PUCK YEAH 28: Steve Dangle Gets An Oil Change

0:00 – Introducing this week’s guest, Steve Dangle, and his favourite moments creating the Leafs Fan Reaction videos.
2:31 – The Blue Room where the videos are filmed
3:33 – Late nights producing a same-day video of the latest game
5:23 – When Steve makes innocent mistakes in his videos
6:28 – Does Steve take more joy out of the Leafs being actually good or the Canadiens being terrible?
7:41 – Is it easier to make videos about the Maple Leafs now?
9:25 – Working for Sportsnet

13:00 – Creating the many different voices and characters that show up in the LFR videos, including the famous Mike Babcock impression
14:20 – Would Steve ever consider doing colour commentary for hockey broadcasts or another role in the future?
16:45 – What happens when Ron and Don retire from Hockey Night In Canada?
18:25 – The many different career paths for getting into today’s sports media
22:40 – Was the NHL debut of Australian Nathan Walker a big deal for Canadian hockey media?
24:04 – Steve Dangle gets his oil change and we say goodbye before slowly wrapping up another great episode. Perhaps our greatest yet?

Below are a few of Steve’s classic videos – the thumbnails really make you want to click, don’t they? Enjoy!

PUCK YEAH 27: The GOON Special

0:00 – Introducing this week’s theme and bringing John Broadbent onto the show
3:45 – John’s interview with Jay Baruchel, director of Goon: Last of the Enforcers
13:51 – Colton Orr’s involvement with the movie
15:08 – The big brawl fight scene and the acting skills of George Parros
17:38 – The acting debut of TSN’s James Duthie
19:46 – The Russian Duo is back and still hilarious
21:21 – Is one of the new characters based on Ilya Bryzgalov?
22:47 – Elisha Cuthbert’s role as Doug Glatt’s sister-in-law
23:50 – The new bad guy in Goon 2: Anders Cain, played by Kurt Russell’s son Wyatt
24:45 – Could there be a third Goon film? Or better yet, a fourth Mighty Ducks?
29:11 – Underrated sports movies
34:17 – Comparing the two Goons
39:30 – The evolution of the enforcer role through the eyes of Goon 2 and the hockey books we’re currently reading
43:50 – The documentary Ice Guardians and how it looks at fighting in hockey
48:36 – Enforcers transitioning into more of a pest role and needing some speed and skill to compete in today’s game
54:04 – The way we see the AHL in Ice Guardians
57:03 – John’s recent trip to Anaheim for the NHL pre-season
1:01:14 – Anaheim’s defensive prospects
1:03:04 – Selanne’s Steak Tavern, the greatest steak in the world
1:05:27 – We say goodbye to John Broadbent and Joe slowly dies on the mic

Goon: Last of the Enforcers is now available on-demand. Ice Guardians is now available on Netflix worldwide. Watch the trailers below.

A ‘Taking Back Sunday’ NHL Eastern Conference Preview

The new NHL season is finally upon us, so naturally, it’s time for some largely pointless and eventually irrelevant season previews.

Except, these previews are going to be slightly different.

For the Eastern Conference, I will preview each team by way of Taking Back Sunday songs. Surely you’ve heard a Taking Back Sunday song before…. Well, by the time you finish reading this and our ‘Brand New’ Western Conference Season Preview you’ll know much more about the East Coast post-hardcore scene, but probably much less about hockey…

Boston Bruins – You’re So Last Summer
“Don’t let it go to your head. Boys like you are a dime a dozen,  Boys like you are a dime a dozen ”

Finally, the Bruins did the right thing and held onto one of their young high skilled high scoring kids. After trading away Phil Kessell, Tyler Seguin and even Dougie Hamilton in past Summers, the Bruins learnt from their previous mistakes and resigned David Pastrnak to a long-term contract.

Buffalo Sabres – New American Classic
“If chasing our dreams is just a distraction, I want to remember when I know that I can’t go back”

It’s all about the American saviour for Buffalo. Jack Eichel fresh off signing an 8 year $80Million contract will decide the fate of the Sabres and with another American hero just up the road in Toronto, the Sabres/Leafs rivalry will be fun to watch for a long time.

