We don’t touch on sports as much as I might like around here, but that’s cause things are already lacking any sort of laser focus. But this story gives us a fun crossover that involves The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun, and the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers…
Nostalgia is a very powerful thing. Recently, I got into a debate with coworkers about video games and it led into what we played as kids. Actually, more specifically, it led into why the childhood games you played weren’t as cool as the ones I played and because of that, you’re stupid. There was a wide range of answers and heated debates because we all connected with such different games and even different consoles. We get so passionate about our childhood that it usually results in us defending or championing our obsessions or habits because its what shaped us as kids or even got us through those times. It got us thinking here at Grizzly Bomb; we have different demographics represented amongst our writers and it’d be interesting to see what worlds we were obsessed with as kids. There will always be debates on what video games were great as kids and the stories that accompany them were always entertaining to say the least. We all grew up within a ten year time period so it was fun to see some of the answers and their explanations, especially on games once forgotten or even games that came out only a few years ago. It is a wide ranging list that also includes some perennial favorites that inhabits a lot of lists. So let’s get to it: Our favorite childhood video games!
Being a gaming fanatic back in my heyday (admittedly, I wish I gamed more now but alas, real life gets in the way), it was hard to think about narrowing it down to just 5 games that reminded me of my childhood. I decided to go based off of nostalgia because picking 5 games in the hundreds (seriously) that I’ve played or owned is just too impossible. I have certain memories that stick with me so I’m gonna be working off of those. In case you wanted to know what else I played (and loved) during my formative years, I’ll give you a brief glimpse of what didn’t make my main list: River City Ransom (NES), Battletoads (NES), Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES), Double Dragon II (NES), Final Fantasy III (SNES), Metroid (NES), Startropics (NES), Marble Madness (NES), Bionic Commando (NES), Mario Kart 64 (N64), Warcraft II (PC), Command & Conquer: Red Alert (PC), Mechwarrior 2 (PC), Castlevania III (NES), Master Blaster (NES), Bomberman (NES), Super Mario 64 (N64), The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time (N64), Killer Instinct (Arcade), X-Men (Arcade), SimCity (PC/SNES), Civilization II (PC), Forgotten Worlds (Genesis), Super Metroid (SNES), Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1), DDR (Arcade), Mortal Kombat (Arcade), Street Fighter II (Arcade), Earthworm Jim (SNES), Tecmo Bowl (NES), Blades of Steel (NES), Super Mario World (SNES), NBA Jam (Arcade), Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES), Top Gear (SNES), Star Fox (SNES), Quake II (PC), Mega Man X (SNES), Secret of Mana (SNES), Wing Commander (PC/SNES), Ninja Gaiden (NES), Alien vs Predator (Arcade), Die Hard Trilogy (PS1), Super Mario RPG (SNES), Half-Life (PC)…
Yeah, I played a lot and probably am responsible for staff bonuses at arcades. Admittedly, about 30% of those came through surfing through lists on the web but 70% of that? All memory. Yes, your assumption is correct, I had no social life with the opposite sex back in the day. Anyway, here are my five favorites in no particular order:
Super Mario Bros. 3 – NES
The reason I chose this was I remember going to the Roseville, Michigan Toys R Us (about 40 minutes away from where I lived) with my whole family and getting there at opening for the first day it came out. I talked about it nonstop when it was coming out because it was in Nintendo Power magazine constantly and it was also featured in the movie The Wizard (which was awesome as a 6 year old, as a 29 year old? Uhh…) so naturally, first day it came out, I made my whole family drive out so I could get one game. I remember begging my dad for him to drive home faster so I pop the game in. Finally got home, put it into the NES, and it was a blur of excellence and brilliance that was defined by the fact I could make Mario fly with just a raccoon tail and ears. But let’s not forget what a brilliant game it was and how at that time, every Mario game was a different experience. The games never felt like sequels to me. The first was far different from the second one (underrated in its own right) and those weren’t similar to the third game. The similarity was that it was Mario and that was more than enough for me. Bonus points because it had awesome suits.
Final Fantasy II – SNES
I have to give a shout to one of my best friends, Mike Coury, who resides now in China and is basically responsible for my love of RPGs. I met him in 2nd grade and we would always go to his parents’ house and he’d show off some random game I’d never heard of. From Marble Madness, to Golgo 13 (which, looking back now, was very inappropriate for 7 year olds), to Final Fantasy. This led into his showing me Final Fantasy II (technically FFIV but for actual title purposes, I’ll refer to the US release name) which we rented from the local video store and started our tradition of walking to the video store, renting the game (remember when buying RPGs were like, 70 bucks? Ridiculous…although I remember dropping 90 bucks to buy Super Street Fighter II for the SNES…but that’s another extortion story for another day), buying a 24 pack of Mountain Dew, and then non stop gaming until the next morning. We played the living crap out of that game. While the original Final Fantasy started the RPG love, this game sealed it with the story of Cecil trying to find redemption in the world of betrayal and deceit. This really introduced me to what games should be – total experiences that immerse the player into another world and getting sucked into the twists and turns as your navigate the storyline. No other game at that time had characters that you were emotionally involved with and were rooting for. This wasn’t a save the princess game. You got to see the motivations on why they needed to get from point A to point B. To get that sort of exposure to an excellent game at such an early age made me a bit of a gaming snob but it raised my expectations on what a game should be and how it needed to captivate the player. To this day, I’ll play through the game once a year on GBA. The moment they release it for iPad, I will probably be worthless for the next week. It’s probably also the reason that in any game I play, I MUST be a Paladin if it’s ever an option. True story.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – SNES
I actually had a debate between this and The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time between which one to include and I decided that while I believe that Ocarina was the better game (I already got into an argument with my coworker about this), A Link to the Past had a bigger impact on my childhood. This game was always talked about at the lunch table about how you got past certain parts, how’d you find all the heart containers, how the hell did you beat Ganon, and it just reminds me of elementary school comparing notes with everyone. Even discussing how the parallel worlds work and how annoying it was to be a friggin’ bunny with no weapons. I also remember getting the Master Sword and it being the defining moment of my gaming life because I felt so proud that I passed through the trials and now had the weapon to defeat all evil. Also, the game was hard at times and not frustrating (damn you Water Temple in Ocarina) so it felt like a consistently awesome gaming experience.
Chrono Trigger – SNES
I get into debates about this game constantly because it’s between this and Final Fantasy Tactics being my favorite game of all time. I will say this, it is the game I played the most ever. I know for a fact that I have played through and beaten it probably about 30 times. Granted, some of those times were just the quick warp to the end boss with the magic that is New Game + but most of the time, I went through because this was the best game of its time. There were no other games that had multiple endings and that gave control to the player as to what to do with characters and their paths to follow. It was so non-linear that the freedom was a refreshing bit of genius. I wanted to get every single ending because it intrigued me that one simple decision could influence a whole branching of a story and change the course of history. With time travel, combo moves, the good Squaresoft name…this was simply THE game to play. Hell, I don’t even know where my copy is because it has been passed around friends for the last decade to where it’s a running joke at this point. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
Goldeneye 007 – Nintendo 64
This was THE game to play in high school. I played this with Dr. Kronner and Busta Timbo amongst other friends almost every Friday or Saturday night at someone’s house and it was the definition of how multi-player game needed to be executed in the 90s. There had never been an FPS shooter on a gaming console that could deliver on the multiplayer (or single player for that matter) level until this game. The betrayals between friends, the facility with proximity mines, the bastard that always uses Oddjob while crouched (you know who you are), the golden gun, paintball mode…no joke, this was the defining game of my high school years. It was also the game that got us in trouble with everyone’s parents because we’d be playing at 3am and someone would come downstairs and yell at us for being too loud. We couldn’t help it. There was something about the joy of seeing friends backstab each other with fake alliances because they saw them as a threat.
1. Legend of Zelda (NES)
This is the game that made me play video games, and the game that, to this day, I’ve beaten the most times. The music remains the best NES soundtrack ever, Link was a baller, and the cartridge was frickin’ gold. Boom. It occupied countless hours spent burning random bushes looking for secret shit, and eventually being rewarded for my efforts. Fighting to trade out my wooden sword and boomerang for magic and silver options, playing the dungeons out of order, and gambling away hard earned rubies like my degenerate uncle who lives at the dog track – it was excellent. Still my favorite Zelda game ever.
2. Gunsmoke (NES)
Oh Gunsmoke. A classic Nintendo game where your ammo never runs out, so there is never a reason to stop shooting. While I historically didn’t like games where the screen scrolled itself and forces you to move at its pace rather than your own, for whatever reason, I couldn’t get enough of this one. That’s not to say I ever actually got good at it. Nope, just years of futility as I could only get to the 3rd stage before I ran out of horses to
sacrifice hide behind tragically lose. Anyhow, if you’ve got a working NES or (more likely) an emulator, and you enjoy shooting dudes while wearing a cowboy hat, this is the game for you.
3. NHL ’97 (SNES)
While I never really got great at Gunsmoke, my ability at Super Nintendo’s NHL ’97 is as close to complete and utter dominance as any 14 year-old kid can possibly possess. Playing seasons on the hardest setting, finishing 82-0 every time, and with Steve Yzerman often averaging 400-500 goals per campaign. Don’t respect beating up on the computer? That’s fine – I would also play ‘dollar a game’ with friends and family, spotting them their choice; Either I win by more than 10 goals, or I play the whole game with no goalie. The fools, they always chose that I go goalie-less, which meant I got Sergei Fedorov as a 6th skater instead. In 1998, I have no doubt that I could’ve played the game’s designers at EA Sports and won. Extra Points for crushing the Colorado Avalanche back then…
4. Goldeneye (N64)
The first truly great 4 player game for the home console. For the kids reading this, in love with Call or Duty or Halo – this is where it really started. One of the rare times where a movie was made into a video game and it didn’t blow. I’d like to think I was pretty sweet at this game, but truth is we played it so much that we were all great at it. A few years ago I bought a used N64, four controllers, and this game. No others. Be it the illegal Oddjob or the useless Jaws, this
5. WCW/NWO: Revenge (N64)
‘Dr. Kronner’ – This is where it came from. When I was about 16 or so and we realized that we could change names and alter Jim Neidhart in WCW/NWO: Revenge to look just like our Biology teacher Mr. Eberhard – we became obsessed with the game. We altered near all of the 63 wrestlers in the game, and each of us had our own character as well. Below was mine – Dr. Kronner (Dr. Frank) putting C Tan’s jobber (AKI Man) in a world of hurt. Disco Inferno also became ‘Busta Timbo’, so 3 of the current staff were in on this…and now I really want to play it again. Our main choice of gameplay was the 40-Man Royal Rumble, just so we could see who’s shitty character could last the longest.
Holy shit, this game was my boy. It’s about an alien, who looks like a gargoyle, named ‘Bert’, that comes to Earth because his planet is overrun with monsters in need of vanquishing. So instead of getting a cop, or the Army, or Arnold Schwarzenegger – he recruits a 10 year old kid with a baseball bat. So…that’s good decision making there. You are the kid, obviously, and you fly with Bert to his planet and rather than the two of you working together to defeat an entire effing planet of monsters, you instead are on your own, unless you find a pill (drugs) that temporarily transforms you into Bert, who can fly and shoot death from his mouth…you know as opposed to being a kid with a bat…the music was pretty sweet though.
