How did Ilya Bryzgalov end up in Overwatch?

Puck Daddy

You’re playing “Overwatch,” as one of over 30 million users that are obsessed with the delirious multiplayer shooter from Blizzard Entertainment.

You’re using Zarya, the pink-coiffed Russian bodybuilder wielding a 100-round clip particle cannon at her foes.

Suddenly, she speaks. The words are familiar. Hilariously so.

“It’s only a game … why do you heff to be mad?”

These are, of course, the words of former NHL goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, back when he was playing for the Anaheim Ducks in 2006. In a high-pitched postgame interview concerning teammate Chris Pronger and his return to Edmonton, Bryzgalov entered Internet meme history with his lament about taking hockey too seriously:

(Bryzgalov would later give the world other memes, including his now-classic observation that the universe is “humangous beeg.”)

This immortal line was discovered in Overwatch’s “Summer Games” event as an add-on voice line for Zarya. According to Yahoo’s Digital trends: “To help drum up excitement for the 2016 Summer Olympics last year, Blizzard introduced a special Summer Games event to Overwatch. The limited-time event allowed players to win exclusive cosmetic items and play a special soccer game that the developers called Lucioball.”

The Bryzgalov tribute was publicized by Dorkly editor Tristan Cooper:

Zarya has a new voiceline that seems familiar pic.twitter.com/UNObeLZbZl

— Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) August 8, 2017


This brought hockey fans much joy, whether or not they ever played even a second of Overwatch. And it wasn’t the first hockey reference in the game either, as a character named Lucio had hockey-themed skins users could choose. (Despite being from Brazil, where ice is mostly found in Caipirinhas.)

So that got us thinking:

Who is the puckhead, or are the puckheads, behind immortalizing Ilya Bryzgalov’s catchphrase and sneaking in other hockey Easter eggs into Overwatch?

“The Overwatch team is filled with giant hockey fans. During the season (and after), it’s an almost daily conversation topic,” Michael Chu, lead writer of Overwatch, told Yahoo Sports.

“I got into hockey when I was 10 years old and the Mighty Ducks movie and team appeared in my backyard,” he said, while lamenting the fact that the Ducks moved away from their classic Disney-inspired logo.

Chu was a roller hockey kid who idolized Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya, before becoming a Ducks season-ticket holder a decade ago. As he said, he’s not alone on the Blizzard development team when it comes to hockey fans.

“Jeff Kaplan, our game director, is a diehard Kings fan. I lorded the Ducks’ Cup over him while I could, but that was short-lived. Lead animator Ryan Denniston lead animator is a big Chicago fan, but I saw him wear a Ducks hat to the playoffs last season. Then for many years I sat next to long-suffering Canucks fan and senior UI artist Randal Dumoret, my best source for hockey news and someone I could complain daily about how much Ducks fans fail to appreciate Andrew Cogliano. Randal lives up in Edmonton now, where it’s minus-32 in November, according to meteorologist Ilya Bryzgalov.”

Which brings us to Bryzgalov’s classic quote.

“It’s definitely my fault,” said Chu.

“Historically, the Ducks have had amazing goalies but none like Bryz. On top of being brilliant, he was continuously entertaining and a source for great quotes. The solar system? Humongous big. Problems of the world? Just be happy. What he’s afraid of? Bear in the forest. Ever since we added the hero Zarya, a Russian world champion weightlifter, into the game, I knew I had to get that quote into the game. Our annual sports-themed Summer Games event gave me the opportunity. I didn’t think twice.”

Like many additions to these games, the idea was first submitted by fans.

“It’s funny because the community has actually been demanding that voice line for a long time,” said Chu. “I knew that the Summer Games would be the perfect opportunity, so we’ve all had to wait for a while.”

When it comes to Easter eggs, Chu said this one was obscure in content but rather obvious in placement. “I tend to like hiding some pretty obscure references in the game, and I get equal parts enjoyment when people don’t discover them as when they do,” he said.

That included a hockey reference in a comic he wrote last December called “Reflections,” that looked at the lives of the Overwatch players away from the battlefield. (Overwatch takes place on a future Earth, years after a violent robot uprising.) “It featured one panel with Pharah (another of our heroes) and her father having dinner at a restaurant in Canada. I made sure that one of the television screens was showing a hockey game… I’m thinking it was probably the world juniors?” recalled Chu. “So for anyone who’s wondering how Canada is doing in the future: Don’t worry, they’re still playing hockey.”

Chu said Bryzgalov has yet to reach out with a reaction to this digital honor. “I’d like to imagine what he’d say about showing up in Overwatch” he said, “but I imagine he’d come up with something better.”

We imagine it would be something about it being “only a game.”

(It’s just speculation. Why you heff to be mad?)

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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