A cure for your NHL lockout blues? – Setting the Stage

A quick note before I get into the meat of this post – Considering I am starting to get views from outside of Canada, I realise many readers may not follow the National Hockey League (NHL) or hockey in general and therefore may not immediately know what I am talking about below. My plea to you is: don’t skip this post! It may be a bit heavy on unfamiliar names, stats, and jargon, but it sets the stage for what I plan on doing next and I promise I want to make that interesting to everyone, regardless of previous familiarity with the NHL or hockey. Just give it a shot; who knows, you may be surprisingly entertained!

 

Okay, now onto the actual post.

Currently, the National Hockey League is at a standstill due to ongoing negotiations regarding the future of the league. Players have been locked out of arenas by their team’s owners and many have gone to play for other teams, either overseas in the Russian, Swedish, or German leagues, or in lower leagues in North America. Unfortunately, many of these leagues are somewhat more difficult to follow on a regular basis due to language barriers or non-existent North American broadcast deals (among other reasons). As such, many hockey fans are left without a way to satiate their hockey needs.

My solution was to dust off my old copy of NHL 08 and make my own season.

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Look how exciting this is!

A couple of places have tried to do something similar in order to fill the hockey void, most notably EA Sports who have used their new NHL 13 game to simulate the lost season. I’ve watched a few of these videos, however, and, while it is interesting to see how these games might have turned out had they been played by computers, I wasn’t particularly impressed. The NHL 13 simulations provide a few game highlights – which are underwhelming since they are effectively results of an algorithm and not a player’s actual skill – as well as game stats and scores. This is helpful if you are curious how a certain team might perform by the end of the season, but not particularly entertaining along the way.

Accordingly, I have adopted a different model for my simulation season – the Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers. Based on the Swindon Town Robins who currently play in League One of the English football league system, the Swoodilypoopers are managed by John Green, an American author of young-adult novels. I’ve watched far too many of these videos than I care to admit, and I find this is because the focus of the videos isn’t on statistical analysis or trying to simulate specific games, but rather on story-telling. Over the course of the Swoodilypooper’s many seasons, John has been able to imbue his 100% digital players with histories, storylines, nicknames, fan chants, nicknames, and – in short – full personalities. For instance, the two star players on the Swoodilypoopers, bald John Green and other John Green (neé Bennett), are a married couple whose relationship developed within the game itself. Another player is a voluntarily selective mute, and a third is a 40-something year old goal keeper named Fat Lucas (best nickname ever?). The sheer depth of personality within these digital players makes the Swoodilypoopers a team that is legitimately exciting to follow.

I would like to do something similar with my NHL 08 dynasty team. Now, I don’t have any kind of video capture software to show the actual games, but I want to give it a try regardless for three reasons. First of all, I really think an actual narrative could be entertaining to people and a great way to give hockey some attention. Secondly, it’s a nice way for me to work on my own writing skills while talking about something I enjoy. And finally, I just miss hockey and talking about hockey!

So let me know what you think. I would really appreciate feedback on this idea since if absolutely no one is interested, there really isn’t any point in putting it up here where no one will read it. On the other hand, if you think it would be fun to read a few stories – with full characters, plots, etc. – about my fictional hockey team, let me know about that too!

Or if you just want to see what Alexandre Daigle is doing on Atlanta’s top line…

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Comments and questions are always encouraged!

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