This guy is annoying, but he brings up some valid points…
– NES: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Batman, Contra, Dragon Warrior, Jaws
– SNES: NBA Jam: TE, Indiana Jones, Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball
– PlayStation: NFL Gameday 2000, Final Fantasy VII, Twisted Metal II
1. Sonic the Hedgehog – Sega Genesis
The very first game I ever beat! As a young lass with a Sega Genesis, my dad and cousin showed me all of the sweet hidden free lives and hidden coins in this game. I can still beat this game in a handful of hours. The only thing I hate: the drowning music in the Labrynth Zone.
2. Super Mario 64 – Nintendo 64
The amount which I played this game…. I am shocked that I did so well in school. Jumping (or in most cases, doing back-flips) into pictures was the coolest shit I’d ever done at that age. I was addicted to this game.
3. Diablo – PC
I got into this game because it was summer and I had bought some summer workbooks to keep my mind fresh (shut up), and finished them the first week. My mom told me to find something relaxing to do. My dad played Diablo, so I thought I would try it. I believe I was 10 or 11 when I began my love for this horror, action-RPG series. I was a money-hungry Rogue for the remainder of that summer.
4. Golden Axe – Sega Genesis
I mostly started playing this because I got to be Tyris Flare… a sexy redhead. In Golden Axe, I got my first taste of riding dragons, kicking little guys for bags full of mana/food, and kicking ass while doing back-flips. The worst part: Continuously falling off of the cliff and losing lives.
5. Starcraft – PC
My cousin taught me how to play Starcraft when I was 11. I got addicted very quickly! Starcraft was my first RTS that I was truly super into. Although time consuming, I let my nerd flag fly.
– Sega Genesis: Shining in the Darkness
Pokémon Red – Gameboy Color
Pokémon Red for Gameboy Color is easily my favorite childhood video game with being handheld AND in color…get out! I took this everywhere and completed it at least 5 times, and still play it sometimes for “sentimental reasons”. Funny story that goes with this (actually laughing as I write this), when I first got the Pokémon game, I didn’t know how to save the game and so I just kept restarting the game after I turned the game on…
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider II – PlayStation
That was one of the first games I played on a console and it was great. Adventure, action and endless fun (giant boobs didn’t hurt either). I drowned constantly in this game partly because I sucked but also partly because it was funny.
Rome: Total War – PC
Not exactly something most kids would have played but I did and I still consider it to be my favorite PC game to date (can’t wait for the Rome 2 which totally has been announced). I was only 11 when it came out so it still counts as a childhood video game. Brilliant graphics, and so massively immersed into the Roman world that you felt like a general crushing your enemies (I was a weird child).
Pokémon Stadium – Nintendo 64
I didn’t know anyone who didn’t get this game and console (didn’t keep it for a great deal of time). Still, this game was really fun and I remember the sheer amount of different styles of games you could play on it, like a Pokémon Olympics. It was the first of its type I had ever played and probably would still find it fun.
1. Mario Kart – Super Nintendo
I played this first on the SNES as Super Mario Kart at a friend’s house on vacation and was immediately sure I’d have to own it for the rest of my life. When N64 was released, I bought the system and of course Mario Kart 64. I was able to get my sisters to play video games with me because of this game and to this day, when we get together and we have access to a CRT TV (what’s that?) and N64, we’ll dig out our old copy of Mario Kart and race away. Ah, nostalgia. I think the appeal of the game is its ability to draw in players of all ages, preferences, and skills. Its replay value is almost never-ending, as well.
2. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron – Nintendo 64
3. Halo -Xbox
4. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
5. Oregon Trail
1. Sonic The Hedgehog – Sega Genesis
I spent HOURS on those damn water levels trying to find the goddamn air bubbles. That shit was maddeningly hard. I was obsessed with beating it faster and faster, and learning the patterns of each level until I mastered them. Great game.
2. Golden Axe – Sega Genesis/Arcade
This game was one I loved playing with friends. I’ve bought it on XBL recently and realized it was WAY shorter than I remember it being, but somehow in my head as a child, it was epically long, and the implied story to me was really awesome. Riding on giant eagles, swimming across oceans on turtles…to only find out that THE GAME ENDED WITH THE CHARACTERS ESCAPING INTO REAL LIFE, HOLY SHIT. Loved it.
I hated when these little bastards took my potions…friggin’ kleptos…
3. Altered Beast -Arcade
This is a game I only played at the arcade. Back when there were arcades. I must have put hundreds of dollars into it because the idea of transforming into a bear was one that never got old for me. I also became enraptured by the story, and to this day, I swear it ended with all of the main characters taking off their costumes, and revealing the whole thing was a play, but when I searched for that ending I could not find it online. Regardless, I remember that ending being a shock, even if I hallucinated it.
4. Metal Gear Solid – PlayStation
This was the first game to truly make me think and question everything around me. I remember playing it and be gobsmacked by its ending revelations, and the last line spoken hit me like a punch to the gut. I played it so much, I used to be able to speed run the game in 3 hours flat. Cutscenes skipped of course.
5. Goldeneye 64 – Nintendo 64
This game was the staple of my weekend sleepovers at mine and other friends’ houses. Lots of rules were made, “no picking Oddjob and crouching”, because he was so small that he was hard to hit, and thus “cheap”. Or a ban on certain types of weapons since they were unfair. I just remember playing the multi-player over and over, and being transfixed by the single player game. I also remember being stuck on that train level and having NO CLUE how to get into the train, until my friend suggested I try pressing the “open door” button to open the door to the train. I was stupid sometimes back then. Either way though, I loved that game. Still do.
