As Rick Nash was sitting high above the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in the XM Radio booth conducting interviews with various news outlets, I was down on the store's floor, watching the video gamers in action, their hands on the controllers, trying to figure out their moves.
As Nash munched on a Starbucks sandwich, I remained hungry and a little jealous, scouting and roaming between the three Nintendo Wii consoles set up for the ongoing NHL 2K9 tournament Monday evening in midtown Manhattan.
With a full stomach, Nash lumbered down the steps and strolled through a throng of fans. He appeared very cool and very calm. I, on the other hand, was a tad nervous and quite anonymous in a crowd that only was interested in Nash.
What, nobody wanted my autograph? Nobody recognized me?
With my NHL.com pride somewhat hurt, I could feel my heart pounding. I had a sweaty brow. Hey, it's not every day you get to go 1-on-1 in a hockey game with the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a former Rocket Richard Trophy winner.
Nash, though, seemed comfortable, as if he had nothing to worry about.
He's a smart guy.
Nash and I went head-to-head on NHL 2K9, which was sold for the first time anywhere at the NHL Store Monday. He, of course, took the Blue Jackets. Since I didn't believe him when he told me he only played the game once, I took the Red Wings.
I figured with Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom on the ice, I could handle Nash and his squad.
I was wrong.
Not that he toyed with me as he would have had we been on actual ice, but Nash schooled me pretty good. The score was only 1-0, a goal by the virtual Rick Nash coming barely 3 minutes into the game. The score, though, was hardly indicative.
I didn't even register a shot on goal.
Let me say that again -- I didn't even register a shot on goal.
It burns me every time I say it, even think it. Throughout my train ride home I couldn't shake it. Now I know how a player feels when his team gets thoroughly beaten. It's not fun. It shatters your confidence. It shakes you to your very core.
Of course, seeing that I have decided to play the part of the poor loser, I am hereby placing all the blame for the loss on the virtual Chris Osgood. Had he not allowed Nash's slapper from the blue line to go through his five-hole, we may still be playing.
In all honestly, neither myself nor Nash were any good at the game. It's incredibly fun, but really hard if you don't know what buttons to push. It probably would have been easier if I had read the instructions beforehand, but I didn't want an unfair advantage.
Then again, Nash did play a role in the production of the game and he's the coverboy for the game, so, really, who was at an unfair advantage?
Anyway, Nash fired four shots on goal in the game. The faceoffs were 5-4 in his favor and we were even in body checks. All in all, it wasn't a complete blowout, except for the fact that I DIDN'T REGISTER A SHOT ON GOAL!
Right before the game I thought the momentum had swung to my side. A group of autograph-seeking kids came up to Nash as our game was loading. He kindly told them to watch the game and afterward he would sign anything they wanted.
Me, laughing, quipped to Nash, "Great, you're flustered now."
Nash responds, "Was that part of your plan?"
It wasn't, but I needed an edge and I thought I got one.
It took Nash barely any time to stake the Jackets to the lead. He skated his virtual self down the center of the ice, made one deke to the left and from the blue line fired a shot that beat Osgood.
Somebody get Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard on the phone, please.
I was still trying to figure out how to work the controllers by the time Nash's arms were raised over his head. Mind you, I own a Wii, but I have never played a hockey game on it. I bought it in March and have been waiting for NHL 2K9 to come out.
At one point I actually asked Nash how to get a speed burst. He tried to tell me, but I was too focused to hear him, not that I would have believed him. He knows how to get an edge.
At one point in the second period an onlooker screamed out, "Hey, Rick, how ya feeling?"
'This is great,' I thought. 'Maybe this guy will get in Rick's head.'
Nash, as calm as ever, replied (and this is verbatim), "I'm just playing it cool. I'm not used to the Jackets playing with the lead on the Wings."
At one point, when Michael Peca took a roughing penalty, Nash complained about the call. I shut him up quickly when my guy (can't remember who it was) laid the virtual Nash out near the corner boards.
It was a great check, but I couldn't crack him. Even with two power-play opportunities, including one in the final 2 minutes of the game, I couldn't get a shot on goal. Sure, Hossa rang a hard slapper off the post, but that was as close as I came.
"I'm 1-0," Nash said, arms raised. "Now let's keep the undefeated streak alive."
Twenty minutes later, Nash was taken down, 3-1, by New York City resident Jeff Bogen, who won the 32-player tournament, earning the right to challenge Nash in the final game of the night.
Bogen used the Red Wings as well, but clearly he's better at the game than me.
Not for long, I hope.
After shaking hands and thanking him for the game and for being a good sport, I told Nash that I purchased my own copy of NHL 2K9 and I plan to get better. He doesn't come to New York with the Jackets this year, but he agreed to a rematch.
As for the date and time, my people will get in touch with his people, but one thing is for certain:
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.