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NHL2K11 Tour pulls into Hockeytown

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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WESTLAND, Mich. – Summertime in suburban Detroit used to mean playing Little League and hanging out with family and friends for Ryan Kesler.

The Livonia, Michigan, native gave up playing baseball some years ago, but this summer is still a lot of fun for the Vancouver Canucks’ forward.

“I used to play a lot of baseball,” said, Kesler, who was a pitcher and shortstop for his Little League team, the Cubs. “But this is a dream come true. I used to play a lot of Ninetendo ice hockey, “Blades of Steel”. Now I play a lot of “NHL2K10” and “Call to Duty.” ”

Kesler is on the cover of the soon-to-be released “NHL2K11” video game by 2K Sports. He is in Detroit this week as part of a 14-city, North American tour helping to promote the upcoming release of the video game, which is set for Aug. 24.

“They’ve really improved it from last year,” said Kesler, who appeared at the Westland Mall Best Buy on Tuesday with Chicago goalie Marty Turco and Los Angeles defenseman Jack Johnson. “I learned in about 10-minutes all of the moves, but I haven’t mastered them, which is what you want.”

But what’s it really like to be a part of a video game?

“It’s weird. It’s weird to play as yourself,” Kesler said. “It’s weird to hear your name being called in a video game. But at the same time it’s a lot of fun.”

Kesler said that he doesn’t always play as the Canucks; instead, he usually selects “random” on the controller. “I like to see which team comes up,” he said.

Turco, 35, said that he is amazed at how far the graphics have come since the days when he first began playing video games back home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
NHL2K11 Tour Stop

“I feel like I’m dating myself with my involvement with 2K Sports, for a long time seeing how crazy these games have come along,” Turco said. “I remember doing the (motion capture) back in ’04, being a part of the game, seeing the development of it, and now playing these games on the Wii or on the Xbox, it’s just kind of mind-boggling what these creators can do.”

Turco, who signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks this month, doesn’t deny that his hockey skills might be a tad better then in reality.

“The hockey just comes to life on your TV,” he said, “and I know some of the players, for the most part, are better in video games than they are in real life, but don’t tell my teammates that one.

“It’s all about muscle memory and making routine saves that you can do better in the video game than you can do on the ice. … It’s a lot of fun whether you’re playing by yourself or with your bodies and putting players over the boards like Jack Johnson.”

With three highly competitive NHL players together on a video game promotional tour, someone has to claim supremacy on the bus, right?

“I think that all remains to be seen,” Turco said. “I don’t like to get too cocky when it comes to video games, but these guys are a lot younger and I’ve been playing a long time and you have to use your experience and your veteran attitudes some times.”

A relative newcomer to “NHL2K11”, Johnson wasn’t ready to self-proclaim himself as the best either.

“I’m hoping that I get better as the day goes on,” he said. “I have a lot to learn, but usually I’m a quick learner.”

The NHL2K11 bus will still be in suburban Detroit on Wednesday, making stops at Lifetime Fitness in Commerce Township (9-11 a.m. EDT) and the Gamestop in Farmington Hills (1-4 p.m. EDT).

The next stop of the tour is Pittsburgh, Aug. 14-15.
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