A year ago mystery and intrigue surrounded several of the prizes to be handed out at the NHL Awards, but the trickiest to predict may have been Steven Stamkos' selection as the cover athlete for EA SPORTS' NHL 12.
For the next edition in EA's long-running series, there will once again be a wide group of candidates for the honor and the winner will once again be announced at June's NHL Awards show in Las Vegas, but NHL 13 will have an added wrinkle as the fans will make their voices heard through the first ever EA SPORTS NHL Cover Vote. The EA SPORTS NHL Cover Vote Campaign, which is sponsored by BlackBerry, will be hosted on NHL.com. Voting opens Thursday at NHL.com/CoverVote.
"The EA SPORTS NHL Franchise has had a rich tradition of outstanding cover athletes including Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winners, NHL All-Stars and Hall of Fame members," EA SPORTS marketing director David Le said in an official press release Thursday. "With fans selecting the cover athlete for NHL 13 they now control who gets to join that prestigious club."
This is not the first time EA SPORTS has held a fan vote for its cover athlete -- EA's Madden 11 featured a cover vote eventually won by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees while then-Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis won an expanded bracket-style vote for Madden 12 -- but it is the first time EA will do so for its NHL franchise and it will feature a new format unique to the series that mirrors the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
To engage fans around their team loyalties, the initial round of voting, which runs from Thursday until the Stanley Cup playoffs open on April 11, will be a round of 60 players -- two from each NHL team -- in which teammates will be pitted against each other in the voting process. Ultimately the top vote getter from each team, as well as two wild cards to be determined by EA SPORTS will advance to a round of 32 players.
Following the second round, which runs from April 12-22, the top 16 vote-getters will advance to a 16-player single-elimination playoff bracket for the ultimate prize akin to the 16-team bracket that determines which team gets to hoist the Stanley Cup in June. The round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final rounds of voting will take place in stages from April 24-June 4. The eventual champion of the fans' EA SPORTS NHL 13 Cover Vote will be announced during the 2012 NHL Awards on June 20 at the Wynn Las Vegas.
Voting at NHL.com/CoverVote is unlimited and open to all fans around the globe. EA SPORTS has encouraged fans to vote as often as possible. The campaign will also be engaging fans through social media, as fans can support their favorite players on twitter with the hashtag #NHL13Cover. As well, the EA SPORTS NHL Facebook page will provide voters with even more information about the campaign and the voting process.
EA SPORTS NHL 13 is currently in development at EA Canada in Vancouver, B.C. It will be released prior to the 2012-13 NHL regular season.