Writing the NHL 24 piece stirred some nostalgia as soon as I hit publish. So why not go down memory lane a bit with a Blackhawks Back in the Day that focuses on hockey games of yesteryear.
We’ll start with the game that called me at Showbiz Pizza (now Chuck E Cheese) like the sirens did for Odysseus’s crew: Chexx Bubble Hockey.
Bubble Hockey With The National Anthem
Any kid who grew up a hockey fan in America during the 80’s could tell you about the Miracle on Ice. Well, when you put it in a Bubble Hockey game and then kick it off with the National Anthem, how could you not spend an endless amount of tokens on the game. I’ll get to the second game in a moment, but between the crowd noise piped in and the scoreboard that lit up, I was absolutely going to be Mike Eruzione burying one on Vladislav Tretiak (future Blackhawks goalie coach when I was playing the game. Also I know he scored the winner on Vladimir Mishkin in real life–it’s just that Tretiak was a god among goalies). At one particular outing, my uncle and I argued over who had to be the USSR. My aunt solved it–she took the US and we were both relegated to the other side.
It didn’t matter. Before hockey in a bubble had a completely different meaning, it was the coolest thing to a young, wide-eyed hockey fan.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings Showed Up In My Easter Basket
Santa Claus delivered the Coleco Stanley Cup Hockey table top game, complete with a replica Stanley Cup. Only issue? It came with the standard fitting of the Flyers and Islanders. The Easter Bunny would be called upon to deliver a few months later.
Waiting in the Easter basket were the Red Wings and Blackhawks, sending the Flyers and Islanders off to the bench. The latter would only fill in if someone cracked off the metal peg, due to some violent checks or attempts to curve the stick, something that would have made Bobby Hull proud.
The neat little thing about that one? The scoreboard, which looked like one in NHL arenas, allowed for the puck to be slipped through a slot, dropping it to center ice for a faceoff. It wasn’t exactly the Chexx Bubble Hockey but that replica Stanley Cup nearly pulled it even.
The Game That Taught Me Strategy Thanks to My Uncle
When we would return to Michigan for summers and sometimes the winter, my grandmother’s attic was full of retro games my uncle played in the 60’s and 70’s. He casually brought one down as we watched Hockey Night in Canada one frigid December night. The game? All-Pro Hockey. This one didn’t have a game under a bubble or with plastic players, but was a checkered game board with dice and round plastic markers for players. Though the dice brought the random aspect in, there was strategy involved of spacing out players properly and sending the puck to the right spots on the ice.
It was my uncle who replicated a power play on TV with the spacing, demonstrating why it was so important to get separation from the penalty killers. I would watch as he would creep his defenseman in and then with a roll of a four or higher, bury one in the net. It was simplistic, and actually one of the few times he sat down to play the game with me.
But it was a moment that helped foster my love of the game.
Blades of Steel Punished The Loser of the Fight
The teams in Konami’s Blades of Steel were the previous season’s playoff teams. I learned that later in life.
I grew up more with the NES Ice Hockey game. My lineup? Two skinny guys, the big guy anchoring the blue line, and the medium guy taking the draw.
Blades of Steel was a whole different ball of wax–a little bit of skating and a whole lot more challenge. Three different skill levels and a tournament made it life like. The best part? The close up rock’em-sock’em scene of an all out donnybrook when you ended up dropping the gloves. Losing the fight meant skating off to the penalty box while the victor could rejoin his teammates.
It was a great game. It would keep the hockey fever at bay until a Sega Genesis arrived on Christmas Day of 1993.
The Christmas hockey cycle–which resulted in the first game of the EA Sports NHL series–had come full circle.