I grew up playing video games, primarily on the PS1. The days when my dad and I would spend Sunday afternoons playing video games were just awesome, and these memories bring up a whole lot of nostalgia. I guess what they say is true. When you’re a kid, you want to be an adult; when you’re all grown up, you want to return to being a child. Childhood is just so much simpler – grades and video games.
Enough with the reminiscing. On to the honorable mentions. (Note that I didn’t start playing Metal Gear Solid until my teenage years. Therefore, the series is not included.)
Twisted Metal 2 – The pioneer in vehicular combat games. The story is absolutely insane. I still remember picking the monster truck every time.
Vigilante 8 – Picture a Twisted Metal game set in the 70s with less crazy. They have some of the most insane car battles ever. A remake was released for Xbox 360.
Syphon Filter 2 – If memory serves me right, this is the first game I have ever beaten. It will forever hold a place in my heart.
Superman 64 – Gotcha!! I never owned an N64. (Editor’s Note: I personally would’ve reprimanded him for this. Like make him draft Alex Smith as his 1st round pick in Fantasy Football.)
Roller Coaster Tycoon – When I was a kid, I used to love going to theme parks. Hell, I still get excited nowadays about going to theme parks. However, with my parents working all the time, it was simply impossible for them to take me out often. This is when RCT comes in. It gave me a chance to build my own theme park. It’s about as good as a substitution can get.
5. Grand Theft Auto 2 – PS1
In case some of you out there don’t know, Grand Theft Auto started off with a top down view. The game isn’t particularly amazing. The missions are pretty hard. Driving isn’t much fun. It’s open-world, and navigation is a pain in the ass. The story? Who cares about the story?
What makes it so memorable then? The soundtrack.
Believe it or not, GTA2 features quite a number of songs in the 800MB-CD era. Some of those tracks are downright awesomeness. Take a look at the lyrics to one of its songs:
Jesus my savior
My favorite flavor
I prefer God to my kids
God bless all the universe
Krishna bells are in
Stop, look down on stolen cars
This is just a sin
That’s as catchy as it can be. As for my favorite track:
In case you haven’t heard, Rockstar Games released GTA2 on PC as a free download a few years back.
4. Driver 2 – PS1
Driver 2 is far from the greatest game ever. It was, however, very ambitious for its time. It pushed the PS1 hardware to its limits. Unlike Driver 1, you can actually get off your car this time round. Well, you can’t do much when you’re on foot, but you still can hijack cars. I used to spend hours upon hours on just exploring the 4 cities (Chicago, Las Vegas, Havana, Rio) in the game. They all felt distinct and colorful. The car damage looks good for its time as well.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from a horrible frame rate and frequent lags. And as you may notice, the draw distance is pathetic. Given that the game was indeed pushing the PS1 to its limits, these drawbacks were inevitable.
3. Crash Bandicoot 3 – PS1
Say what you want but Sony does have great IP’s. Crash Bandicoot, before it became mediocre under Activision, was a whole lot of fun. Crash Bandicoot 3’s light-toned storyline and fantastic level designs are what set this game apart from other platformers. And check out the death animations.
Tell me that is not funny.
In addition, the boss fights felt very distinct and were a whole lot of fun to play. They were also very challenging. As a matter of fact, I didn’t beat the game until sometime last year.
By the way, the guys behind the Crash Bandicoot series in PS1 are now the guys behind the great Uncharted series.
2. Need for Speed: High Stakes – PS1
The decision between 2nd place and 1st place was incredibly tough. NFS fell to the 2nd place by a very small margin.
If you’ve read my piece on Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2012, you will know that High Stakes is my favorite NFS of all time. There are so many reasons to that. The graphics are incredibly well-done. You can actually see the interior if you pay enough attention. There is no racing game out there that managed to find a better balance between arcade and simulation than High Stakes. The environments are simply gorgeous. Ever dreamed of driving a purple Lamborghini Diablo in the German country side at dawn? The game can make this dream come true.
Speaking of which, I would kill for a Lamborghini Diablo.
Anyway, the police chases in High Stakes are much more challenging than the current generation of Need for Speed. In order to arrest a criminal, you have to actually stop him/her, rather than ramming the driver into submission. It is, to my knowledge, one of the first games which implemented tactical options, such as road blocks or spike strips, in police chases.
1. Syphon Filter 3 – PS1
Say what you will but I am a sucker for corny storylines and Syphon Filter 3 takes the cake when it comes to that. Honestly, I don’t remember the storyline. All I remember about the plot is that my favorite character of the entire series faked her death in the second game and returned in this game. In a nutshell, Syphon Filter 3 is a very generic third person shooter. It was nothing transcendental like Goldeneye. Hell, the game play is exactly identical to the first two entries of the franchise, but to a 10-year-old kid, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s fun. I have no idea why I awarded this game the first place. I guess it’s just nostalgia.
Anyway, the franchise would go on to enjoy success on PSP. Its most recent game was released a few years ago, with rumors of a potential sequel arising every single year.
1. Twisted Metal 2 – PS1
This ultimate battle royale of automotive destruction was the main reason I picked up a PlayStation controller as a kid. I remember sitting in the basement for hours with Doc Kronner (I believe he preferred ‘Shadow’, the very purple hearse) using cheat after cheat to run through the campaigns and defeat the nefarious Calypso. This is certainly a case where it wasn’t the destination—rather the journey—that made the game, as the congratulatory winning clips were simply ignored after one viewing. We knew all the cheats, specials, and Easter Eggs that could be found. I’m pretty sure I could put in the code for Minion right now. My preferred vehicle: Spectre (found only in the second of the TM series)
I might have to get my PS1 out now and try playing…
2. Super Mario Bros. 3 – NES
This is the quintessential video game of the nineties. Sure it was the third (and the other two were great FYI), but it was the game that set the standard for re-playability. Though I still don’t know why a raccoon tail can give you the gift of flight. Crazy Japanese…
3. Golden Eye 007 – N64
This was the party game of my early high school years. In between bad horror movies and all-out brawls hopped up on Jolt Cola, an understanding of alliances and revenge was born.
