THW Exclusive: Inside ‘Old Time Hockey’

TheHockeyWriters sits down with “Old Time Hockey” Game Director, Karthik Venkateshan to discuss the game and its release on the PlayStation 4 on March 28. With its homage to games like Blades of Steel and the earliest EA Sports NHL Hockey games, “Old Time Hockey” will connect with older gamers who remember the classics that redefined the industry. However, with Xbox One and Switch versions on the way, as well as a story mode and a lot of research from the development team that captures the essence of the 1970s style of NHL play, “Old Time Hockey” has the potential for a strong release this Spring.

The Hockey Writers: How was this game born?

The hockey action in “Old Time Hockey” will remind you of classic puck games on the Nintendo and Sega Genesis (V7 Entertainment)

Karthik Venkateshan: Old Time Hockey has been a passion project we have been working on since the garage days of V7 Entertainment back in 2010. It started out as a small hockey fighting (only) experience as we felt the depth and difficulty of fighting on the ice warranted its own video game. That was the core thought process behind working on the title at the beginning – in hockey games fighting has traditionally been an afterthought, arguably underrepresented, and have no real consequences that carry over to the gameplay after the fights. But within a hockey fighting experience alone, we could not deliver that message. From there on, we built the hockey elements around it and our core messaging for the design of the game was playing hockey with aggression and intimidation which naturally led to fights, fatigued players, injured players, etc. The design choices naturally asked

Development

THW: What was development like?

Venkateshan: Fun, but brutal. Given we are a young and inexperienced team (“Who are these guys?”) where most of us are taking on responsibilities and challenges that we have never handled before, it was an extremely stressful journey that tested the founders’ perseverance beyond anything we have imagined. We are all big fans of “Slap Shot” here and we have watched the movie countless times that we routinely quoted lines from the movie which expressed our own toils of working on this game.

THW: Any fun stories or wild moments?

Venkateshan: Beer mode stories always stand out. So, when we were doing focus groups, outside of the workplace ones, I routinely took the game over to my buddy’s to see how they liked any recent changes and what not. Once the Beer Mode was in, every single time I brought the game over, given I am the developer and they wanted to handicap me, they would force the Beer Mode on me and get me smashed. The Beer Mode is fun, but also hard especially if not everyone playing is on beer mode, as you are limited to just one hand and a couple buttons. Couple that with some cold ones and they are lighting you up!

THW: What are your favorite hockey games and how did they inspire this one?

Fighting is a huge part of the game (V7 Entertainment)

Venkateshan: Mutant League Hockey, Blades of Steel, NHL 93 & 94. Old Time Hockey definitely has inspirations drawn from all of those games in varying capacities and we have paid our tribute to those iconic retro games in both the design and gameplay feel of Old Time Hockey. In some ways, OTH combines all the elements of those iconic retro games and adds a whole other dimension when it comes to the possibilities of line brawls, bench brawls, stick fights, and goalie fights which wasn’t really possible in those old hockey games.

In terms of real hockey, we have watched a good number of 70s games in order to really mimic and bring that atmosphere in some capacity into our own universe of the Bush Hockey League. One game that always stands out to me personally from that era, you know it, the 1976 Flyers vs. Red Army game where the Flyers’ notorious ways came as an unpleasant surprise to the visiting Red Army.

Gameplay and Goals

THW: There are 10 teams in the game, who are they inspired by?

Venkateshan: The teams in the Bush Hockey League are placed in towns where there is some historical connection to the game of hockey. Most of the towns represented are deemed the Birthplaces of Hockey. For instance, we chose Fort Edward Colonel John Hockey, based on whom the game of Hockey is named after, and served in Fort Edward. Also, the first ever hockey sticks were made in the region by the Mi’kmaq carvers. Cobalt is represented as they were one of the early teams to have paid their players to play hockey. If my memory serves me right, I remember reading that Cobalt’s hockey team was so affluent and their desire to win their local rival game was so high that they brought in a ringer in the legendary Art Ross and paid him something like a $1000 back in the early 1900s to play one game.