Carolina Hurricanes – Great Romances Of The 20th Century
“September never stays this cold where I come from. And you know I’m not one (I’m not one) for complaining”

No team in the Eastern Conference has analytics folks fawning over them more than the Carolina Hurricanes. A new goalie and one of the best young defense cores in the league, but can the ‘Canes live up to all the attention?

Columbus Blue Jackets – This Is All Now
“I am owed this now. I am owed this now. I am owed this now”

The time has come for the Columbus Blue Jackets. This will be the year they will win the Division and go deep into the playoffs. That is if Sergei Bobrovsky stays healthy…

Detroit Redwings – A Decade Under The Influence 
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this. I’ve got a bad feeling about this”

The Detroit Redwings missed the Playoffs last season for the first time in what seemed like about 40 years and sadly for the once mighty franchise things will only get worse this year. At least they have a nice new building….

Florida Panthers – Miami
“You have to, you just have to trust me. Whoever I was then, I can’t ever be again”

After “repositioning” Dale Tallon and going all in on analytics, Dale Tallon is back and in charge and already moving out most of the players acquired during the analytical movement. Will Dale go full “old school” or incorporate the new thinking as the blueprint in South Florida?

Montreal Canadiens – Call Come Running
“Hey, you can call on me. If you called on me, I’d come running”

Here comes the saviour in Montreal. Jonathan Drouin a French-Canadian kid coming home to La belle provinceto save the day. But, can he play centre? We’ll find out… This team will go as far as Carey Price will take them though…

New Jersey Devils – The Timberwolves At New Jersey 
“This is you trying hard to make sure that you’re seen with a girl on your arm and your heart on your sleeve ”

The Devils won the Draft Lottery and walked away with the belle of the ball Nico Hischier. New Jersey has looked pretty good in the preseason and Taylor Hall will be doing everything he can to get into the playoffs for the first time in his career. Unfortunately for him, it won’t be this year…

New York Islanders – MakeDamnSure
“I’m gonna make damn sure that you can’t ever leave. No, you won’t ever get too far from me”

It’s all about doing everything you can to keep John Tavares happy for the Islanders. They brought in Jordan Eberle to play on his wing and now they just need to sort out the elephant in the corner of the arena and get out of Brooklyn!

New York Rangers – Cute Withouth The “E” (Cut From The Team)
“Hoping for the best just hoping nothing happens”

If King Hendrik gets injured this season the Rangers hopes could be over. In the past, they’ve had Cam Talbot or Antti Raanta to fill in when Hank was injured or struggling but now it’s Ondřej Pavelec…

Ottawa Senators – This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know)
“It will all catch up eventually well, it caught up and honestly the weight of my decisions
were impossible to hold”

The Senators made an improbable/miracle run to within one goal of the Stanley Cup Finals last year and the likely hood of that happening again isn’t great. Erik “D’Artagnan” Karlsson will miss the start of the season which won’t help.

Philadelphia Flyers – What It Feels Like To Be A Ghost
“So what’s it feel like to be a ghost? Are you up for, are you up for this?” 

Can the Flyers get back into the playoffs? If they can it will be off the back of their young defense group led by the Ghost Bear keeping every shot from getting through to Brian Elliot…

Pittsburgh Penguins – You Know How I Do
“So obviously desperate, so desperately obvious.”

The most terrifying thing for fans of other NHL teams is that Sidney Crosby isn’t happy with winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, he wants the three-peat…

Tampa Bay Lightning – One-Eighty By Summer
“Go on just say it, you need me like a bad habit, one that leaves you defenseless, dependent, and alone.”

No team has a better chance of going from out of the playoffs to Stanley Cup Champion than the Tampa Bay Lightning. If they can stay healthy… Even EA Sports predicted in their season simulation that it would be Steven Stamkos lifting the Cup in June.

Toronto Maple Leafs – My Blue Heaven
“We swing and we sway as this tiny voice in my head starts to sing you’re safe, child, you are safe.”

The Kids are alright! Welcome to the new blue future of the NHL. Between the Oilers and the Leafs, it’s possible the Stanley Cup winner will exclusively be from the great white north for the foreseeable future.

NHL tweet emojis are here!

It’s what you’ve all been waiting for hockey fans, NHL Twitter emojis! Just use your team’s official hashtag and their logo will pop up at the end of your tweet.