While maintaining the ban on using Oddjob, 007 was the path upon which I learned my friends’ strengths and weaknesses – for example, levels and depths of trust and rage.
4. Command and Conquer (PC)
This is a game that I kept going back to, even though I admittedly was not adept at the strategy involved. I enjoyed the freedom that came with building bases in my own way and completing missions in the style that worked with my brain, as opposed to many games that have a path that you must follow in order to accomplish the end-game. Also, when I wanted an ego boost I could turn the difficulty on easy and start with a million dollars to completely annihilate my opposition. I really did suck at this game.
5. Dragon Warrior (Nintendo)
I doubt many with put this on their list of top five, and really, I’m not sure why I enjoyed it so much as a child. A classic premise (warrior charged with saving the kingdom and rescuing a princess) starts you on the journey to gain experience and money with which to buy more sophisticated and powerful abilities and gear.
The 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class has been decided and joining the no-brainer, first-ballot Joe Sakic are Pavel Bure, Adam Oates and Mats Sundin. The biggest surprise of the nomination process, much to the chagrin of Red Wings Nation, was the omission of Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan is definitely Hall of Fame caliber and will certainly be voted in eventually so you have to wonder if this years neglect is a self-imposed Shanaban or if it’s continued sour grapes from the way Shanahan bullied his way out of playing for the Hartford Whalers franchise. Either way Shanny is going to have to wait at least a year before his 1354 regular season points and three Stanley Cup championships are heralded in the basement of Brookfield Place in Toronto.
Other first year eligible notables included Jeremy Roenick, Gary Roberts, Curtis Joseph and Claude “the Fraud” Lemieux. It’s no huge surprise to me that none of these guys had the collective support to make it in this year except of course Mats Sundin over Shanahan as a first-balloter. One extra thing to take into consideration, and what I expect tipped the scales for Sweden’s Sundin, is that this is the HOCKEY Hall of Fame and not the NHL Hall of Fame so therefore international experience and clout hold a little extra sway. Also the Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto and there’s no subtle coincidence that the honks voted in the long-time Maple Leaf Captain so quickly.
Bure and Oates made it out of the waiting line but some of the greats still waiting behind the velvet rope include Dave Andreychuk, Eric Lindros, Steve Larmer, Kevin Lowe, Tom Barrasso and Mike Richter. The most impressive of these stand byes is probably Dave Andreychuk who amassed an impressive 1338 points over 23 seasons in the NHL and topping it all of by helping Tampa Bay get a Stanley Cup Championship in 2004. I still maintain that because of the lockout Tampa was the 2-year reigning Stanley Cup Champion so therefore Dave actually has 2 (sort of) Stanley Cup victories. It also amazes me that Kevin Lowe who has more Stanley Cup rings than can fit on one hand is still not in the Hall and perhaps illustrates the bias against defensive defensemen as Lowe’s 431 career points aren’t blowing anyone away. He was a career +252 for goodness sakes though!
It’s not too surprising that it took a bit of a wait for Pavel Bure to make the Hall as he had a relatively short NHL career and never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals but he was an electric goal scorer who notched 437 goals in a mere 702 games also bagged one of the hottest model/”athletes” of his time in Anna Kournikova. She belongs on any Hall of Fame resume.
Adam Oates is famous for having perhaps the slickest pair of hands in the NHL and in his heyday averaged over an assist a game an impressively finished with 1079 assists in 1337 regular season games. Oates is another guy who never had his name etched on Lord Stanley’ cup but is having a hell of a week as he was not only inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week but was also named as the new Head Coach of the Washington Capitals.
A couple of other quick Hockey notes for the week: Another young Russian was at the head of the NHL Draft class as Edmonton continues to draft in the top spot and the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Sidney Crosby to a 12-year $104 million dollar deal. I realize that Sidney Crosby is perhaps the best player in the NHL when he is healthy but you’ve gotta wonder about this long-term contract after the horrendous concussion history Crosby has. You’ve got to look no farther than the Boston Bruin’s Marc Savard and Nathan Horton to see how quickly serious concussions can derail a talented players career. If this also means that the Penguins are considering parting ways with Evgeni Malkin, perhaps the second best player in the NHL, as John Buccigross has suggested then I think the Penguins are betting on the wrong horse face of the franchise or no.
Till next time Puckheads!
So far my predictions have not been so great. I had neither the Kings or the Devils in the Finals, although that’s partially due to the fact that I’m a closet Coyotes fan and had to pick them against the Kings. This column will end with a prediction, but first lets examine the top 5 reasons why each team will win the Cup.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings, who came into the playoffs as the 8 seed, have dispatched the first, second and third seeds in the West in short order playing only 14 of a possible 21 games to get the job done. New Jersey was a six seed in the East so once again Los Angeles has the underdog card in their favor, a mentality that has done well to motivate them so far.
2.) Jonathan Quick.
Quick didn’t exactly come out of nowhere but the 26-year-old, 2005 third-round pick by the Kings has been taking it a whole new level this year and has exceeded all expectations in the playoffs. He only has two shutouts so far, but has still done a good job of limiting opposing scorers with a .946 save percentage, and a 1.54 GAA both good enough to lead all postseason goaltenders if you throw out Corey Schneider’s three-game performance.
3) Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar.
