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Creating new video game sports memories decades later

I’ve never actually played hockey. I can’t skate, which experts assure me is an important component in one of the sport’s fundamental skills. I paddled around the streets with a $15 stick from Modell’s for a bit when hockey got hot when the Flyers improved in the 1990s, but I became more interested in basketball and stickball as pickup sports. My hockey career was non-existent, a resounding zero as was the number of recent Flyers Stanley Cup wins.

But I played video game hockey a lot. As a child, I was primarily interested in sports. A friend down the street had the original NHLPA Ice Hockey for Sega Genesis, and then I got NHLPA ’93 for Sega Genesis. We played them all the time. Those are the two I remember mostbut over time the consensus on it emerged NHL ’94 was the GOAT hockey video game.

It makes sense. A more polished version of the previous two entries, the game is great in every way. There’s even a one-hour documentary Pixelated heroes, which covers the fans’ love for this series. (The scene in swingers when Vince Vaughn makes Wayne Gretzky bleed his head, that is indeed the case NHLPA ’93.)

Yesterday I played the SNES version of NHL ’94 on Twitch as part of my weekly retro video game stream (Tuesdays at 5!). Before that, I heard about an awesome golf video game by Arnold Palmer. The stream of NHL ’94 has taught me the joys of learning about a gamer through its digital counterpart. Because yesterday I won the Stanley Cup with the Quebec Nordiques. Not only did I finish the stream with a 16-bit championship trophy, but I now have a new favorite from Nordique: Valeri Kamensky.

I tried making it into the playoffs a couple of times with different teams before finally getting a win with the Nordiques. I picked them mainly because they had a bunch of ex-Flyers before the 1992/93 season due to the trade with Eric Lindros. The team eventually won 1996 and 2001 (real, non-Twitch) Stanley Cups, in part with players it acquired for Lindros. But Quebec City received none of the spoils; The team relocated to Colorado prior to the 1995–96 season. “Tabarnak!” Nordiques fans probably said.

In real life, Valeri Kamensky was a left winger for Russian club CSKA Moscow, then for Nordiques/Avalanche, Rangers and a few other clubs. He played 637 NHL games and scored 200 goals. He won a trophy with Colorado in 1996 and an Olympic gold medal in 1988. He fondly remembers his time in Colorado for the Avs; his line with Peter Forsberg and Claude Lemieux was apparently called “The UN Line”. In my virtual world, Kamensky was a guy who often met the goalkeeper.

It’s been a while since I’ve played an EA Sports NHL game in the 16-bit era, but I immediately fell back into my old ways. I’ve scored a few goals using the old trick of running from side to side and then shooting. I dragged my goalie way too far out of the circle when I got the puck. And I’m passionate about pushing my players straight into the opposing team’s goalie. I was called several times for disturbance.

Kamensky was the player I kept throwing at the goalkeeper for whatever reason. I think he got four penalties for interfering in my four playoff games. I was starting to get frustrated with him. However, he was “my boy,” and it was those two words that I yelled out when I realized it was he who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal.

It really brought me back! In the 1990s it was one thing for me to become attached to a player just because they represented a video game, especially with hockey players. A friend and I used to play with the Bruins for whatever reason. My friend knew that the Bruins goalie was called “Lemelin”. We settled on his first name, Bob, and even sang along to the in-game 16-bit organ music: “You’re our goalie, Bob Lemelin.” It didn’t matter that his name was Réjean Lemelin. he was bob (Maybe we thought R. Lemelin was for “Robert”? I don’t remember.)

I got another taste of that experience three decades later when Valeri Kamensky received a string of penalties and won the Stanley Cup.

Kamensky once scored an incredible, famous rotating goal in a real hockey game. In my eyes, its digital destination will forever grow bigger in my stupid retro video game stream.

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