Some teams went a step further to announce their new tweet emoji. Like the Minnesota Wild, who must be big fans of the Air New Zealand safety videos because this video is better than all of them.

What’s up with the St. Louis Blues having such a long hashtag? Just as well Twitter is eventually expanding to a 280-character limit because #AllTogetherNowSTL is going to waste some prime tweet real estate.

Combining a long hashtag with paws tapping away on a touchscreen, Louie the Bear clearly isn’t having a good time and Blues fans are sympathetic.

Coming into the season with the favourites tag attached to their team for the first time in a long time, the city of Edmonton must be pumped for the return of Connor McDavid and their Edmonton Oilers. But did they know their mascot Hunter the Lynx had some sweet karate moves?

It’s good to see that like most things related to the Vancouver Canucks, time and effort isn’t worth spending on this team…

Sorry Vancouver, but you’ll have to prove us wrong before you stop becoming such an easy target.

 

Mmmm… Ice Blacks captain features in new Mainland butter commercial

When I think of bread, I usually think of butter too. But thanks to the latest Mainland commercial, that’s probably all changed now.


With the beautiful Queenstown mountains looking Remarkable in the background, a chilled out silver fox enjoys his lunch. Wait a minute…is that who I think it is? Yes! That’s Bert Haines, captain of New Zealand’s national men’s hockey team (the Ice Blacks) and core piece of the current NZIHL dynasty, the Skycity Stampede.

Mainland butter must be flying off the supermarket shelves ever since this commercial started airing this week.

A ‘Brand New’ NHL Western Conference Season Preview

The new NHL season is almost upon us, so naturally, it’s time for some largely pointless and eventually irrelevant season previews.

Except, these previews are going to be slightly different.

For the Western Conference, I will preview each team by way of Brand New songs. Don’t know who Brand New is? Well, I feel bad for you – but the good news is that by the end of reading this article you’ll have enough of a taste of Jesse Lacey and the boys from Long Island that you can pretend to be an expert at your next post-hardcore emo get together!

Anaheim Ducks – Seventy Times7
“Everyone’s caught onto everything you do, everyone’s caught onto…”

The Ducks have won five straight division titles but this is the end of that run. No Lindholm, Vatanen and Kesler to begin the season means the Ducks might as well hand over the Pacific crown to McJesus and the boys north of the wall.

Arizona Coyotes – Jude Law And A Semester Aboard
“So tell all the English boys you meet, about the American boy back in the states. The American boy you used to date. Who would do anything you say.”

John Chayka became the youngest General Manager in NHL history when he was named boss of the Coyotes at just age 26. Many of his classmates from college were probably still in their first job after graduating, still paying off their student loans and wondering why their first love, Jenni never returned from her OE…

Calgary Flames – Gasoline
“You tried to put the fire out but you used gasoline!”

The Flames have one of the best defensive cores in the NHL, only Nashville or possibly Anaheim could debate that. Johnny Hockey and Boring Sean Monahan are both studs and they have one of the best shutdown lines in hockey. However, their plan to fix last season’s goaltender woes was to trade for Mike Smith – “Hey Brian Burke, here’s a fresh barrel of petrol to pour over the fire!”

Chicago Blackhawks – Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t
“Keeping quiet is hard, cause you can’t keep secret if it never was a secret to start. At least pretend you didn’t wanna get caught.”

The ‘Hawks are so hard up against the cap ceiling the paint is starting to come off on the cheeks! Oh but wait, what’s this? Marian Hossa who’s 42-year contract which is now paying him only $1M a year in real cash now, can’t play because of a mysterious skin irritation and goodbye goes his $5.275M cap hit.

Colorado Avalanche – The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot
“Call me a safe bet, I’m betting I’m not…”

The title says it all really. The once mighty franchise which was the envy of all around the NHL now can’t even get out of its own way. Surely they can’t have as bad a season as the historically bad one they had last year, right?

Dallas Stars – You Won’t Know
“You won’t know… You won’t know… Yeah, You won’t know…”

New Year, new coach, new goalie, new result…right? Who knows! Ken Hitchcock is back, Ben Bishop is the saviour in goal and Marc Methot and his nine fingers are here to help on defense.  Surely that means a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Stars?