Brown and Kopitar are both averaging above a point a game, and a matching +13 in the plus/minus column. They will have to continue that sort of production for the Kings to be successful. Brown has really improved his game this postseason and has at times looked like a man among boys. If they can get continued solid performance out of Penner and Richards as well as the guys on the top line they will continue their playoff dominance.
4) The “Old Guy” and the “Franchise First”.
The perennial feel good story about the veteran who has never won a cup is Willie Mitchell of the L.A. Kings. He is 35 and has played 14 NHL seasons, ironically enough starting with the Devils, and has been a solid, journeyman defenseman throughout his career, and alongside Drew Doughty has been logging the most ice time for the Kings during the playoffs. This would also be the first Stanley Cup for the Kings Franchise and it seems long droughts always seem to kindle some extra fire… see 2011 Bruins, 1997 Red Wings, and 1994 Rangers.
5.) The L.A. Factor.
After the Clippers and the Lakers both made early Playoff exits, the people of L.A. should be rallying around this plucky NHL team. The Dodgers are also in first place, but it’s still too early in the Baseball season to really get excited about that kind of thing. The Kings are undefeated on the road so far this playoffs so having the extra support at home should give the Kings a home and road ice advantage, that and the throwback silver and black jerseys are some of the best in NHL history.
New Jersey Devils
1) Martin Brodeur.
Brodeur hasn’t been phenomenal this season, but he has been very good and a .923 save percentage coupled with a 2.04 GAA is nothing to shake a stick at. Brodeur is 40 years old, but has already said that he would like to come back next season which would make it an even 20 years as a Devil. This guy has tons of experience and is unshakable. Brodeur piloted the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup Championship amid a messy divorce, in which it was revealed that he was sleeping with his sister-in-law. That doesn’t say much about Martin as a stand-up guy, but it does show the type of focus he brings to the ice rink which makes it hard to bet against this guy. Getting another Stanley Cup ring would also tie Brodeur with Patrick Roy his greatest contemporary goaltending foe.
2) Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk is the leading scorer among all skaters in the playoff st the moment and along with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac leads the Devils with 7 goals apiece. Unlike the Kings top scorers these three Devils are in the negative when it comes to plus/minus so they will have to do a better job of protecting in their own end as well as lighting the lamp. It’s good to see the scorers scoring as that means that New Jersey’s game plan is working effectively. If any of these three guys drop off however they could be in trouble. Remember also that this is Ilya Kovalchuk’s first opportunity to shine in the postseason, so it will be interesting to see which way he goes in the Finals.
The Devils struggled a bit out of the gate and just barely got by the Florida Panthers in a seven game series that included the last two games being won by New Jersey in overtime. Since then the Devils have been much better though and once they have smelt blood in the water they have done a good job on closing down their opponents. After losing game one to Philly they won four straight and won three straight against the Rangers after going down 2-1 in the series. The first game of the Finals is starting late so both teams have been sitting but for the Kings it has been over a week since they have played real hockey so that gives NJ the edge in game one as far as rust is concerned.
The Kings have the “Feel Good” old guy, but the Devils have the “Old Guy” old guys. Beyond Broduer they also have Petr Sykora, 35 and Patrick Elias, 36 as the grizzled veteran presence who have been there and done that. New Jersey also has experience on the backline with 35-year old Marek Zidlicky and Danius Zubrus checking in at 33. It’s clear that the Devils have the dominant edge here in age and experience but the question is whether or not this is too many old legs to keep up with the young and speedy Kings.
5) The New Jersey Factor.
New Jersey has the “Soprano” tough guys, the “Jersey Shore” greaseballs and the New York’s little brother complex to motivate its players. New Jersey has a storied and fervent fan base but unfortunately the team is in financial trouble and a Stanley Cup win might still not be enough to get the ship righted. That being said the Devils have nothing to lose and a lot to prove so I wouldn’t put it past them ton once again surprise everyone by toughing it out and intimidating their way to another championship as they find their way to another 16W.
My prediction: Los Angeles Kings in 6. This is probably the kiss of death as I have picked against the Kings in every previous round but I think they look too good and their goaltender is playing too well to lose it now.
Just for the record: In my first round playoff preview I only predicted half of the games correctly and got one series exactly correct (Phoenix in 6). There also will be no repeat of last year’s Stanley cup Finals as both Vancouver and Boston were eliminated.
Phoenix Coyotes (#3) vs. Nashville Predators (#4)
By taking care of business versus Chicago the Coyotes advance into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and the first time since moving to the desert. The first five games of their series against the Black Hawks went into overtime, an NHL first, and youngster Mikkel Boedeker got back-to-back game winning goals. With Hanzl and Vrbata battling some injuries and Shane Doan skating his way out of quality scoring chances they had to rely on the likes of newcomer Antoine Vermette to put the puck in the net. What most people will remember from this series however is the head shot Raffi Torres laid on Marion Hossa that garnered him a hefty 25-game suspension. Nashville, on the other hand, took out Phoenix’s greatest playoff kryptonite in the Red Wings. Detroit just didn’t have that killer instinct this year and Nashville was able to grind away a series victory bolstered by the strong play in net by Pekka Rinne. Rinne and Phoenix’s Mike Smith were both brilliant in the first round posting identical 1.81 GAA albeit with Smith appearing in an extra game. This should be a really good grind it out series that probably no one will watch. Phoenix and Nashville aren’t exactly hockey hubs and certainly won’t attract the casual fan. With goaltending being even I give Phoenix the slight edge in offense and nastiness.
Prediction: Phoenix in 7 with at least four overtimes.
Just a couple quick notes before we get to the match ups:
To check out my feelings on the Eastern Conference playoffs go here.
Last night was the NHL Draft Lottery and the Edmonton Oilers got the right to choose #1 overall for the third year in a row. The poor Columbus Blue Jackets can’t even win a lottery at 88% odds… at least the have the All-Star game next year.
