NHL series refers to a series of video simulation games licensed by the National Hockey League and by its Players' Association and developed by EA Canada.
]NHL Hockey has NHL and NHLPA licenses, so player names and team logos are in use.The Free-4-All mini-game was introduced in "NHL 2005," letting gamers compete with each other by scoring goals on one goaltender, either in a certain time limit, or until someone scores a certain number of goals. With appropriate settings, defensemen can be incorporated into the game, making it more challenging.
The NHL is not the only league in more recent games: A Nordic expansion of NHL 2001 was published by EA Sports Nordica introducing Finland's SM-Liiga and Sweden's Elitserien. Germany's Deutsche Eishockey Liga was introduced in 2004 and the two previous leagues made a return. The game has expanded to include the Czech Republic's Tipsport Extraliga in "NHL 07" and in "NHL 09" the Swiss NLA. Before "NHL 07," users could only use European teams for Exhibition and Season modes. Now, users can bring a European team into Dynasty mode.
A revamped Create-a-Player feature is available after being taken out of "NHL 2005." Gone are the pre-modeled faces to choose from and in comes facial sculpting, inspired by that of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour videogames. Create-a-Team has remained the same. Players have the ability to recreate defunct or vintage teams, or start new ones with plenty of logos and jersey designs to choose from. The Hartford Whalers logo is not included due to the fact that the city of Hartford owns the team's rights and has prohibited the team's inclusion in the game. However, in "NHL 2001", there is a Hartford jersey selectable for Carolina in any modes. Create-a-Team is unavailable for the "NHL 07" Xbox 360 game. A Shootout mode is introduced in "NHL 07," emulating a true-to-NHL shootout. It is used to get Xbox 360 players familiarized with the game's new Skill Stick, as well as a means to practice shooting. Users have the ability to turn shootout rules on or off. Note: Shootout options in actual games will always be on.
The World Cup of Hockey was a feature in "NHL 2005", coinciding with said event featuring authentic rosters and uniforms. It has been relabeled as "EA Sports' World Tournament" from "NHL 06" onward with non-licensed jerseys due to the lack of the IIHF license. Rosters for international teams in "NHL 06" were based on the real rosters of the 2006 Winter Olympics. NHL 10 did not feature the Olympic rosters of the teams playing in the 2010 Winter Olympics upon release; a later roster update corrected many national teams.
|Title||Year||Platforms||Cover athletes, worldwide||Cover athletes, specific regions|
|NHLPA Hockey '93||1992||SMD, SNES||
|NHL '94||1993||DOS†, SCD, SMD, SNES||
|NHL 95||1994||DOS, GB, GG†, SMD, SNES||
|NHL 96||1995||DOS, GB, SMD, SNES||
|NHL 97||1996||PS1, Sat, SMD, SNES, Win||John Vanbiesbrouck (Florida)||–|
|NHL 98||1997||PS1, Sat, SMD, SNES, Win||Peter Forsberg (Colorado)||–|
|NHL 99||1998||N64, PS1, Win||Eric Lindros (Philadelphia)||–|
|NHL 2000||1999||GBC, PS1, Win||Chris Pronger (St. Louis)||EU Markus Näslund (Vancouver)|
|NHL 2001||2000||PS1, PS2, Win||Owen Nolan (San Jose)||EU Jere Lehtinen (Dallas)|
|NHL 2002||2001||GBA, PS2, Win, Xbox||Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh)||–|
|NHL 2003||2002||GCN, PS2, Win, Xbox||Jarome Iginla (Calgary)||–|
|NHL 2004||2003||GCN, PS2, Win, Xbox||
|NHL 2005||2004||GCN, PS2, Win, Xbox||Markus Näslund (Vancouver)||EU Olli Jokinen (Florida)|
|NHL 06||2005||GCN, PS2, Win, Xbox||Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay)||EU Tuomo Ruutu (Chicago)|
|NHL 07||2006||PS2, PSP, Win, Xbox, X360||Alexander Ovechkin (Washington)||
|NHL 08||2007||PS2, PS3, Win, X360||Eric Staal (Carolina)||
|NHL 09||2008||PS2, PS3, Win, X360||Dion Phaneuf (Calgary)||
|NHL 10||2009||PS3, X360||Patrick Kane (Chicago)||
|NHL 11||2010||PS3, X360||Jonathan Toews (Chicago)||
- ^† as NHL Hockey
- ^‡ Joe Thornton was originally chosen, but EA switched to Dany Heatley after Thornton was accused of assaulting two police officers. Thornton's cover was never produced. After the 2003–04 season had begun, Heatley was involved in a car crash that killed teammate Dan Snyder, prompting EA to switch covers to one featuring Joe Sakic.
- ^EU in Europe; ^DEN in Denmark; ^FIN in Finland; ^RUS in Russia; ^SWE in Sweden; ^SUI in Switzerland
EA has also produced 3 on 3 NHL Arcade and NHL Slapshot using the NHL license.
As is traditional with EA Sports, the NHL series boxes feature live action photos instead of drawings. As it lacked the NHLPA license, the early titles staged photos without real players. NHLPA Hockey 93, on the other hand, had the rights to use player images, but not of the teams. On this cover, the main action photo features the New York Rangers' Randy Moller checking the Philadelphia Flyers' Rod Brind'Amour while Rangers goaltender Mike Richter makes a save (in this photo there is the logo of the New York Rangers located on the bottom right of the goaltender's pants). This photo is surrounded by eight small portraits of players (Steve Yzerman, Andy Moog, Pat LaFontaine, Brian Leetch, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy, Jeremy Roenick, and Rick Tocchet). This changed with NHL 94, which featured a goal situation for Tomas Sandstrom (LA Kings) against Andy Moog (Boston). NHL 95 featured an in-goal camera during a goal scored by Alexei Kovalev of the New York Rangers during the '94 Stanley Cup Finals against Kirk McLean of the Vancouver Canucks. NHL 96 featured New Jersey's Scott Stevens and Detroit's Steve Yzerman.
In NHLPA '93 and NHL '94, Emmy award-winning sportscaster Ron Barr gives a pre-game scouting report prior to each game. In the Genesis version of NHL 95, KNBR radio sportscaster John Shrader replaced Ron Barr in that duty. Live play-by-play commentary was introduced in "NHL 97". Jim Hughson, currently play-by-play man for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and also one of Canada's best-known hockey announcers, provided the play-by-play for much of the series, excluding the Xbox 360 version of "NHL 07" and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of "NHL 08" and "NHL 09"; which is provided by Gary Thorne. Color commentary is provided by Daryl Reaugh (1998–99), Bill Clement (2000, 2001, and all Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions), Don Taylor (2002–03), and Craig Simpson (2004–...).
"NHL '99" was the first game in the series to feature fully-licensed music from David Bowie. Since then, each game has had soundtracks of licensed music known as EA Sports Trax, with selections of punk, alternative, and rock music.