The Magic of NHL 94, and Brad May2
I never would have dreamed of this in 1994.
In that year, I was an underclassman with an undeclared major at Buffalo State College, doing my best to get by and work towards what would eventually turn into an English degree. In short, I
read scanned through a lot of Shakespeare, and played a lot of NHL 94.
My room at Neumann Hall was always mobbed with people – it’s a miracle I made it to any classes. This particular version of the Electronic Arts video game was a magical thing. It was so good, that it reached out to everyone, hockey fan or not. Most of my college friends are now living out of state, and likely couldn’t name more than one or two Sabres on the current roster. Ask them about the name Dave Hannan, though, and they’ll be able to tell you how many times I burned them with him with a slick shot using the pass button.
Actually, if you played NHL 94 with me in college, then there’s a very good chance we’re still in touch. Interesting.
Anyway, I was feeling a little nostalgic yesterday, so I hopped online and played a game on one of the many websites that now host the aged software for free.
It was hilarious fun, but it brought to me one thing that I could never have seen coming. But, more on that later.
It was the Sabres versus the Flyers (opponent chosen with by a random blind scroll, of course), but the real challenge was remembering all the tricks to the game. Mastery of “the move” apparently never left me (the old deke towards the goalie before pulling to the side and shooting for the sure score). Apparently I must have done that so many times that it’s imprinted in my brain forever.
Figuring out how I used to score so many goals using the pass button was the real trick. That always produced the highlight reel stuff.
Win a faceoff? The crowd goes wild. Lose a faceoff? A chorus of boos that sounds like a bunch of braying dogs mocks you.
Oh, and how about that old “crowd meter?” Why is this not in the current versions of this game? (For the record, I hit 95 decibels against the Flyers in this game.)
I could hear every one of my old buddies making remarks in the back of my head as I moved those wonderful imperfectly pixellated hockey heroes up and down the ice.
And they were heroes. In ’94, this was one of the only ways to be in touch with your team. The internet was a fledgling thing, and TV’s were pretty darned expensive. Heck, not even everyone had cable, let alone a TV. (I was lucky enough to score a 300 pound behemoth black and white TV from my uncle, and that’s the screen we all crowded around in the Neumann Hall dorm for our goodtimes.) Besides TV, radio, and trading cards, NHL 94 was the only way to stay intimately connected with your team. It probably generated thousands of fans, or more, for the NHL.
Like I said, it was magic stuff. And that was the buzz I was getting while I was rocking the Aud with the likes of:
Disgusted that Brad May was on the bench, I made the necessary adjustments to get him in the lineup (sorry, Colin Patterson). That coaching decision paid off – twice, to be exact.
I was so thrilled with the overall experience and memories that this game brought back to me that I made that announcement on Twitter. But the experience didn’t end there. Like I said, NHL 94 touched a lot of people, so in came this reply:
Yes, that’s the real Brad May. As I said at the beginning of this post, I never would have dreamed of this in 1994. Hockey players seemed so far away from our lives back then. Fans existed in a naive, albeit magical non-internet world of black and white TV’s, trading cards, and of course NHL 94.
Experiencing the game again brought a lot back to me, but frankly, missing all my buddies from the dorm and missing all the players from that roster took most of that magic buzz away. Until, that is, the Brad May tweet brought it back.
Long live NHL 94.
Oh, and if you’re reading this Dave Hannan and Wayne Presley, feel free to drop me a note in the comments section below.
next post: The Obligatory Chris Drury Post