Vancouver Canucks (51-22-9) vs. Los Angeles Kings (40-27-15)
Yawn! The Vancouver Canucks again dominate the regular season garnering the best overall record in the NHL and will soon enough be Canadian residents only rooting interest in the playoffs. Daniel Sedin, the Canucks leading goalscorer, has been sidelined with a concussion since March 21st. He has been skating lately so it is still to be determined whether or not Wonder-Twin Powers will be activated anytime soon in Vancouver. The bigger controversy in Vancouver surrounds goaltending. Roberto Luongo is notoriously soft in pressure situations and his backup Corey Schneider has been seeing a larger load this year and dominating in that role. It will be interesting to see how long a leash the Canucks apply to Luongo or even if they have enough cajones to start Schneider outright. Either way, I still think Vancouver has enough guns and talent to get by the Kings in the first round. As short as a week ago LA was sitting in control of the 3rd playoff spot but after a wild and wooly finish to the season LA has been leapfrogged by San Jose and Phoenix to be left with the unhappy task of facing the Canucks in the first round. At least they’re in for a short flight home and LA residents can refocus on the Lakers.
NY Rangers (51-24-7) vs. Ottawa Senators (41-31-10)
There’s no reason the Rangers shouldn’t win this series, unless they have a major injury to someone who happens to reside between the iron during the games. While Lundqvist has been a little dinged up lately and Ottawa won the regular season series 3-1 including shootout victory, I still don’t see it happening. The Rangers aren’t going to blow you away with scoring, although Gaborik and Richards have been solid scoring threats all year, they are dominate defensively and will grind away softer teams like the Senators. It has been a feel good year for 39-year-old Daniel Alfredsson, emerging superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson and some of the non-Swedes on the team but Ottawa lost it’s divisional battle with the Bruins and therefore have to face the mighty Rangers. If it wasn’t for John Tortorella behind the Rangers bench you might give the Sens a punchers chance in the series but there is no way that Torts lets his team look past Ottawa and he will have them focused as they need be.
Everyone loves an underdog. The idea of a loser rising to the top and beating all odds is something that a lot of people can relate to. We root for these characters because we love them, and we know that they deserve nothing but the best. Sports films are especially good at this, and last year’s Warrior AKA, the MMA movie that had everyone crying, is a prime example of the sports genre at its finest.
I’ll be honest I’m not too keen on the entire sports genre. Frankly it’s because I’m not a sports fan in general and I don’t even know what the hell is happening most of the time. But there are certain sports films that are just great. How do you know they’re great? Because you love it just the same, even if you aren’t familiar with the sport portrayed.
Seann William Scott has made almost an entire career out of being an ass. From the American Pie series to pretty much everything else he’s done, he’s had the honor of being that one douchebag that we hate to love and love to hate. Still, when taking a deeper looking into Scott’s filmography, there’s some solid evidence that he’s actually a good actor.
In particular, films like The Promotion and Southland Tales have given him the opportunity to do some much-needed flexing with his acting muscle. But I don’t think he’s had a role quite as contrasted as the role he plays in Goon. Scott plays Doug Glatt, a dim-witted but good-hearted bouncer at a local bar. Making minimum wage, Doug spends most of his days kicking out drunks, brawlers, and underage kids who try to sneak in.
After going to a hockey game with his best friend, the filthy mouthed Ryan (Jay Baruchel), and getting into a physical altercation with a player of the away team, Doug is drafted into the local hockey team as the goon. In hockey world, the goon is basically the guy who goes onto the ice and beats the crap out of anything standing in his way. The team, known as the Assassins, is one of the worst in the league. After Glatt shows that he has true talent as a goon, he gets moved up to the Halifax Highlanders, home to Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin).
After an encounter with notorious hockey player Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schrieber) three years prior that resulted in a major concussion as well as a 20 game suspension for Rhea, Laflamme has been unable to recover from the incident due to a fear of being hit again. Now it’s up to Glatt to get Laflamme out of the minor leagues, and back on top where he belongs. Rhea, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to fight Doug Glatt. And win.
Goon is an interesting and successful blend of raunchy comedy and inspiring sports drama. With a script co-written by Jay Baruchel, an avid hockey fan, and Evan Goldberg, a screenwriter known for his ability to aptly mash together comedy and drama (see: Superbad). Together, the two craft an original and surprisingly heartwarming story of an underdog rising to the top. Seann William Scott plays the role to perfection, stepping out of his comfort zone for a role that requires an emotional vulnerability that he’s not used to.
Michael Dowse serves as director and includes some breathtaking on ice shots of Doug’s games, fights, as well as his fellow teammates. The thing that separates Goon from the rest of the other sports movies that have come out recently isn’t just its endlessly quotable script, pitch-perfect performances, or visionary camerawork. It rises above the rest because, like its protagonist, it’s an unexpected bending of genres because no matter how much the film makes us laugh, it also puts us in a story that had me at the edge of my seat. The subtleties of factual accuracy enhance the story, especially considering it’s based off a true story.
Goon is a sports film that despite the often crude humor that encompasses most of its running time, is a treat for the entire family to enjoy. It has the makings of a comedy blockbuster, with a good amount of action, comedy, inspiration, drama, and romance to keep the story interesting at all times. It’s a film that demands your attention, and transcends most of the sports cliches that it comes into contact with. As far as sports movies go, it’s this year’s Warrior, but funnier.
Right before the All-Star break Alex Ovechkin got nailed with a three-game Shannaban, and in a brilliant move he proclaimed himself “unworthy” of attending the NHL weekend of festivities. Whether Ove was really so upset about his suspension from a marginally bad check that he wanted to “stick it to the man”, or was relishing a five day rest from league responsibilities it was a well-played move by the mad Russian. So with that we start the “All-Star Cheers and Jeers” which since the host city is Ottawa Ontario this year we shall re-name them the “All-Star Beauty Eh? and Hosers” awards.
