So... they did it again last night. The Wings beat the Blackhawks in OT to move on to the Stanley Cup finals for the 6th time since 1995. Seriously, I feel very lucky to be a Red Wings fan. There are SO many fans of the team from all other cities. Many of them follow their favorite players there if they got traded or picked up by the Wings in years past (i.e. Chelios, Hasek, Hull, Robitaille, Shanahan, Hossa, etc). But me... I've been a true fan of my hometown team since the late 80's, when at the time, hockey was my dream profession. At this point, obviously that never happened but sometimes I like to still wonder what could have been, if I had the chance and lucky enough to play for my hometown Red Wings.
That being said, I have always had this obsession of trying to make part of that dream come true... but in video games.
I have purchased several NHL hockey video games in the past 15 years or so, and once they allowed you to create a player and name him who you wanted, I immediately would geek out and make myself and add him to my Detroit Red WIngs.
Not only would I create "me" in the game, I would honestly do what I could to best match the stats that I possessed, or thought I possessed. I would be a tall and strong guy, fast skater, low stamina, GREAT passer, hard slap shot but not very accurate, not a fighter but tough checker... and I would definitely have a dark shield over my eyes like Hossa.
Man, with today's games, I can get down to the littlest detail in creating these players. And for me, it's somehow especially personal and very sentimental, in some weird way. I don't know if that's the correct way to explain it, but let me explain.
After creating this player, I wouldn't play as if I HAVE to score 100 goals or make it a one-man-show of "George Hester". I would honestly try to play the game as if it weren't a video game... as if I have some sort of control over a real live game that just HAPPENS to be a video game. That probably sounds ridiculous, but I think only a few people could relate to this.
With the 2002-present video game styles of being able to play through a Dynasty, you can open up things a WHOLE lot with building career stats, playing through entire 82-game seasons and even including the all-star game in some of the more recent games. (I even made the all-star team a few times).
But with NHL 09 for PS3... I can't get enough of their new "Be A Pro" gameplay... it's amazing. I mean, it has some flaws and can come across as being a little funky with the way they grade you and all that... also the ice time can get a little strange when you're playing a realistically timed game. I could be on the 3rd line and the 2nd line has Zetterberg and Hossa and I would get MUCH more ice time than those guys. It is what it is though... not perfect but it works.
But when I bought my PS3 last fall, I bought it JUST for this game. (and Star Wars The Force Unleashed). Once i started, I got my player all created and started out with the Grand Rapids AHL team... worked my way through about 54 games before I got called up to play for the Wings. And I also got to be my number - 21.
So, playing through the season I have NO control over trades or transactions and I basically have to play for my job. What I love/hate about this game is that I can get traded without a say in the matter... it's just like real life in some ways. But I take this in a somewhat serious manner where I want to actually try my best on each and every shift and try to be sure I put on a good performance each game I play. This is extremely fun because of the simple fact that I am imagining that this is really "me" in the game. I get very excited whenever I score a goal or am part of a goal being scored while I'm on the ice.
I also have to fight for a spot on a good line as well. For the first 10 games or so I was with the Wings I was bouncing between the 3rd and 2nd lines... eventually I was bumped up to the 1st line, but that lasted about 4 games before I got demoted. It was okay... I wasn't really scoring goals. And heck, I'm a rookie for crying out loud. a 32-year-old rookie. (my backstory is that I played in the European league for the past 12 years and I wanted to give the NHL a shot. It changes with each game that comes out when I start... it sounds ridiculous, I know... but it's only a thought in my head. Not a big deal. And it would be more unrealistic for me to pretend I was already in the NHL for the past 12 years or so.)
Anyway, I played through, finished the regular season in 2nd in the West behind who else, but the Chicago Blackhawks. It was kinda funny because my record with the WIngs in the video game was 51-22-9, when in real life the Wings finished this year's regular season 51-21-10. And the Penguins were the Presidents' Trophy winners with some ridiculous 60+ win season. (Even crazier, during the season they traded Malkin to the Flames in exchange for Iginla. Ha! - yeah I know... wouldn't happen in real life, but it just makes the game that much fun. The only trade I'm pissed about though is that we traded Franzen to Montreal for some no-name guy... boo!).
So, the Pens got beat in 6 games in the first round of the playoffs to Montreal, I think. I played the Bruins in the finals, which was stupid. Boston wasn't any good in this game. I think they were the 7 seed in the East and they basically blew through the series, maybe lost 3 games out of 12, and then I swept them. I don't know... not all lame... I think it's obvious we all buy these games and play through the playoffs JUST to win. But for me, I woulda liked a little more "work" to get it. Then again, I wasn't playing the hardest skill level of the game.
So... now I am and it's a little more difficult, but it makes for more playmaking, looking for the perfect pass and I am feeling more like a true Detroit Red Wing.
The point of all this and why I felt like writing it down is that when I watch what the Wings just did in the playoffs this year and how they've looked the past several years, knowing that the chances are close to zero that IF i actually went pro that I would be a part of the Red Wings - but win or lose, they are undoubtably THE best team to watch play the sport of hockey. Everyone has their opinions on the sport and the way it is played or should be played. So many people comment on the Wings and accuse them of being a soft or a fragile team... well, I'm not one of those people. I watch them and no matter if we score 6 goals in a game or no goals, I am always just finding myself picking my jaw up from the floor when I watch them play. Just sick stuff. The video below is just one example of how they can just put on a clinic. Yeah, they didn't finish with a goal, but oh my goodness!
So, I just want to close this off with saying how much I can't wait to see this year's Stanley Cup finals rematch between the Wings and the Penguins. I have so many good friends who are true Wings or Pens fans and I look forward to all the smack talk on Facebook/Twitter and just hoping for a very exciting and competitive series.