It’s Game On for New NHL Season
HELSINKI – Videogames are a global force. The NHL kicked off its 2010-11 season with a trio of NHL Premiere Series regular season match-ups throughout Europe. The 2006 Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes took on the Minnesota Wild at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki Finland for a pair of games. EA Sports promoted its latest NHL 11 game throughout the event. The Canes ended up sweeping the two-game series on October 7 and 8, defeating the Wild 4-3 the first night and then winning in an overtime shootout 2-1 the second night.
“This trip is something that you remember for the rest of your life, and it’s the first time for our organization, and probably the last, so it’s been fun and we’ve been enjoying it,” said Hurricanes Captain Eric Staal, who was on the cover of EA Sports NHL 08.
“It’s good to get over here and get a start on the season as a team and be able to bond together and get to know all of the guys,” said Hurricanes winger Chad LaRose. “Some are new faces, so it’s good to get the start over here and have no distractions.
The games, which were televised throughout Europe and available online in the U.S. via NHL.com, featured EA Sports’ NHL 11 game prominently on the side board. Carolina’s bench was adorned with one of the ads. In addition, everyone in attendance received a cardboard NHL 11 hockey helmet at their seat. A large majority of fans wore these helmets throughout the games, as well as on the journey home via train or trolley.
Attendees also had the opportunity to play NHL 11 on Xbox 360 consoles inside the arena. There were six kiosks set up for two-player matches throughout both games. EA Sports also had standees featuring NHL 11 cover athlete Jonathan Toews. Toews and his 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks opened last season in Helsinki.
EA Sports also gave a pair of fans the chance to play a game on the JumboTron inside the arena each night during the second intermission. The young fans were so engrossed with the game that they didn’t even react when they were given a bag filled with games and prizes.
Staal, who has worked with EA Sports both before and after his cover athlete role, believes that the NHL videogame franchise plays a big role in growing the sport internationally.
“I think kids nowadays grow up playing videogames and are online playing videogames,” said Staal. “It’s not like it’s just playing your neighbor; you’re playing against somebody maybe in Finland or Sweden, or anywhere across the world. I think videogames are going to help grow this sport. The games have grown and gotten better every year, so that’s a good thing, as well.”
The integration of videogames throughout the arena and throughout the city of Helsinki (EA Sports had SKATE 3 Xbox 360 kiosks at the Scandic Hotel chain), showed how global gaming is today and how ingrained hockey videogames are with fans.
“I think everyone around the world gets a chance to get those videogames and they get to see the players and the style they play because the games are so in tune to what the person is like, and they’re so virtual that it makes it interesting and exciting,” said LaRose.