Also, the first ever hockey sticks were made in the region by the Mi’kmaq carvers. Cobalt is represented as they were one of the early teams to have paid their players to play hockey. If my memory serves me right, I remember reading that Cobalt’s hockey team was so affluent and their desire to win their local rival game was so high that they brought in a ringer in the legendary Art Ross and paid him something like a $1000, back in the early 1900s, to play one game.

THW: Talk about the play-by-play. How big of a factor is it in the overall feel of the game?

Not only are there line fights in “Old Time Hockey,” but bench-clearing brawls as well. (V7 Entertainment)

Venkateshan: We have play-by-play in the game courtesy of a local (Vancouver) radio host Matt Baker. We had to find the right line between not having any commentary versus having too much commentary. We really wanted to keep it simple like those old games, but not so bare bones that it just boils down to Blades of Steel like commentary. I think we managed to find that fine line and he has some funny lines here and there. My favorite line is when the game’s scoreline gets out of control and the commentator goes: ‘They are going to run out of electricity on the scoreboard tonight.’

THW: How does this game disrupt the hockey game landscape?

Venkateshan: If I could pick two things, it would be the brawls (line and bench brawls) and the Story Mode. Both aspects were never done before in a hockey video game ever and we hope we have added to the history of hockey video games by putting these features out.

THW: What’s the Story Mode like?

Venkateshan: It’s a lot of fun. It is a unique first take on what narratives in a season for Hockey would look and play like. You take hold of a team that is really down and out on its luck and you play through their journey of turning their fortunes around. We have placed some cool hockey references from the past and we hope core hockey fans get nostalgic and take a fun trip down the memory lane of how Hockey was back then.

The story itself is told through Newspaper clippings, written radio interviews, hockey trading cards, comic book style loading screens, and scripted games. The games themselves are filled with specific objectives to complete such as ‘Get 20 hits,’ or ‘Get the starting goalie pulled,’ or ‘Win a stick fight,’ etc. the completion of which helps boost your stats and make your team better.

THW: Who will enjoy this game the most?

Venkateshan: I think any hockey fan will love this take on a hockey video game. But any hockey fan who lived through and watched hockey games from the 1970s would get a great kick out of all the references and inspirations from the 70s we have thrown in there.

The Future

THW: What are your goals for the game?

If you enjoy the rough stuff, “Old Time Hockey” is a game that delivers it in droves. (V7 Entertainment)

Venkateshan: It would mean a lot to us if Hockey fans genuinely enjoyed our delivery of the Story Mode and our overall representation of ‘Never look at the puck, just take the body’ mechanics. In terms of sales, we don’t have crazy expectations but it would be great if we received enough support to be able to do another one. We have learned a lot through this experience and we realize there is a lot of room for improvement. We have so much more in mind in terms of how to take this to the next level, particularly with the Story Mode we want to do real cinematics with the characters talking and what not. We are also very aware that fans want online, create a player, and other familiar features that have become mandatory over the years in the video games industry.

THW: What’s next?

Venkateshan: Getting the game released on Xbox One and Switch. Also, at least one DLC with 10 more teams. The farm teams to the Bush Hockey League.

Screenshots, Click to Enlarge:

Maple Leafs Prospect Blows Easy Empty-Net Goal

The group stage of the Champions Hockey League opened up Tuesday, and there is already a candidate for blooper of the year that might be tough to top. 2016 Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Carl Grundstrom, playing for the defending CHL champion Frolunda Gothenburg Indians, missed a gaping open net in Friday’s game.

With Frolunda up 2-1 over Grizzlys Wolfsburg of Germany’s DEL, there was no one between Grundstrom and a yawning net. He skated the puck into the crease and bounced it off the pipe.

