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HW Video Game Week: NHL '94 (WCHA Mod)

For the conclusion of HW Video Game Week, we find out what happened when NHL '94 could be played with the Golden Gophers, UMD Bulldogs, and North Dakota North Dakotans.

Can you imagine 0.6 seconds happening... in NHL '94? Nate Wells can.
Can you imagine 0.6 seconds happening... in NHL '94? Nate Wells can.

Nathan Wells is a friend of Hockey Wilderness. You can check him out on Twitter @GopherState, and read his college hockey coverage on SBN College Hockey.

Right off the top, I have to confess: I’ve never played an NHL video game as the Minnesota Wild.

That’s not due to any malice or hatred of the "State of Video Game Hockey." The thought of being a bad virtual fan didn’t cross my mind until sitting down and writing.

I haven’t played much of the NHL series because, outside of all those times hunting and moving halfway across the country to the promised land of Oregon Territory as a young child, video games, in general have been someone else’s story. Other people played them. I read books or played sports.

There are exceptions. My parents let me play educational games. Friends’ houses, LAN parties – for a couple years my family owned a Sega Game Gear before we realized how fast it drained batteries. (Nothing has gone through six Double A batteries faster to this day.) Those five hours of Sonic 2 every three months where my sisters and I fought to just see the second level before the console ran out of juice brought us together; a brief détente from sibling squabbles.

The closest I have been to playing an NHL game over and over was a few weeks borrowing a friend’s computer copy of NHL ’98 and then mastered having Colorado’s Sandis Olzolinsh scoring a slap shot off the face-off 4 out of 5 times. He was the unlikely 1 & 0s version of Bobby Orr thanks to a cheap glitch.

Unfortunately, there were no glitches or patches that let me play as a Minnesota team. The North Stars were gone, about to win a Stanley Cup for Dallas, and the Wild existed only on paper. Over the years, that has held up short of a couple times playing one on one against the Wild.

It seems ridiculous to be writing a post about hockey video games without doing so. This is the HW Video Game Fortnight, after all.  Everybody has had a great story about a hockey game that they can remember to details. I’m the poor schlub that a station which doesn’t care too much for hockey brings out to try to discuss what’s really going on. I can see it now, someone asking, "Is it true Nate that you once saw a goal disallowed for having a foot in the crease?"

Still, this story has a local flavor. I’ve never played an NHL game as the Wild, but I did once play NHL ’94 as the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

College hockey, unlike several professional and major junior leagues, has never appeared as part of the NHL series for many reasons. (And it probably won’t anytime soon with the ongoing debate over college athletics.) Although college hockey hasn’t had a video game, it remains something people want. That hasn’t stopped petitions to EA Sports. Being able to select a team wearing the crest of whatever college suits your fancy, to be a part of the action and pretend to win an NCAA Title is something that comes up from time to time.

I’ve had my share of discussions about this with friends and fans alike.

Six or seven years ago someone (I don’t remember who) took matters into his or her own hands and made college hockey mods of NHL 94 that were posted on a college hockey message board. One featured Hockey East and WCHA. The other conferences were represented on different mods, two at a time – there are only 26 teams in NHL 94.  My best friend, who was also my college roommate at the time, and I downloaded the mod, put it up on our television and let it rip.

Holy hell was it fun.

Even non-gamers like your author knew about the lore of NHL ’94 so it had to be fantastic. There are no rules or penalties or whatnot – it’s basically throwing out the calls that WCHA referees get yelled for calling. Seeing maroon and gold jerseys with player numbers matching up was a sight on its own. Being able to control them, to play as (what was then my) school was the realization of a dream even if no one remembers the identity of the opposition. It was as if I finally saw the missing reel of a movie. We spent most of the evening playing.

Unfortunately, playing the game was a one-time deal. A couple weeks later someone broke into our place and took the Xbox that had the modified College Hockey ’94.

It’s too bad. While the bug to play more NHL games hasn’t bit, the one time I was able to pretend to lead collegians lingers. For once, I had my story. The video game itself didn’t matter. Like those times trying to work together with my siblings on the nearly-impossible Sonic 2, the end result wasn’t as exciting as downloading and sharing a memory with a friend.

Or maybe that’s what people who have no video game success say. As far as playing the game goes? I got killed. Virtual Minnesota would have hired a new coach after I failed to score a goal.