A scene from EA Sports’ “NHL 19” video game. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, EA Sports)

Outdoor hockey grows in latest version of NHL video game

The slogan for NHL 19 is, “From the pond to the pros”

While the NHL turns its attentions to the outdoor Winter Classic, video gamers have been playing outdoors for some time.

In fact the “NHL 19” slogan is “From the pond to the pros.”

“We’re inspired by a number of things: Growing up on the pond, learning how to skate, learning how to play hockey outdoors,” said William Ho, creative director for the made-in-Vancouver EA Sports game.

“NHL 19,” in addition to standard modes involving NHL teams, offers several ways to play shinny outdoors including “Ones,” an online pond hockey tournament that features three skaters taking on each other and a computer-controlled goalkeeper.

“We’ve taken a mode that is actually no rules, half-rink, one versus one versus one against a single goalie,” said Ho. “Very very casual, very easy to learn. But then, through competition, we’ve made it into this daily tournament that’s actually quite challenging.”

READ MORE: Bobby Orr shares life in and out of hockey in new book

As you win matches, you move up the rankings and play in more elaborate venues. A champion is crowned daily depending on results.

Game developers initially designed it as a way for novice NHL gamers to go online and practise. But beta play showed it could also be a highly competitive experience for veterans of the game.

EA introduced NHL Threes in “NHL 18,” a 3-on-3 arcade-like mode that promised “bigger hits, faster action and more open-ice to create big plays, beautiful dangles and more goals.”

For EA Sports, such modes are a chance to offer players a framework within which they can develop and show off individual skills.

Ones and Threes game are part of “The World of CHEL” — (CHEL is a play on the pronunciation of NHL). It includes the EA Sports Hockey League (team online play) and a Pro-Am mode that helps players learn skills particular to a position (like faceoffs) through challenges.

You can personalize your player from gear and size to skills. You may opt for a booming slapshot, but know that power comes at the expense of accuracy.

“Choices matter here,” said Ho.

The game allows you to save multiple profiles for use in different modes. As you improve in the game, you earn rewards to develop your player.

“This is away from the NHL realm where we have to stick to standard NHL: team colours and team logos and venues. This is really about your fantasy of hockey,” said Ho.

“NHL 19” also features more than 200 legends like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Clarke, Bernie (Boom-Boom) Geoffrion and Jacques Plante in various modes.

The Canadian Press

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