Edmonton Oilers – Soco Amaretto Lime
“While we walk around this town like we own the streets. And stay awake through summer like we own the heat…”

No team in the West has a brighter future than the Oilers and it won’t be long before Conor McDavid is hoisting the cup above his head while everyone else looks on and wishes it was them – “You’re just jealous cause we’re young and in love!”

Los Angeles Kings – Same Logic/Teeth
“This is the same logic that got us into trouble the first time.”

Things haven’t been too good for the former Kings of the NHL lately. Bad contracts, underperforming stars and injuries forced the Kings to fire their Coach and GM in the Summer and replace them with fresh blood. Well not really, more like the Assistant Coach and Assistant GM.

Minnesota Wild – The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
“Were neither clear nor descript, we kept it safe and slow, the quiet things that no one ever knows.”

One of the more unexciting teams in the NHL. Not because the brand of hockey they play isn’t exciting; Bruce Boudreau loves high scoring teams, but for a team in the hockey capital of the United States, is there anyone other than Wild fans watching their games? The Wild could make or miss the Playoffs and not many people would know.

Nashville Predators – Mix Tape
“This is the first song for your mixtape. It’s short just like your temper, but somewhat golden like the afternoons we used to spend before you got too cool…”

The darlings of the NHL last season will now become that best mate who is now getting attention from all the cool kids and never wants to hang out anymore.

San Jose – Jaws Theme Swimming
“And we learn as we age. Wait for nothing. And my body still aches.”

Could there be any other song for the team from the bay with a shark for a mascot? Patrick Marleau left and Joe Thornton remains, but how much does Jumbo Joe have left in the (shark) tank?

St. Louis Blues – Not The Sun
“Just pretend that you want me. To be my babe, To be my babe…” 

Is this the year that the Blues and their ‘on again/off again’ situation with goalie Jake Allen finally ends and they change their status from ‘It’s complicated’ to ‘In a relationship’? Jake certainly hopes so.

Vancouver Canucks – Failure By Design
“This is a lesson in procrastination. I kill myself because I’m so frustrated. And every single second that I put it off, means another lonely night I got to race the clock.”

Nobody really knows what the Canucks are doing. “Let’s bottom out and get draft picks. Let’s sign Loui Eriksson and Sam Gagner!” Enjoy just missing the playoffs while not being bad enough to draft a franchise changer…

Vegas Golden Knights – At The Bottom
“There’s a lake and at the bottom you’ll find all my friends”

It probably won’t be a great first year for the Vegas Golden Knights. However, they might have a pretty good home record as teams may stray and fall victim to the all that Sin City has to offer!

Winnipeg Jets – Secondary
“Stop these looks and letters. This isn’t for the better. You put me down…  It’s for the worse, you’re not my girl.”

There’s only one other team in the West that has a future anywhere close to the bright lights of the Oilers. Laine, Elhers, Trouba, Scheifele, Hellebuyck, Connors and so many more. Fans of other teams will look over at the Winnipeg Jets longingly and wondering why that can’t be mine and thinking bad thoughts.

The annual NHL season sim is here!

The NHL season starts tomorrow! Which means it’s time for EA Sport’s annual season simulator.

Last year they predicted that the Nashville Predators would go all the way with P.K. Subban exacting revenge on his former team, the Montreal Canadiens. Of course it didn’t pan out that way. While Nashville did make the Stanley Cup Finals, they lost out to Phil Kessel’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Not a bad birthday. Forgot one of them at home #twotime

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If you missed our review of NHL18, you can catch up here.

Watch the video below for EA’s season sim. Do you think they’ve got it right this time?

A Kiwi Visits The Pond

Hi! I am John – I used to live and play hockey in Auckland. Chances are you have either played with or against me at some point over the years, but now I live in Nelson and there isn’t any ice here.  So I play inline.  To help with the ice-withdrawl I decided to take a shot at writing for AnaheimCalling.com. Long story short – they liked my stuff for some reason and now I am a senior writer there.

Through spontaneous coincidence I was in Canada attending my host sister’s wedding mid-September, so I made sure to fly via California on the way back and take in some of the Anaheim Ducks training camp. Alas the wedding was the same weekend as the open scrimmages so I was unable to get to those.