It’s almost a perfect replica of Patrik Stefan’s infamous miss against the Edmonton Oilers. Fortunately for Grundstrom, the Grizzlys didn’t charge back and score the tying goal. Instead, Frolunda held onto the lead and won the game, giving them three standings points to none for the Grizzlys and the third team in the group, Dynamo Pardubice, who has not yet played.

Watch Stefan’s miss below for comparison.

New York Islanders Without Nielsen, Okposo and Martin Via ‘NHL 16’

After advancing to the second round of the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1993, the New York Islanders face a difficult offseason, as they have to find a way to replace the contributions of potential unrestricted free agents Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen.

Although there are rumors that Nielsen’s agent and the Islanders are working on a long-term deal that could keep “The Great Dane” in Brooklyn for potentially the rest of his career, Okposo is considered a goner at this point and Martin’s future with the Isles is up in the air. Add in the cloudy status of oft-injured second-line center Mikhail Grabovski and unhappy goaltender Jaroslav Halak and the Islanders have plenty of questions to address this season.

In this video, The Hockey Writers plays “NHL 16” without Nielsen, Okposo and Martin on the Isles, showing fans just how the team “could” look. Although they have some depth at forward with Shane Prince, Alan Quine and Mike Halmo, who all have NHL and AHL experience, the bottom two lines on the team lack the grit and offensive punch the team has been known for the past two seasons, making this offseason an important one if the Islanders want to get to the 100-point mark for the third consecutive season.

Hockey Hair

Minneflowta: ESPN Airing Documentary on Hockey Hair

ESPN has released an epic trailer for an upcoming E:60 documentary on hockey hair hosted by none other than the coach Barry Melrose.

We all know the hockey hair has deep roots, from Guy Lefleur to Patrick Kane’s playoff coif and the return of Jagr mullet this year.

It’s maybe best represented by the annual tradition at the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament of selecting an All Hockey Hair Team, because there’s always a wild assortment of long flows, mullets, bleach blonde dos and other assortments of ridiculous flow.

https://youtu.be/ZCJjs0tZ8CA

The program, titled E:60 – Minneflowta, will air Tuesday at 10pm ET on ESPN and has Melrose taking on the title of Senior Hockey Hair Correspondent. Watch the trailer below and you may recognize some of the good looks there from this year’s All Hockey Hair Team.

You can also check out our story on some of hockey’s greatest flows.

Taylor Hall

Oilers: Hall Should Get Chance to Shine at World Cup

His name may not have been included among Team Canada’s initial list of sixteen who will make up their roster at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey but there is almost no chance of Edmonton Oilers winger Taylor Hall not being a part of this team. While many across the hockey world have seemed almost reluctant to give the former first-overall selection his due, thanks in large part to the Oilers inability to climb out of the basement of the NHL’s overall standings, this tournament could go a long way in helping change that mindset.

Anyone who has watched the two-time Memorial Cup MVP on even a semi-regularly basis can tell you just how good a player he has become since his 2010-11 rookie campaign and yet he has received next to no national recognition. Unless you consider the countless times many of in the national media do nothing but focus on the flaws in the 24-year old’s game. Contrary to popular belief, you would be hard-pressed to find another player in the league that has both produced at the same level as Hall and is of the same “vintage” that does not have shortcomings in their all-around game.

[Related Article: Taylor Hall Continues to Quiet His Critics]

In fact, one could easily make the argument that the vast majority of the NHL’s top point producers suffer from the very same problem. Sorry, but the ever popular “200-foot player” that actually produces at an elite level are few and far between in today’s game. And yet the four-time 20-goal scorer is almost never given the benefit of the doubt or cut any slack for playing on a team that has been poorly built since his arrival into the pro game. From a statistical standpoint, the numbers speak for themselves.

