guy, I went through every option and every piece of gear. Good stuff. Nothing like seeing myself suit up for my first game on the Marlies! I'm not usually one for Create a Player modes, but this year is the exception, cause this mode is very revolutionary and it's not like you just make yourself and pop onto the NHL team. You start out in the minors and work your way up, kinda like real life!

I've played just 5 games so far, 5 minute periods, on "All Star" (2nd highest) difficulty..."Pro" is probably too comfortable, but "Superstar" (highest) would have the CPU pulling all kinds of cheat moves I bet. I want it difficult, but not impossible. :)

"Be a Pro" mode features a couple different ways to play. I'm playing the mode where you actually have to sit on the bench in between shifts, hoping your teammates can get it done! :) Using default settings so far, dunno what I would change yet. I've seen a few penalties, haven't taken one yet, but I assume I'll have to sit in sin bin for 2 minutes or less at some point!

It's fun to get used to calling line changes when you're on the bench...I totally blew it in my last game, left my goalie high and dry and Bridgeport scored a tying goal two-on-none in the last minute. :(

I've only scored a couple goals (really have to work for them!): one I was left all alone in front of their net after a turnover, and the other was more of an own-goal that one of their guys put home for me. :P LOTS of different ways to score in this game! Mostly I whip it wide of the net, if I make contact at all, but I'm getting the hang of it.

Most importantly, no show-stopping bugs so far. 4 hours of gaming and no freezes. I'm hoping Dynasty mode is as robust as this seems to be, but I don't wanna jinx it!

The menus are so much better than NHL 08...nice and smooth, not the jerkiness of last year. The goalie animations are much improved, I love them. The atmosphere of the arenas are also well done.

The only wacky thing I saw so far was Marlies goalie Justin Pogge making a save and then the puck shot out of our zone at it here if you like. I'm going to make good use of the new replay editor, long overdue feature! Finally I can show off the wacky stuff without digging out my digital camera. You can also take screenshots, nice.

As far as negatives, the file system is kinda odd when you go to save pulls up a keyboard interface so you can name your file, but you can't seem to give your files a useful name. They get named "Beapro1", "Beapro2" and "Video1", Video2" etc. It is possible to erase the text, but then you can't type in any letters, only numbers, so "01", "777", etc. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but all the alpha keys were greyed out. I'd much rather label a replay as "turbopuck" than "video3". And "BAPWellwood", instead of "Beapro02", if I want to play Be a Pro with a current NHLer, alongside my created guy, etc. Oh well, I can write them down I guess...?

Anyway, extreme nitpicking aside, I truly love this game! Bravo EA, you have rescued the franchise in a Big Way! This could be the year that succeeds longtime champ NHL 2004 as my favourite, but I'll have to put several more hours into it before we go crowning anything around here. Fortunately, the weekend is approaching.

I didn't check out any online stuff. But even if that's all a complete train wreck, the offline alone could well be worth the purchase.

I can definitely tell the AHLers have less skill than the NHLers. Slower, less accuracy, etc. Awesome. Crosby is much better than some minor league rookie.

Anyway, that's a taste. Ahh, so nice to be able to talk hockey again, even if it is a video game. Judging by the Leafs roster this year, I'll probably be playing more than watching...

See you next time with more thoughts.