I vividly remember my first experience with NHL 94, although it was for all the wrong reasons. My mom had dropped me off at my aunt and uncle's as she had to work a night shift and my dad was working late. My cousin -- who shall remain nameless to protect his identity -- had just received EA Sports' NHL 94 for his Sega Genesis and was looking forward to playing against someone other than the CPU. He went on to use the Detroit Red Wings, one of the more skilled team's on the game. After failed attempts at countering with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, he reluctantly obliged my usage of an upstart Winnipeg Jets' team, but there was a catch. I couldn't use any of their stars, save for Teemu Selanne which, in hindsight, was an awful gamble on his part. Since we played without line changes, he was able to construct 5/6's of my line-up.
Suffice to say, my roster was an absolute dumpster fire. Kris King on left wing, Mike Eagles at centre, Dean Kennedy and Mike Lalor at either point and Jim Hrivnak between the pipes. And then there was, of course, Teemu Selanne.
I had yet to play this version of the franchise but after getting a handle for NHLPA 93 the year prior, I was confident in my ability to hang with him. After spotting my cousin a 2-0 lead, it was Teemu Time. Selanne went on to score seven goals and after Kris King completed the surefire cross-crease goal giving me an 8-3 lead, my cousin finally snapped. As his rage boiled over, my cousin reacted like any 9 year old would. He started mercilessly beating the shit out of me. It was one of my greatest video gaming triumphs of all time, outside of schooling him in Bill Walsh's College Football with Bo Jackson. Aside: Never let your opponent use Bo Jackson in any video game ever if you're playing to win.
As he rained blows down upon me, I couldn't help but think this was the best video game I'd ever played. Who knew that some twenty-five years later, this title would still be regarded as the best in its field. Even after all these years, it's still a game that unites friends who -- with a case of beer on the line -- will get together every now and again for tournaments to bragging rights as master of their NHL '94 domain.
With the celebratory 25th anniversary of NHL '94 being part of NHL 14 on both PS3 and XBOX 360 platforms, we wanted to take a look at how the 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets would stack up against their 1993-94 counterpart.
Here is how I best project their player ratings:
NHL '94 Winnipeg Jets overall rating: 66
Home Arena: MTS Centre
Home Ice Advantage: High
Road Ice Advantage: Low
Power Play: Weak
Penalty Kill: Insignificant
Rookies the likes of Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele wouldn't be rostered in the '94 version of the game, so knowing that it was difficult to give them high ratings. They wouldn't be Shawn Chambers in NHLPA 93 bad, but they have yet to define themselves at the professional level so they would be middle of the road players. Of note, how awesome were the player ratings in '94? They were brutally honest and gave a better definition of a players true traits. Fourth-liners were ranked as they should be, no sugarcoated 75+ ratings. If you're a grinder, it's cool; you'll hit really hard but unless you're king off the cross-crease, you aren't scoring 15 goals in a playoff tournament.
Winnipeg currently possesses a glut of very good, serviceable talent, but no one that deserves a 90+ rating. Without players like Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin or Stamkos, the Jets leave their human user feeling nonplussed about their selection but still have the depth to contend, especially if you're able to harness the 96 shot power of Dustin Byfuglien.
As the game has evolved since its inception with NHLPA '93, many hardcore hocking gaming fans are in agreement: NHL '94 was the best the franchise has ever produced. And I'll always be the guy that remembers it for the absolute beating he took while playing it.