Courtesy: QuantHockey.com
Courtesy: QuantHockey.com

Hall’s Production Cannot Be Disputed

Since the start of the 2012-13 season and up to and including all of Saturday’s action, Hall sits thirteenth in points per game at .933 and continues to be among the most productive forwards in the NHL. If you were to remove Connor McDavid from table pictured above, as the rookie phenom has played just 30 games to this point in his career, the Oilers No. 4 sits seventh among Canadian forwards on the list. Six of those seven have already been named by Hockey Canada as participants for the highly anticipated event and the seventh, Philadelphia Flyers centre Claude Giroux, is essentially a lock to make the final cut.

[Related Article: Hockey Canada and P.K. Subban]

In other words, his addition to Canada’s roster should be nothing more than a foregone conclusion as is the case with Giroux, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand and Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry. However, when it comes to head coach Mike Babcock and sort of player he wants and/or trusts to have on his team, hello P.K. Subban, you can never say anything is a guarantee. With that said, we will go on the assumption that all four of the names listed above will be in the mix come September.

While the former Windsor Spitfires standout has yet to have the opportunity to show what he can do during the post-season, Hall has played for Team Canada at the World Championships on two separate occasions and was a key contributor in helping Todd McLellan’s side win gold at last year’s event in the Czech Republic. It was during that tournament that Hall likely made his first real impression on those selecting this team and it is was that impression that could ultimately put him over the top and place him into a key role in this lineup.

Crosby-Hall Comb Should Be An Automatic

After routinely watching anyone not named Chris Kunitz struggle to find a level of comfort playing alongside Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, one would think those involved with Hockey Canada took notice of how will he seemed to gel with Hall and fellow Oilers teammate Jordan Eberle during the 2015 World Championships. With that being case would the following four line combinations not make perfect sense as a potential starting point for Babcock and company to consider for the World Cup of Hockey?

Not sure about any of you but those four combos look awfully enticing and the idea of having Crosby centre a line with Hall and Steven Stamkos sounds almost too good to pass up on. It is essentially a perfect balance of youth and experience, as well as high-end skill coupled with those most consider to be among the best two-way players in hockey. Seems pretty straightforward and should Taylor Hall be afforded the opportunity, my guess is all this talk surrounding his “risky” style of play will quickly become a thing of the past and he will finally be recognized as one of the premier players in the NHL…which is something that cannot happen soon enough.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres, NHL

Watch: Sabres goalie Robin Lehner Goes Insane

Despite his team getting the victory on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner wasn’t too happy with everything that transpired on the ice during the game.

In the second period, Sabres defensemen Cody Franson was hit from behind by Scott Hartnell. Hartnell was given a major, and Franson never returned. But that wasn’t what really set Lehner off.

With less than 10 minutes in the game, Boone Jenner put a dangerous hit on defenseman Zach Bogosian. Jenner was given a major penalty as well as a game misconduct, but it didn’t stop a group from getting together in the Buffalo zone. Lehner left his crease, ultimately getting into it with Jack Johnson before dropping his gloves.

After the game, Johnson and Lehner both spoke about what happened on the ice.

Lehner did have the last laugh, though, with 38 saves in Buffalo’s 4-0 victory, earning his first shutout as a member of the Sabres and the third of his career. He now sits with a 4-4-2 record on the season with a 2.30 goals against average and .932 save percentage. Buffalo next plays on Sunday against Pittsburgh at 12:30 on NBC.

Watch: David Legwand Scores From Own Zone

Nothing has to mess with a goaltender’s head more than a bouncing puck coming straight on.

On Friday night, Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo had to deal with exactly that during his team’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres. With a little over 90 seconds remaining in the opening period, Sabres forward David Legwand decided to just shoot the puck down the ice in order to help kill the Columbus power play.

The puck flew down the ice, took a nice hop between the faceoff circles, and beat Korpisalo to put the Sabres up 2-0. Buffalo would go on to win the game by a score of 4-0, and Korpisalo finished with 27 saves on 31 shots.

The Sabres have now won three of their last four games, and now have more points this season (55) than they did for the entire 2014-15 season (54).

