-- A childhood dream has come to fruition for Ryan Kesler
The Vancouver Canucks
center, who had a career-high 75 points last season, is gracing the cover of NHL 2K11, which is available now for the Nintendo Wii. Kesler and New Jersey Devils
center Travis Zajac
were at Chelsea Piers on Wednesday afternoon to demo the product with anyone who was willing to take on the current NHL stars.
Kesler, 26, joins Columbus Blue Jackets
captain Rick Nash
and Washington Capitals
captain Alex Ovechkin
as cover boys for the 2K Sports product. An avid video-game competitor, Kesler is beyond thrilled about being selected.
"It's awesome … it's a dream come true for me," said Kesler, who is entering his sixth NHL season. "I've always wanted to be on the cover of a video game, and to be on the cover of NHL 2K11, it's an unreal feeling. I grew up on 'Ice Hockey' on Nintendo and 'Blades Of Steel.' It's pretty cool to be on the cover."
Although it's the third year 2K Sports has released a hockey game, NHL 2K11 marks the first time that it's available exclusively on the Wii. The improved Wii MotionPlus control brings revolutionary puck skills to the Wii Remote with the ability to execute real-time dekes, puck juggling, shooting and defensive maneuvers.
"We just felt it was the best place for this game," said Chris Snyder, the director of marketing for 2K Sports. "We took some time off from (Xbox) 360 and PS3. We wanted to focus all our efforts on the Wii game. We've got high hopes for it.
"We wanted it to play like an actual hockey game. We went in and reworked it and made sure that the defense is playing properly and laying down sticks in passing lines. We felt like we really needed to focus on the Wii motion controls and we also made it look a lot better. We also added a new 'Road To The Cup' mode. It's a fun, multi-player game."
Zajac, 25, is a proud owner of a Wii and is anxious to play the 2010-11 season as the Devils with hopes of winning a Stanley Cup. He admitted to NHL.com how surreal it is to turn on a video game and have the opportunity to play as himself.
"It's a pretty weird experience," Zajac said. "Growing up, I played hockey on Nintendo all the time. 'Blades Of Steel' was awesome. I got myself a Wii last year and got back into it. It's been a lot of fun."
Kesler and Zajac took turns playing some stiff competition Wednesday, and afterwards shook hands, signed autographs and took pictures with the opposition. Come next week, though, they'll be at training camp with dreams of winning the Stanley Cup for real.
"I just want to improve on what I did last year and just continue with the success I had last year," said Kesler, who won a silver medal for the United States at the Olympics before he and the Canucks fell to the Chicago Blackhawks
in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "Hopefully we can go further in the playoffs."
It would cap a special time in Kesler's life. The folks at 2K Sports certainly know what they have in the former first-round draft pick (No. 23 in 2003).
"That was an easy choice for us, because we've been working with Ryan for years," Snyder said of putting Kesler on the cover. "He's very involved in video games. It's one of his passions besides hockey. We felt like Ryan definitely had a breakout year last year, especially his efforts in the Olympics. But we wanted somebody who was truly vested in the product, and that's Ryan for sure."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL