Hockey fans around the world are already gearing up for the NHL playoffs, but simulation sports gamers (and maybe those fans whose teams didn't make the cut) are instead looking forward to the release of NHL 13. Fans of the series have come to expect improvement and refinement on an annual basis, but with a fan vote being used for the first time to determine which skater will grace the cover of NHL 13, it's hard to know exactly what to expect.
This certainly isn't the first time that developer EA Sports has increased fan interaction through cover athlete voting, with NCAA Football and Madden NFL the most recent franchises to use the crowd-sourcing process. In fact, Madden NFL 13 has just kicked off the largest fan vote in series history. And while hockey fans may not have had a chance to voice their opinions before, we can guarantee that some decisions will be surprising.
Hockey fans aren't necessarily any more rabid or dedicated than other North American sports enthusiasts, but one need look no farther than annual All-Star voting to see just how much results can be skewed by fans embracing local heroes over statistical excellence. Combine those deep-running biases with the often exaggerated (but completely accurate) madness that Canadian hockey fans exhibit in the development studio's backyard, and all bets should be considered off from here on out.
Football fans may not grasp why gracing the cover of an NHL release would be something to be sought after, since the 'Madden Curse' bringing misfortune and bad luck to cover athletes has been proven time and again. EA Sports released a short trailer explaining why a cover appearance may be the best omen an NHL player could receive:
The voting itself is being carried out through the NHL's official site, with the first round running from March 29 - April 11, 2012. The first choice fans will need to make is which of two players from each team will be selected to represent their city in future rounds. After one player is selected from each team (plus two wild cards), a second round will run from April 12 - 22 with the top sixteen vote-getters moving forwards. from that point on it's a single elimination bracket until a winner remains.
In case you've already decided which of your favorite players will be getting your vote, have a look at which starters have been chosen. The league's best and brightest are still well represented, but a few glaring omissions and stunning inclusions may stand out:
With Ovechkin and Crosy removed from the pack, the possibilities are wide open. Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell have both had fantastic seasons for the soaring Flyers, but Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Lundqvist are two players considered legitimate candidates every year. It's a safe bet that Steven Stamkos won't be repeating, but with several elite goaltenders and forwards being nominated anything could happen.
That being said, with the decision being handed over to the fans - and no limit placed on the amount of votes - it's hard to think that a Canadian team won't win out. Will Montreal manage to help P. K. Subban join the ranks of the game's most prolific scorers? Could Leafs Nation give Phil Kessel another reason to ignore the shouts directed at him on Toronto's streets? Or will the loudest fans in the league have their voices heard online appointing the Jets' first captain Andrew Ladd?
Only time will tell, and we've still got to see if NHL 12's prediction of the Penguins winning the Cup comes true later this spring. Voting is open now through NHL.com, so be sure to act fast and often to keep your favorite players alive.
The NHL 13 cover athlete will be unveiled at the 2012 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20, 2012.
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