I stayed with a friend and together we attended two pre-season games: Ducks v Kings on the 22nd and then Ducks v Golden Knights on the 24th.  I also got to eat at Selanne’s Steak House Tavern which was beyond amazing.  We hadn’t intended on getting the menu food – hearing that you could just order burgers at the bar; but they sat us at a table and before we knew it we were enjoying the most decadent meal ever imagined.  All whilst enjoying the view of Teemu’s trophy cabinet of Stanley Cup and Olympic medals, not to mention trying not to stare too much at Francois Beauchimen seated at the table next to it.  Oh yeah and Teemu’s eldest son actually gave me my food.  How. Cool. Is. That.

Anywho – the actual games; yeah those were fun. With the addition of these two games I have now been to a total of five Ducks games – one in Vancouver and two previous at The Pond but these were my first taste of pre-season action.

Friday September 22nd – Ducks v Kings

You might recall that this was the Ducks first pre-season win – but it didn’t look like that was going to be the case after the first period. The Ducks by rights should have found this game all too easy – the Kings had left half their team (and the better half at that) in China. Leaving essentially the Ontario Reign guest starring Brandon Prust to contend with a Ducks squad made up of a half and half of Ducks and San Diego Gulls regulars.

The Kings controlled play in the first whilst the Ducks looked completely out of sorts. The only real highlights were two fights, the first featuring Scott Sabourin and Brandon Prust, the second between Boko Imama and Mike Liambas. Sabourin didnt seem entirely prepared or ready for his fight – I know he had done much better in fights with the Gulls. Liambas led the AHL in PIMs last year so he fared a little better.

The seats I had were lower bowl – second row from the glass near the goal line for the Kings in the first, Ducks in the second and Kings again in the third. That said – I watched in horror as the Kings took the early lead on the lone goal of the first period. But later celebrated with much aplomb as the Ducks proceeded to provide the reverse #2ndPeriodExperience and pot two goals in the 2nd. The first a beauty of a tic-tac-toe passing play finished off by Rakell on the powerplay and the later a point shot that somehow made its way though traffic by my home-boy Jaycob Megna.

The Hults goal in the 3rd looked like a filthy pass by Wagner on the jumbotron but yeah – it was down the other end of the ice for me. An aside on that – lowerbowl/near the glass seats seem like kind of a waste of time if you have to watch the other ice action on the jumbotron. Oh yea – Megna got the 2nd assist on that one too. Mah boy!

Matt (not so) Luff (ly) made things interesting after some sustained Kings Reign pressure in the 3rd but Silfverberg got the insurance marker on a goal mouth scramble that again was hard to see from the other end of the ice but apparently resulted in an automatic goal since the net was knocked off.

Post Game Notes – from someone who doesnt get to the Pond that often (again because of that whole 12 hour flight thing):

  • Pettersson played very well – I had my initial doubts about him when I saw him in the streams of the rookie tournament games because he seemed so very thin and lanky for his height. My concern being his frame would not be able to withstand the rigors of the North American game – but after seeing him take punishment after punishment right in front of me; I can confidently say – kid can handle himself.

Pettersson

  • Montour didnt play so good in this game – was hard to put a finger on it; but he seemed to be trying to do too much or perhaps was having to cover for Beauch who was hugely to blame for the first Kings goal.
  • Say what you want about the Kings and their prospect depth but they CLEARLY know what they are doing with goaltenders. Jack ‘Noodle Soup’ Campbell was outstanding for the first half – keeping the Kings not only with the lead but in the game. Cal Peterson was equally as good despite allowing the eventual Ducks barage. He memorably robbed Kase (I think?) on a point black chance after a brilliant setup from Rakell. Recent results speak for themselves – Peter Budaj was a reclamation project that they turned into Ben Bishop.
  • Kevin Bieska was terrible – even worse in person.
  • Ryan Miller was brilliant – made a bunch of savy veteran plays and projected an overall calming presence.
  • Obnoxious Kings fans although apparently an unavoidable annoyance of Ducks v Kings games were surprisingly polite when not loudly moaning minimalist pronouns such as “NOTHING!” whenever the Ducks could not capitalize on their beloved AHL-level goaltenders. Although the one behind me did not seem to know that the rest of his team was in China – I should not have been surprised given his only vocabulary seemed to consist of 1-2 syllable negative adjectives.
  • Despite the rivalry, other aspects of the arena were very congenial – for example nobody complained when fans of either team cut in on haphazard urinal lines in the mens room.
  • If you missed it on the Anaheim Calling Twitter account – some legend wore a ‘Harambe – #69’ Ducks jersey and made it on the Jumbotron. INSTANT HERO.

