The EA Sports NHL hockey series of video games are an ultra-popular line of games created by EA Sports, and since 1991 (under the title NHL Hockey) have been popular with fans of Canada's national sport. The games are notable for their realism in capturing the fast-paced action of the National Hockey League, fights included. While there are newer editions of the NHL games, one game has garnered popularity even 17 years after its initial release: NHL '94. The game's so popular, that in fact, there are ROM hacks for NHL '94 that update it to reflect the current NHL rosters and teams. The current release, NHL '14, features an Anniversary Mode which uses '94's controls, physics, and soundtrack but modern graphics with various effects such as blue ice and star shaped player markers.While the series has always had NHL teams and the pre-requisite international teams, recent titles in the NHL series have added teams from the American Hockey League (the NHL's development league), European leagues, and even the Canadian Hockey League (a junior hockey league).
The EA Sports NHL series contains examples of:
Addressing the Player: Not only in the "Be A Pro" modes, but within exhibition games (starting with NHL '12), where a player will be given a highlight package of their best goals or hits.
Brand X: You can play an International Tournament with national teams which is modeled on the Winter Olympics.
The holders of the naming rights to various stadiums occasionally refuse to license their brands to EA forcing them to use a generic "[Insert City] Arena" name. Partially subverted by the United Center in Chicago as they use "Chicago Stadium" which was the name of the UC's predecessor.
Bribing Your Way to Victory: The online Be A Pro mode has some extreme requirements to unlock all the bonuses, which are of course very difficult to accomplish without said bonuses. But this is EA! Of course you can buy an all-star!
Character Customization: Though players can make their own players, there also exists a way for them to create NHL players that were otherwise passed over by the game.
NHL '12 now allows for female players to be made.
Choose Your Own Adventure: The expanded version of Be a Pro in NHL 14, call "Live the Life" which factors off-ice decisions such as post-game interviews and endorsement deals into your overall stats using Karma Meters that rate the quality of your relationship with your teammates, the coaching staff, family, and the fans. You can be a self-obsessed superstar who's hated by the rest of the team, a wise, respected leader who won't say two words to the media, and everything in between.
Creator Cameo: One title in the series allows you to basically create members of the EA development team if you input their names in the Create-A-Player option.
Creator Provincialism: Some accuse EA Canada of Nerfing Team USA. For example, in NHL 09 they neglected to add Patrick Kane, the previous year's Calder Trophy winner and one of the highest-rated American players.
Darker and Edgier: NHL '99, where the menus had a grittier feel to them. However, this didn't change the content of the game.
Downloadable Content: Recent titles in the series allow for players to download updated rosters and added improvements to gameplay.
Guest Players: NHL '12 features an All-Legend Team, made up of NHL greats like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Ray Bourque, among others. You can even put them on your favourite teams, presenting interesting situations all around.
NHL '13's crop of Legends include Hall-of-Famers Doug Gilmour, Jarri Kurri, as well as Dominik Hasek and Olympic Women's Hockey legends Hayley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero, who become the first female players featured in the franchise.
It's Up to You: The "Be A Pro" mode, where your created Pro is tasked with helping your team to win games.
Last of Their Kind: With the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom, NHL '13 will only have three players: Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, and Roman Hamrlik remaining from the roster of NHL '94 which is widely considered the greatest entry in the series, if not the greatest sports game ever.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The commentators in recent games sometimes have lines of commentary that make it sound like they're addressing the player.
Loads and Loads of Teams: The Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 games have a lot more teams than just the NHL, even adding European league teams to the mix.
Lighter and Softer: NHL 2002 and NHL 2003, which added elements such as a goofy colour commentator who'd crack jokes during the game, and cards that could change things like give players big heads, make the announcers' voices high-pitched, and even change the size of the puck.
Loading Screen: Which features relevant information to the upcoming game, like starting line-ups, player stats, and controller directions.
Long Runner: Started in 1991 with NHL Hockey, and still going strong, with NHL '14 being the most current title.
Loudness War: An example of this trope hamstringing a game's feature: recent games have allowed players to upload their own custom soundtracks. Unfortunately, the dynamic range compression applied to the pre-existing in-game audio means that imported audio is much quieter. You can urn the volume up to hear your imported tracks, but run the risk of the pre-existing audio ending up stupidly loud.
