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The EA Sports NHL hockey series of video games are an ultra-popular line of games created by EA Sports, and since 1991 (under the title NHL Hockey) have been popular with fans of Canada's national sport. The games are notable for their realism in capturing the fast-paced action of the National Hockey League, fights included. While there are newer editions of the NHL games (NHL '12 being the latest in the series), one game has garnered popularity even 17 years after its initial release: NHL '94. The game's so popular, that in fact, there are modifications for NHL '94 that update it to reflect the current NHL rosters and teams.

While the series has always had NHL teams and the pre-requisite international teams, recent titles in the NHL series have added teams from the American Hockey League (the NHL's development league), European leagues, and even the Canadian Hockey League (a junior hockey league).


The EA Sports NHL series contains examples of:

  • Addressing the Player: Not only in the "Be A Pro" modes, but within exhibition games (starting with NHL '12), where a player will be given a highlight package of their best goals or hits.
  • And Now for Something Completely Different: NHL '09 introduced the "Be A Pro" mode, where you're tasked with accomplishing various objectives to help your team win the game.
  • Announcer Chatter: Almost a prerequisite, really.
  • Annual Title: Starting with NHLPA '93.
  • Brand X: You can play an International Tournament with national teams which is modeled on the Winter Olympics.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: The online Be A Pro mode has some extreme requirements to unlock all the bonuses, which are of course very difficult to accomplish without said bonuses. But this is EA! Of course you can buy an all-star!
  • Cash Cow Franchise: The NHL series is one of the more popular games in EA's roster, behind the Madden games. It's particularly popular with Canadians, with hockey being their national sport and all.
  • Character Customization: Though players can make their own players, there also exists a way for them to create NHL players that were otherwise passed over by the game.
    • NHL '12 now allows for female players to be made.
  • Creator Cameo: One title in the series allows you to basically create members of the EA development team if you input their names in the Create-A-Player option.
  • Creator Provincialism: Some accuse EA Canada of Nerfing Team USA. For example, in NHL 09 they neglected to add Patrick Kane, the previous year's Calder Cup winner and one of the highest-rated American players.
  • Darker and Edgier: NHL '99, where the menus had a grittier feel to them. However, this didn't change the content of the game.
  • Downloadable Content: Recent titles in the series allow for players to download updated rosters and added improvements to gameplay.
  • Dueling Games: With the NHL 2K series of games, though 2K Sports haven't made a hockey game since NHL 2K11, and that was a Wii-exclusive title, even.
  • Guest Player(s): NHL 12 features an All-Legend Team, made up of NHL greats like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Ray Bourque, among others. You can even put them on your favourite teams, presenting interesting situations all around.
  • Hello, Insert Name Here
  • It's Up to You: The "Be A Pro" mode, where your created Pro is tasked with helping your team to win games.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The commentators in recent games sometimes have lines of commentary that make it sound like they're addressing the player.
  • Loads And Loads of Teams: The Xbox 360/Playstation 3 games have a lot more teams than just the NHL, even adding European league teams to the mix.
  • Lighter and Softer: NHL 2002 and NHL 2003, which added elements such as a goofy colour commentator who'd crack jokes during the game, and cards that could change things like give players big heads, make the announcers' voices high-pitched, and even change the size of the puck.
  • Loading Screen: Which features relevant information to the upcoming game, like starting line-ups, player stats, and controller directions.
  • Long Runner: Started in 1991 with NHL Hockey, and still going strong, with NHL 12 being the most current title.
  • Madden Curse: Not a recurring problem for the series, but NHL 2004 had it in spades. Its original cover-athlete, Joe Thornton was replaced by Dany Heatley after Thornton had been accused of assault. However, Heatley himself was pulled from the cover after he had gotten into an accident that killed fellow Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder, leaving Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic to be ultimately the cover athlete for NHL 2004.
    • The inversion of this trope is lampshaded with this trailer for NHL '13, which points out the career successes of the most recent NHL cover athletes.
  • Mission Pack Sequel: Practically the same principle as with the other EA Sports titles.
  • Multi Platform: There's no Wii version for the current game, NHL '12.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The first title in the series, NHL Hockey, had players referred to by their jersey numbers, because they didn't have the NHLPA license for the game. The next game, NHLPA Hockey '93, had the actual players, but not the teams they're on.
  • One of Us: Many NHL players themselves have confessed to playing the EA NHL games.
  • Palette Swap: The 16-bit Era NHL games use the same player and goalie sprites, and just swap the colours around to reflect each NHL team.
  • Product Placement: Given the nature of the game, this comes in the form of actual equipment that players can use in-game, made by real world hockey equipment manufacturers like CCM, Bauer, Reebok, and so on.
    • Interestingly averted in the exact place where you'd expect it to be played straight. The boards of nearly every arena in the real world are covered in ads, but for many years EA simply used generic placeholders.
    • Recent games feature product placement for Honda (with on-screen graphics even citing Honda as "The Official Car of the EASHL"), and Verizon Wireless (which "sponsors" NHL 12's Be A Pro mode.)
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Female players can be just as good as males.
  • Relationship Values: Some titles in the series have "Line Chemistry", which can positively or negatively impact a team's line combinations if a certain group of players are put in a given line.
  • Rubber Band AI: More prevalent in recent games, where the CPU team will be more wont to make an amazing comeback if the player doesn't take care of the defensive side of their game.
  • Secret AI Moves: Notice how fast the puck travels when the CPU team's players bank it off the glass during a penalty kill. Try and do the same, and it's not as fast as the CPU player's efforts.
  • Serious Business: With the advent of the EA Sports Hockey League in NHL '09, this has become the case with the online crowd.
  • Shout-Out: The premade custom teams in the NHL titles from the late 90s to the early 2000s, the EA Blades & EA Storm, have jerseys lifted straight from the Charlestown Chiefs from Slap Shot.
  • Shown Their Work: The more recent games have presentation that make it feel like you're watching an NHL game, with announcers discussing how a player's doing in a game, or pointing out what a team is doing right or what they're messing up with.
  • Sports Game
  • Stop Helping Me!: The "scouting report" during intermissions, which give out either obvious advice, or poorly-worded "advice", both of which aren't really necessary to win a game.
  • Taunt Button: NHL 2000 and NHL 2001 had a button where you could hear a fan taunt the other team after your team scores a goal or wins a fight.
    • The custom celebrations in NHL '11 and NHL '12 work in this manner, and presents many opportunities for players to really rub it in when scoring a goal.
  • Team Shot: The final part of the Stanley Cup victory sequence ends with your team posing with The Cup.
  • Violation of Common Sense: In the online modes, the games uses an accelerated clock to keep the games shorter. However, to make penalties actually meaningful and avoid Griefers, the clock slows down while one team is on the powerplay. What this means in practical terms is that a team which is losing late will sometimes deliberately draw a penalty with one of their defensive-minded players to buy more time and have the advantage of being able to keep a cherry-picking forward up ice without risking an icing call.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Some of the commentary lines in recent titles have this in mind, calling out players for playing badly.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: The custom celebrations in NHL '11 and NHL '12, where players can even celebrate by just sliding down on the ice on their stomach.
  • Would Hit a Girl: With the inclusion of female created players in NHL '12, this is now possible.
  • You All Look Familiar: Given the game's nature to reuse player faces for non-prominent NHL players and various others, this trope is a definite likelihood in recent games.
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