Rumblings that EA Sports NHL 11 will include all 60 Canadian Hockey League teams when it drops this summer is on the money.
Major junior players, having heard a CBC report Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams were asked to send photos of their uniforms and arenas to EA, are champing at the bit to play as themselves.
"It’s a neat thing, I'm pretty excited,” said Tri-City Americans scoring leader Brendan Shinnimin, who is a big fan of NHL 10. “I’m interested to see how it's done."
Shinnimin added he would also be interested in trying his hand at the Be A GM Mode as general manager of his own virtual Tri-City squad.
"That would be sweet to manage the Americans,” the forward told Yahoo! Sports Canada. “I’d know all the players so it would be kinda cool."
Ottawa 67’s sniper Cody Lindsay says he’s more likely to play as one of his teammates.
“I’ll just try playing as one of my (OHL) buddies and have them play me and see what happens,” the forward told Yahoo! Sports' Sunaya Sapurji.
Lindsay adds that should there be a GM mode for CHL teams, he would try to build a 67's super-team.
"I'd try to trade for all my friends and just stack up the team with all my buddies and have fun."
EA has not commented, but Lindsay notes online play would be a big hit among both OHLers and fans.
"It would as competitive online as it would be on the ice,” said the London, Ont. native. "It would be a pretty big hit for people who watch the OHL."
Canadian sports leagues such as the CHL and CFL haven't made inroads into the gaming sphere. It's been a huge moneymaker in the U.S. for the National Collegiate Athletic Association licenses football and basketball games which are a very popular alternative to the Madden and NBA Live franchises. There is clearly an interest in playing using teams from outside the top-tier pro league.
As Shinnimin touched upon, it's too early to know what form it would take. A big unanswered question is whether "the real-life rosters of all teams will be used."
The use of NCAA athletes' likenesses, along with those of retired NFL players in the Madden franchise, have sparked court cases. (Retired NFLers won a $28.1-million class-action suit against the NFL Players' Association in 2009.) Sam Keller, a former NCAA quarterback, also filed a lawsuit (subsequently folded into a bigger class-action suit) over the use of likenesses in EA's various NCAA titles, where players are often identified by position and jersey number (i.e., QB No. 15).
Along with players, junior hockey diehards are salivating over the possibilities, noting it could be possible to control one player from the time he enters the CHL at age 16:
"... the inclusion of teams from the Ontario Hockey League, QMJHL and Western Hockey League, say game insiders, could enhance the video game’s single-player career mode (Be A Pro), in which a player begins in the early stages of their career and tries to climb up the ranks to NHL stardom. The thought is you could start in the juniors, get drafted, and advance your career from there. It would also add to the Be A GM function, adding more depth to the scouting aspects of the game."
It is a lot for the CHL to iron out, but there is no reason not to get 60 franchises' brand on a video game. It is a growth area, and a child who finds out he can use the Ottawa 67's or Tri-City Americans in NHL 11 might take more of an interest in the real thing.