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It's In the Game

by Colleen Hamilton / Carolina Hurricanes

Ryan Murphy and Victor Rask kicked off The Puck Stops Here Video Game Challenge with a friendly game of NHL 16.

“We’re pretty big gamers,” Murphy said. “That was our first time playing NHL 16, so it was cool.”

Murphy took a 4-0 lead over Rask in the second period. Rask battled back but ultimately fell 5-3 after Murphy made a controversial play during Rask’s penalty shot attempt at the end of the game.

"There’s a penalty shot and all of the sudden the pause screen comes up," explained Mike Maniscalco, host of the event and 620 The Buzz's The Morning Show. "It’s a well-respected, universal thing in the video game and hockey community, you don’t interrupt a penalty shot. You don’t do that."

The Puck Stops Here

The Puck Stops Here Hockey Video Game Challenge, hosted at PNC Arena by 99.9 FM The Fan, got underway as Murphy and Rask wrapped up their game.

Fans called into 99.9 The Fan to win one of the 32 available spots in the tournament, which featured two brackets: 16 participants competing in cult fan-favorite NHL 94 and the other half playing the newly-released NHL 16. The top three overall winners from each bracket won Carolina Hurricanes season tickets, with the first-place finishers also winning a customized Hurricanes jersey.

“When you do you contests and giveaways, especially on radio stations, it’s usually something like trivia questions or caller number nine,” Maniscalco said. “We’re a sports station and everyone likes to go back to that nostalgia of playing a game like NHL 94, so that made sense. And, when you can debut a new video game for guys who’ve never played them before, that ties in too. So it was a good tie in for us and a good tie in for the Canes.”

NHL 16 was released on September 15, and this year’s installment from EA Sports includes the addition of PNC Arena and Stormy. As enthusiastic as fans were to play NHL 16, they were also excited about traveling back in time and playing NHL 94 on a Sega Genesis.

“I’m transported back to my friend’s basement immediately, with the rivalry and the trash talk,” Maniscalco said. “A lot of the guys (in the tournament) wanted to play NHL 94 because they were pretty excited to get a chance to play that again. It’s exciting and it takes me right back to my youth.”

Everything from the Sega Genesis controllers to the old-school graphics sparked those types of memories for contestants. Norvell Holmes, one of the 16 participants in the NHL 94 bracket, was brought back to his college days.

“I’ve been playing the NHL games since I was in college, starting in ’91,” Holmes said. “Me and my roommates used to play, and I used to beat all of them.”

Holmes had been anticipating the video game challenge for weeks after he called into The Morning Show and won a spot in tournament.

“I called in and won on the question, ‘Who won the Stanley Cup in 1994?’ The New York Rangers,” Holmes said. “I’ve been practicing on my phone. I have a emulator so I’ve been practicing for the last couple of weeks.”

His strategy, other than practicing on his phone, was sticking with the Montreal Canadiens throughout the tournament.

“I found that Montreal worked best for the way I played,” Holmes said. “Plus they’ve got the best goaltender, Patrick Roy.”

That strategy paid off as he redeemed himself from his 15-3 loss in the semifinals and finished in third place of the NHL 94 bracket, winning Hurricanes season tickets.

“I can’t believe I won these tickets,” Holmes said. “I am stunned because I never win anything, never. Wow.”

Canes Connection

Eddie Lack played a unique role in the making of NHL 16 by helping capture different goalie movements for the game.

According to EA Sports, they were able to capture the precise movements of goaltenders, which provides the user with a more authentic experience.

“It was a cool, fun day,” Lack said. “We were there for three hours on the ice, just recording different stuff like shootouts and celebrations, stuff like that. It was a fun day.”

Lack also attended the launch party for NHL 16 and was able to play before the game was released to the public.

“This year’s is unbelievable. I love the game so far,” he said. “They added a lot of fun and cool stuff.”

Lack is not the only video game fan in the Canes locker room, and the release of NHL 16 sparked some friendly competition between the guys. The hot topic of conversation around the room was the new player ratings in NHL 16.

Jeff Skinner jokingly guessed that he had a rating of 99 (it's actually an 86), and said he’ll have to work a little harder to get a higher rating in NHL 17.

Ryan Murphy, rated at 79, came up with a different approach to getting a higher mark in next year’s game.

“I thought my guy looked a little slow. I think I’m a little faster than that, and I didn’t get enough minutes, that’s for sure,” Murphy joked. “I’ll have to send some tweets at EA Sports, maybe bribe them a little bit, but hopefully next season it’s a bit higher of a rating.”

Colleen Hamilton
COLLEEN HAMILTON is the Marketing Coordinator for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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