When the most recent NHL lockout led to the cancellation of the entire 2004–05 hockey season, the popularity of the sport in America -- which was already not that high to begin with when compared to the other three major sports (football, baseball, basketball) -- absolutely plummeted. The sport still hasn’t quite been able to make up the precipitous drop in followers that it suffered as a result of the lockout, which is a damn shame, because it’s so much fun to watch.
Hockey has also typically lent itself very well to videogame adaptations. Salient moments in hockey gaming include the arcade/NES classic Blades of Steel (“BLADES OF STEEL!”), mid-90s EA Sports efforts (NHL 95 for the Genesis is my personal favorite of the bunch), and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey on the N64 (the goalie temporarily turning into a literal brick wall is an unforgettable image). And while hockey sims have always been solid, there hadn’t really been any standout titles in the past two console generations that would be remembered for years, like the aforementioned games from the days of yore.
That was the situation until last year, when EA Sports released NHL 08. The game was widely recognized as one of the finest simulation hockey titles ever created, and it garnered “Sports Game of the Year” awards from seven different gaming publications. Gamers everywhere wondered what EA Canada could do to top that effort in 2008, and the developers answered with NHL 09. Read on to find out if the 18th installment in EA Sports’ venerated hockey series is the best yet.