The first Beauty Eh? goes to Alex Ovechkin for continuing to be the hard-hitting, trash-talking, beautiful tennis star-dating, Russian superstar he ought to be, and the Hoser goes to the NHL for not sticking up for itself and forcing Alex to go to the All-Star game anyhow. Suspensions have been levied in the past to players who have decided to skip the festivities so why not now?
As a full disclosure I will have to admit that I have been working in Ft. Lauderdale all weekend so my attention to the festivities has been somewhat diverse. I didn’t watch the Selection show which is no big deal, I was able to lobby a local bar into turning a couple of TVs to the Skills competition and I was forced to watch an audio-free web feed of the All Star game on my computer as I was working. So the next Hoser award goes to me for missing all of the miced up segments and joshing around by the players as I was forced to watch muted broadcasts.
The next Beauty Eh? goes to whoever came up for the concept of the playground rules selection process for the All-Star teams. Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara were named captains by being representatives of the host city and defending Stanley Cup champions respectively and got to literally draft their teams from the players who were voted All-Stars. This means the potential for regular season teammates playing opposite one another without the North America vs. The World awkwardness.
There wasn’t a strong Hoser candidate from the Draft Selection Show except that Chara took Kessel before Seguin and Alfredsson took all the Swedes and Senators, but I have a separate Hockey score to settle so I will give an extra large Hoser award to the NHLPA for rejecting the NHL re-alignment program. Remember the NHL’s plan to change the conferences in a much more regionally friendly way? Well apparently the NHLPA shot that idea down and there isn’t enough negotiation time for next season so we won’t be seeing any re-alignment until 2013 at the earliest. [Boooo!]
The NHL All-Star Weekend continued Saturday night with the Skills competition, another pretty cool and diverse set of contests unique to the NHL. Let’s just give one big Beauty Eh? award to the Skills competition in general and mention the highlights. The fastest skater competition of course came down to young legs as rookie Carl Hagelin beat out rookie Colin Greening by less than one tenth of a second.
The Breakaway Challenge, the NHL’s version of the Slam Dunk contest, garnered Patrick Kane (above) a lot of attention for his Superman stylings, but I was more impressed that goaltender Brian Elliot didn’t allow any of the pieces of Kane’s exploding puck by him, and the creativity of Corey Perry’s “mini-stick” goal (right). Much like in the NBA though, the flashiest guy, Kane, got the fan vote.
The other big highlight of the Skills Competition was the Hardest Shot segment although new hockey stick technology have made the hardest shot a legal version of “corking the bat”. Zdeno Chara, as always, was dominant and set a new NHL high water mark with a 108.8 mph slapshot. I was most impressed however with Daniel Alfredsson who’s not only Swedish but also 39 years old and still was able to consistently shoot over 100 mph. It should also be mentioned that Chara has about 8 inches of torque height over Alfredsson.
The Hoser award for the Skills competition goes to the confusing scoring system and the bias towards individually scored points. I really enjoyed the Skills Challenge Relay which involved 32 different players showing their skills in shooting, passing (over barricades!), puck handling and speed, but the total segment was only worth the maximum of two points. So the competition that involves almost everyone is pretty much worthless when all of the head-to-head competitions were worth 5-6 points? Meh. The only other Hoser award goes to Patrick Kan’s hair which is twice as light on top than on the sides. If he’s not careful he’s going to wind up looking like Dr. Phil…
Moving on to the All-Star Game. Since I was watching the game on the web I was catching the CBC feed which involved the obligatory Don Cherry appearance. Although this has nothing to do with the All-Star game I am going to have to give a Beauty Eh? award to the genius who came up with the Don Cherry piano desk.
The NHL All-Star Game was the standard high scoring affair you would expect from what is essentially a pick up pond game with the best players in the world. Let’s give a Beauty Eh? award to all the goaltenders who come out to get a good natured drubbing. At the very least maybe facing such a high number of shootout opportunities allows the goalies to pick up on some of the super stars tendencies which may give them an edge next time a game goes beyond overtime this year. Marion Gaborik got a well deserved MVP award for his hat-trick plus an assist performance and Chara (+7) and Alfredsson (2 goals) both performed admirably as their teams Captains. Gabby also gets extra props for his nod to Anisimov’s “shoot the goalie” celebration that was chronicled on HBO’s 24/7 series earlier this year, which followed scoring his first goal on teammate Henrick Lundqvist.
Not much to complain about when it comes to the All-Star Game. You get what you expect: a lot of passing, a lot of scoring and no defense. I will have to give one big Hoser award to the All-Star jersey’s however. On the whole the jerseys weren’t too bad, but I couldn’t help but be super annoyed by the giant numbers directly under the collar on the front side of the sweater. Give the fans a little credit. The NHL has been ramping up player recognition by adding shoulder numbers and numbers on the top of the helmets but those chest numbers last night were just plain obnoxious. I was much more impressed with the jersey that Drake wore for his performance between periods.
One final Hoser award to hand out and we’ll conclude this years NHL All-Star Weekend review. I just looked up the location of the 2013 All-Star game and it’s going to be in lovely Columbus Ohio. Oh. Well. Let’s just hope for Jackets fans that Columbus is still playing in Ohio next year.
The cable sports network previously known as the Outdoor Life Network will now also previously be known as Versus, and be currently known as NBC Sports Network. This is all a result of the purchase of NBC Universal by Comcast, and an attempt to merge the two companies’ sports infrastructure. According to The Hollywood Reporter the name change will go into effect on January 2nd.