Sunday 24th – Ducks v Golden Knights game

This was to be a slightly mortifying embarrassment to watch but one that did not leave me massively disappointed because hey – at least I still got to watch my boys play live in person.

The pond was super quiet despite it being a Sunday – I blame the lack of discounted pricing for pre-season action. Seriously, Ducks brass – what gives?

I was rocking my Chiefs (of Slapshot fame) jersey which was also the jersey of my last ice team in Auckland before I moved to Nelson. I got a few comments and even got to have a selfie with ‘Ned’ the super-fan recently seen in all the promo material and hype vids. Super cool dude.

DucksGameChiefs

The Ducks iced a line-up consisting of Getzlaf and Perry with Giovanni Fiore in place of a mysteriously dinged up Patrick Eaves. The kid-line of Max Jones, Sam Steel and protector Scotty Sabourin. Ritchie, Kase and Kossila on another line and finally a sort of hodge-podge energy/shutdown line of Rasmussen, Tropp and Kopacka. On D – Fowler was paired with Welinksi, Montour with Cooper and Larsson with Holzer. I just remembered all of those lines off the top of my head almost week later and full of jetlag so I am kind of stoked with that.

Without beating around the bush the Ducks had plenty of chances in the early going (largely thanks to the ‘Kid line’) but it was Vegas that was able to capitalize. All three Vegas goals were as a result of point shots through traffic. This is an expansion team that realises they need to keep it simple and keep it simple they did. Infuriatingly so. By the third goal I was silently fuming that nobody seemed to have figured out their grand plan of getting it back to the point whilst wreaking havoc in front.

What small glimmer of brilliance that shone amidst a frustratingly close-but-far game of chances for the Ducks was the strong play of Scotty Sabourin. He played well with the kids and when head coach Randy Carlyle recognised this and slapped Rasmussen on with Sab and Jones – he made a nifty soft-hands play to backhand a rebound in. A lot of the post-game comments on Twitter were based on his play in that game alone – he had earned a spot over fellow face-puncher Jared Boll. But apparently that was not meant to be.

The Ducks didn’t do much else and Fiore made it only a tad less humiliating with a last minute score from an impossible angle for a final score of 4-2. The Vegas “Vets” came to play and the Ducks elder statesmen did not.

Post Game Notes:

  • I sat in a different spot this time – the 410 section with a good view of both ends of the ice. Brilliant location – I could see plays develop and never looked at the Jumbotron once except to maybe laugh at the kids on Drum cam.
  • I had valley-boys on one side of me who seemed more interested in talking about types of coffee and fantasy teams than watch the game – whenever they asked who a player was I answered right away but either they didn’t hear or understand me or were just completely ignorant. Either way – made me feel slightly saddened for Duck-fandom.
  • MAF was good and seemed to be thriving – he is going to steal some games this year.
  • Vegas is going to do some willful damage if teams don’t find a way to stop their simplistic overload the o-zone style.
  • Tyler Wong is good, very very good.
  • Montour played much much better in this game – could it be he was not paired with Beauchemin? Too small a sample size to tell but he was all over the place and in a good way.
  • Charging $12.50 (USD) for a beer is criminal and akin to gross human rights abuse.
  • Kevin Bieska did not play but was in costume as “Mitch” the well intention-ed fan with the weird accent. He “won” a signed Kevin Bieska puck during the skate shuffle and proceeded to give it away with quote “Nope: Don’t want it” – Touch’e Kevin.

If you have never made it over to see your favorite team play – you absolutely must at some point in your life.  The in-game experience is something television cannot replicate.

 

NHL18 Review: The Offline Edition

I have bought every annual incarnation of EA Sport’s NHL series since 2010, with the exception of NHL14 as I was overseas and obviously didn’t take my console with me for the year away. So after spending a week with NHL18, here are my thoughts on the newest edition.

But before delving into the different modes and breaking down the gameplay, there’s a few things about this series that I want to get off my chest.