Madden Curse: Not a recurring problem for the series, but NHL 2004 had it in spades. Its original cover-athlete, Joe Thornton was replaced by Dany Heatley after Thornton had been accused of assault. However, Heatley himself was pulled from the cover after he had gotten into an accident that killed fellow Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder, leaving Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic to be ultimately the cover athlete for NHL 2004. Which makes sense, considering that was the year of the NHL Lockout
The inversion of this trope is lampshaded with this trailer for NHL '13, which points out the career successes of the most recent NHL cover athletes.
This makes it all the more ironic that the trope is played incredibly straight with 13's Claude Giroux. First and foremost being on the cover in a year where there was only half a season, then being a So Ok Its Average bright spot in the Flyers' otherwise mediocre shortened season. It has gotten worse with the current 2013-14 season being the lowest point of his career, scoring only 4 goals in the first two months.
Milestone Celebration: NHL '14 features an anniversary mode to commemorate twenty years since the release of the legendary NHL '94.
My Friends... and Zoidberg: While the game has always been the most critically acclaimed amongst EA Sports' offerings, it gets much less attention from EA than its contemporaries like Madden and FIFA, and NHL '14 even got snubbed from a next-gen releasenote with a completely new engine in favor of a revival of NBA Live.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: The first title in the series, NHL Hockey, had players referred to by their jersey numbers, because they didn't have the NHLPA license for the game. The next game, NHLPA Hockey '93, had the actual players, but not the teams they're on.
Palette Swap: The 16-bit Era NHL games use the same player and goalie sprites, and just swap the colours around to reflect each NHL team.
Player Tic: Few players can resist the urge to hit opposing players after the whistle, even with penalties handed out for excessive roughing.
Product Placement: Given the nature of the game, this comes in the form of actual equipment that players can use in-game, made by real world hockey equipment manufacturers like CCM, Bauer, Reebok, and so on.
Interestingly averted in the exact place where you'd expect it to be played straight. The boards of nearly every arena in the real world are covered in ads, but for many years EA simply used generic placeholders.
Recent games feature product placement for Honda (with on-screen graphics even citing Honda as "The Official Car of the EASHL"), and Verizon Wireless (which "sponsors" NHL '12's Be A Pro mode.)
In recent games, if connected to the Internet, the boards will have updated dynamic advertising, like an advert for that week's real-life nationally televised matchup on NBC. Furthermore, you can choose to watch ads in the menus for free Hockey Ultimate Team coins.
Relationship Values: Some titles in the series have "Line Chemistry", which can positively or negatively impact a team's line combinations if a certain group of players are put in a given line.
Rubber Band AI: More prevalent in recent games, where the CPU team will be more wont to make an amazing comeback if the player doesn't take care of the defensive side of their game.
Secret A.I. Moves: Notice how fast the puck travels when the CPU team's players bank it off the glass during a penalty kill. Try and do the same, and it's not as fast as the CPU player's efforts.
Serious Business: With the advent of the EA Sports Hockey League in NHL '09, this has become the case with the online crowd.
Shout-Out: The premade custom teams in the NHL titles from the late 90s to the early 2000s, the EA Blades & EA Storm, have jerseys lifted straight from the Charlestown Chiefs from Slap Shot.
Shown Their Work: The more recent games have presentation that make it feel like you're watching an NHL game, with announcers discussing how a player's doing in a game, or pointing out what a team is doing right or what they're messing up with.
Taunt Button: NHL 2000 and NHL 2001 had a button where you could hear a fan taunt the other team after your team scores a goal or wins a fight.
The custom celebrations in NHL '11 and NHL '12 work in this manner, and presents many opportunities for players to really rub it in when scoring a goal.
Team Shot: The final part of the Stanley Cup victory sequence ends with your team posing with The Cup.
Violation of Common Sense: In the online modes, the games uses an accelerated clock to keep the games shorter. However, to make penalties actually meaningful and avoid Griefers, the clock slows down while one team is on the powerplay. What this means in practical terms is that a team which is losing late will sometimes deliberately draw a penalty with one of their defensive-minded players to buy more time and have the advantage of being able to keep a cherry-picking forward up ice without risking an icing call.
What the Hell, Player?: Some of the commentary lines in recent titles have this in mind, calling out players for playing badly.
Would Hit a Girl: With the inclusion of female created players in NHL '12, this is now possible.
You All Look Familiar: Given the game's nature to reuse player faces for non-prominent NHL players and various others, this trope is a definite likelihood in recent games.