Video: Linus Omark Fires Up His Stick In KHL All-Star Game

In the “most entertaining shootout” contest at the 2016 KHL All-Star Game in Moscow, Linus Omark decided to fire up his stick. Literally. Unfortunately for him and for Team East, his attempt wasn’t successful. However, the judge still decided to award him with the best attempt, getting a point for his team in the “Master Show”. Team East won the Master Show for the first time since the KHL creation. Team West got the first two points winning the fastest skater (the faster skater overall was Helsinki Jokerit Brandon Kuzun) and the hardest shot relays (with former NHL defenseman Milan Jurcina). Team East, however, scored three points with Linus Omark’s shooutout, the breakaway relay, and the “fastest skating team” relay.

“It was an idea of my teammate [Traktor Chelyabinsk Belarusian defenseman] Vladimir Denisov”, Omark told championat.ru after the Master Show. “He gave me his stick. It was all really hot. I never seen such a fire on a stick. Scoring would have been very hard, so it’s not too bad that I didn’t score. At least I tried.”

In the latest few years the KHL already had some interesting shootout attempts, like the Vladimir Tarasenko string trick shot at the 2012 All-Star game in Riga or Nikita Gusev’s goal last year in Sochi. Both goals have had a large success on YouTube: Tarasenko’s shootout has more than 2,800,000 views, while Gusev’s one surpassed five millions views. It’s easy to imagine that Omark’s shootout will bring the KHL a good amount of views as well.

The Overtornea, Sweden, native Linus Omark is having a great season in the KHL with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, being one of the top scorers with a point-per-game pace. Last summer he signed with the Eastern Conference team a two-year deal, after spending the 2014-15 with Helsinki Jokerit. In spite of his great puck skills, he never managed to have an impact in the NHL, appearing in only 79 regular season games, scoring 32 points with the Edmonton Oilers and the Buffalo Sabres. He had a higher level of success in his native Sweden, in Switzerland, and in the KHL, where he is at his third season, after spending the 2009-10 season playing for Dynamo Moscow and last year in Helsinki. Other than that, he was a successful player at the AHL level, scoring about one point per game. He was a fourth round pick for the Oilers at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, where he was selected with the 97th overall pick.

RELATED: KHL Announces 2016 All-Star Game Rosters

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

NHL Rumors (Jan. 20): Oilers, Staal, Sellers and More!

The rumor mill is one of the most controversial areas for a hockey fan. Different names on different days make for the most interesting conversations around the water cooler.

The daily rumor roundup takes a look at some of the latest rumors making waves, and shares them all in one place so you don’t have to search around. Let’s take a look.

[quote_box_left author=””]Reminder: Rumors are just that — rumors. It’s information that is circulating around the hockey world. Remember, take it all with a grain of salt.[/quote_box_left]

Latest Rumors:

Drouin Watch:

Rest of the League:

“We touched base last month and agreed to touch base towards the end of this month to see where things were,” Ron Francis said. “So, we haven’t had that conversation yet. There’s still six weeks until we get to the deadline. Hopefully we’re still in the hunt.”

  • The Washington Capitals are going “all in” for a Stanley Cup this season.
  • Despite his injury, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still being shopped by the Edmonton Oilers.

Leon Draisaitl has emerged as a first-line center for the Oilers while promising rookie Connor McDavid is set to return to action following the All-Star break. With that much depth down the middle, it’s not surprising Nugent-Hopkins could be available.

  • If the Pittsburgh Penguins miss the playoffs, there could be major changes in store for the team.
  • Tampa Bay may have made an offer to pending UFA Steven Stamkos recently, and the number may begin with an eight.

The media blackout by Yzerman, Stamkos and agent Don Meehan makes it very difficult to determine what all that really means, but it is believed the Lightning made a contract offer in recent weeks.

If you’ve heard of any substantial rumors, let us know in the comment section below. Also feel free to discuss the above rumors with fellow fans. And don’t forget have fun with it!

Don’t forget to stay up-to-date on everything regarding the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline with the official trade deadline hub of The Hockey Writers. You’ll find a list of every deal, all players with No-Trade or No-Movement Clauses as well as a list of the best available players. Find everything you need right HERE.