The main one being local servers. I suggested to EA last year that there should be servers to represent those of us that don’t live in North America or Europe. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened and even with ultra-fast broadband and a low ping rate, there is still a slight amount of lag, due to the only servers being on the other side of the world. So modes like EASHL and the online seasons in Hockey Ultimate Team are pointless for New Zealand gamers.

EASHL in particular is a mode I could see myself sinking many hours into if Australia/NZ servers ever become available.

The other big concern is the Be A Pro mode. There is almost nothing new this year so it’s not worth devoting a section of this review to. You can now request a trade with certain criteria, like going to a Stanley Cup contender.  That’s it! This mode has so much potential and desperately needs a refresh. If we could see a cinematic story mode akin to FIFA17 or 2k Sports’ excellent NBA2k series, I would play that mode all the time.

There is no CWHL represented in this game. With EA’s FIFA and NBA Live series both featuring top-tier female athletes in recent years, I was holding hope that this might be a neat little bonus added to NHL18. Maybe next year? I would love to tear up the ice playing as Natalie Spooner!

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GAMEPLAY

At a glance, not much has changed. In fact the casual gamer might think this is exactly the same game. But if you take a closer look, there are subtle changes to be appreciated.

The big thing this year is the all-new creative dekes, designed to encourage the kind of puck wizardry players like cover boy Connor McDavid pull off with ease. Plus the addition of the defence skill stick helps with closing those passing lanes and shutting down attacks on the rush.

All this technical skill could be overwhelming to a new player but the good news is EA have teamed up with Hockey Canada to provide a series of training camps featuring professionally produced coaching videos that will help new and experienced gamers alike learn the basic and advanced moves. From the between-the-skates deke to the Forsberg, the more you practice the better you will become at embarrassing the world’s best goalies with your puck-handling skills.

Graphically the attention to detail is ridiculous. Much like last season, the stadiums look realistic and player movements feel fluid. But what’s new this year is an increased focus on player likeness.

The fact that James van Riemsdyk now has his trademark green mouthguard hanging out of his mouth (rather than doing any good) brings me more joy than it probably should.

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My only real gripe with the gameplay is presentation and commentary. The NBC package featuring Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk is getting stale fast. Their lines are repeated often and I find myself tuning them out to the point where I might as well turn commentary audio off. Doing so wouldn’t make the game sound feel empty however, as the arenas feel very alive with crowds chanting and mascots doing their best to crank up that noise to 11.

I would love to see the NBC presentation ditched in favour of Sportsnet, whom I personally think do it better than anyone else. Hearing the voices of Bob Cole, Jim Hughson (again), and Craig Simpson could bring so much to the game. Better yet, cutting to a virtual studio featuring the likes of Ron MacClean and Elliotte Friedman during intermissions could push the presentation to another level.

HOCKEY ULTIMATE TEAM (HUT)

If you’re unfamiliar with this mode, think of it like fantasy hockey except instead of picking your players at a draft, you accumulate them by collecting hockey cards.

This year there’s an emphasis on the NHL100 to celebrate 100 years of NHL hockey with more legends added to the game frequently. The best way to keep on top of new additions is by following EA’s NHL Twitter.

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HUT is my second favourite mode to play. I never used to understand the appeal because playing online was a core part of it, which wasn’t possible for me, and the offline single player provided little sense of achievement. The introduction of offline seasons in NHL16 changed that.

Because of the server issues, this review will focus on the offline aspects of HUT.

You start off by selecting a rec or superstar league season for your team to compete in. The best part is each season is only 10 games long and typically you need 3-4 wins to come out on top, so promotion to the next division can be easily achieved in one session – typically for me, that’s an hour or so. As you graduate through the divisions, the opposition and difficulty ramps up. This is a good way of developing your virtual hockey game. As you put in the work, you’ll start to really feel like you’ve earned those wins against challenging opponents.

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With each game you collect virtual currency to buy more packs. This is how you grow and develop your team. You’ll likely start off with a mixture of NHL and Canadian major-junior players plus a few Europeans for good measure. So you know this wouldn’t be Don Cherry’s favourite mode to play if he were a gamer. Packs are also crucial for skill boosts and contract extensions for the existing players on your roster.

