Hello everyone, my name is Juha Leskinen and I am addicted to ice hockey.
It all started with EA's NHL 94 and the Quebec Nordiques, which was the team I played with the most. Joe Sakic's wrist shot became famous way before any of us had seen his shot in an actual NHL game on television. I am from Finland, you see, so hockey on television was limited to world championships and the Finnish league.
For years, NHL to us was a video game rather than a real sport. The only place where we saw NHL players was in the video clips in the game. But we still got to know the teams, the players and the history of this fine league from magazines and sports news.
A couple of years after we started playing the games, Finnish television started broadcasting NHL games, mostly because Teemu Selänne had broken the rookie scoring record, and Jari Kurri had become a living legend playing alongside Wayne Gretzky.
At this point, I also began to watch the Colorado Avalanche, the former Nordiques, when they had Cup-winning potential. And during this time, I finally saw Sakic shoot a wrister that went through the net -- the stats in the game were right about his wicked shot.
The point is, I guess I fell for hockey because it is an honest sport. Physical and direct. A team sport where individuals can make a difference. And the speed of it, wow.
In the NHL, players rarely fake anything, and the occasional diver quickly gets a bad rep. You do not fake injuries, you play through them. Simply put, there is a respect for the game.
However, this type of respect does not always translate to the virtual hockey rink. People who are not true to the sport hurt the on-ice experience. People who abuse the code, cheat and cheese their way to the top of the leaderboards hurt the online experience. I simply cannot understand why they do it -- it cannot possibly be fun always playing the game that way. And the only award for doing so is achieving something that means so little (virtual notoriety).
Nevertheless, NHL 10 is beautiful on its own. And like all things beautiful, it does have its flaws. But if you wish to play realistic hockey with realistic tactics, it can be done. Playing in the EASHL is my favorite online-gaming experience. Six people playing together as a unit to defeat the other team. In a good game, the flow is amazing, and you can even watch it like you would a real hockey game.
But the bad games, boy do they really get under my skin. People use every trick in the book just to get a win in a video game. I'm talking about questionable tactics like excessive toe-drags, weak rebounds, wraparounds, half-spins and wall-hugging.
Fortunately, the good games outweigh the bad ones. In my club, we analyze our games, try to improve our tactics and slowly merge into a better team. We send countless e-mails dissecting our weaknesses and gently nagging each other about our bad habits on the ice. In fact, we probably spend more time talking about the game than playing it.
But in a way, that speaks even more about how special the EASHL truly can be. And on top of that, unlike during the times of NHL 94, now we talk about the real NHL in between all our talk about strategy on the virtual ice.
...Yeah, we have very tolerating girlfriends.