Adam McQuaid

Zach Sill to Have Player Safety Hearing for McQuaid hit

The NHL announced Wednesday that Washington Capitals forward Zach Sill will have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for a boarding infraction against Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid.

The hit happened in a game on Tuesday and appeared to briefly leave McQuaid unconscious. He had to be helped from the ice by trainers and teammates and regaining consciousness. No penalty was called on the play, though that will not effect any potential suspension for Sill.

Later in the game Boston announced that they had diagnosed McQuaid with an upper-body injury and that he wouldn’t return. There has been no update on his status at this point.

At Sill’s hearing, he’ll have the advantage of not have a history of suspensions for the league to draw on in sentencing, but with McQuaid getting injured on the play, the likelihood of a longer suspension increases.

Tuesday’s game was just Sill’s fourth NHL game of the season. He has no points on the year. He’s spent the majority of the year playing for the Hersey Bears in the AHL, where he has two goals and nine points through 30 games.

Sill signed with Washington as a free agent in the summer. He finished last season as a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs after he was sent there as a part of the trade that sent Daniel Winnik to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

RELATED: Who Will Be Washington’s Biggest Stanley Cup Threats?

Video: Kasperi Kapanen Scores Finland’s Golden Goal

Team Finland won gold at the 2016 World Junior Championships in dramatic fashion. Finland took a late lead in the third period on a goal by captain Mikko Rantanen. Then they gave up a goal to Russia with 9.6 second left in the game, sending it to overtime. It only took 1:33 of 4-on-4 overtime for Kasperi Kapanen to decide the game though.

Kapanen started the puck out from behind the goal line, then took a hard pivot that lost Flyers 1st round draft pick Ivan Provorov, made Russian goaltender Alexander Georgiev overcommit to Kapanen’s attack and allowed him to go hard around the net to put a wrap around attempt and win the game.

Pop the champagne. It’s a holiday in Finland on Wednesday and no one has to work.

https://youtu.be/BTAlFOM21qo

It was an overdue goal for Kapanen who played very well, fired the puck constantly, but only managed a total of two goals in the entire tournament.

It was a goal that made the stadium erupt, including Finnish hockey legends Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, both of whom had their numbers retired with the national team during the tournament.

This was a gold medal game worth repeat viewing. Both teams played great and it was one of the more exciting gold medal matches in recent years.

https://twitter.com/myregularface/status/684484397479903232
https://twitter.com/myregularface/status/684483142309249028

UPDATE:
Watch the goal called in Finnish, courtesy of Robert Söderlind.

RELATED: U.S. Wins Bronze at World Juniors, Has Lots to Be Proud Of
RELATED: 10 Standouts in the World Juniors Semifinals

Jarome Iginla

Watch Jarome Iginla Score Goal No. 600

It may not have went down exactly how he’d imagine it would, but Jarome Iginla is the newest member of the 600 goals club.

The future first-ballot Hall of Famer notched his 600th career tally on a goal that came as a result of a deflected pass. Iginla was trying to make a pass across the Los Angeles net, but the puck hit Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin’s skate. The ricochet ended up right in the back of the Los Angeles net.

You can watch the video of the goal above for yourself.

Iginla’s marker was his 40th with the Colorado Avalanche. Obviously, everyone remembers him from his time with the Calgary Flames where he scored 525 of his 600 goals. The other 35 came with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.

It may not have been the type of goal that anyone expected Iginla to score for such a milestone, but that didn’t take away from its significance. His teammates all hopped off the bench to celebrate the moment, and the goal happening on home ice was simply icing on the cake.

Oh yeah, the Avalanche ultimately won their contest against the Kings by a score of 4-1. The win put them at 41 points on the season, just four back of a playoff spot behind Nashville. Colorado is now 6-2-2 over the last 10 contests, and is continuing to climb up the Western Conference standings.