Microtransactions do creep into this game mode but you can get by without spending extra money, although the urge to get Curtis Joseph or Martin Brodeur in goal for my HUT is very, very tempting.

Ultimately…Hockey Ultimate Team is largely untouched but this year it’s a case of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’. Except of course for those local servers! Please add those EA so New Zealand gamers can unlock the full potential of HUT.

FRANCHISE MODE

It’s the year of the expansion!

You can start off your career as a NHL General Manager by either selecting an existing team, or pick the Vegas Golden Knights and re-do this year’s expansion draft, or create a 32nd team and prepare for expansion into the NHL. When I find the time I’m definitely putting a NZIHL team into the game.

If you choose the expansion route, be prepared to spend the next while going through expansion and entry drafts before you can even think about playing pre-season hockey. Just like real life!

As someone who dreams of being in the front office for a hockey team in some shape or form, this is my favourite mode, and it is also the deepest in terms of what you can do.

Scout the next superstar, negotiate contract extensions, manage the arena’s facilities, sign that crucial free agent to fill a hole, and make a trade at the deadline for a Stanley Cup run; all the while choosing to manage and play as both your NHL and AHL teams or leaving the farm system to the CPU to deal with. It’s enough to make you feel like the next Ray Shero.

NHL THREES

Being the new kid on the block, NHL Threes received a lot of promotion and it definitely got me hyped – EA do a great job of marketing, ok? Just watch the trailer.

This is a heap of fun, especially if you have a few friends over to play couch co-op. Again, the online features are wasted here without those local Australia/NZ servers.

It’s fast-paced and the ‘MoneyPuck’ concept of scoring can really change the course of a game quickly. Some goals could be worth 2-3 points, others will give you points and rob your opponent of theirs. Brutal and so competitive! It could possibly test a few friendships the way Mario Kart’s blue shell does.

But after playing a couple solo rounds, I couldn’t help but think this is better off being a standalone game.

Maybe for 2018, EA can take what it has here and ramp up the arcade fun factor by honouring the legendary Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey – I’m talking goals on fire or goalies turning into literal brick walls. Essentially I want NBA Jam on skates!

EA are halfway there by making the NHL mascots playable plus the inclusion of an energetic, larger-than-life commentator (who reminds me a lot of Cam Green on the mic for West Auckland Admirals home games) is a nice touch.

Release NHL Threes on all the major platforms including the Nintendo Switch for a cheaper price than the marquee game and you might have a hit on your hands.

TL;DR? HERE’S THE VERDICT

Every year I tell myself I won’t buy the next edition, but they always add something that persuades me into buying it anyway.

This year it was the addition of the defence skill stick – such a small thing makes a world of difference on the blue line. But unless EA Sports give the Be A Pro mode a major overhaul, finally establish online servers for players outside of North America/Europe, or put Auston Matthews on the cover, NHL18 will serve my hockey needs well for a couple years.

It plays a very solid game of hockey that can really suck you into the fun of it all. Even with years of playing behind me, I still fist pump the air whenever I score a sweet goal or get a chuckle out of crushing a winger with a well-timed body check. With a variety of game modes available, there’s enough here to keep you coming back for more.

If you bought last year’s game and you’re wondering whether to upgrade or not: I would suggest don’t bother unless having the Vegas Golden Knights in the game is important to you. In reality there isn’t a lot that’s different from NHL17 aside from the minor gameplay tweaks. It’s up to you how much value you put into those adjustments.

8.5/10 – Reviewed on Xbox One

Interview with Jay Baruchel, Director of GOON: Last of the Enforcers

‘GOON: Last of the Enforcers’ is the directorial debut of Jay Baruchel, whom produced, wrote and starred in the original ‘GOON’ film as Pat; the sidekick of charming Halifax Highlanders enforcer Doug ‘The Thug’ Glatt. It’s because of him, Doug wears the number 69.

PUCK YEAH contributor John Broadbent recently had the chance to talk to Jay about the new movie and what it was like working with ex-NHL enforcers onset. Listen to the full interview below.

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If there were to be a third instalment in the franchise, perhaps Philadelphia Flyers star Wayne Simmonds could be a cameo candidate?

Goon: Last of the Enforcers is now available in New Zealand on DVD/BluRay and on the iTunes store.