The way the season was going before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NHL to press the pause button on March 12, the Kings and Ducks would have been on vacation now. But thanks to the magic of an EA SPORTS NHL 20 simulation, they will renew their rivalry on Friday and they will enliven it with an intriguing touch.
The lists of the two teams will include former players chosen during a fan vote as well as current players, an innovative element which should trigger more than a few simulation debates. The 90-minute show, which will air at 7 p.m. on Prime Ticket and Fox Sports San Diego, will include play-by-play voices from Kings TV Alex Faust and Jim Fox, and voices from Ducks John Ahlers and Brian Hayward in addition to player interviews.
Intermission features will detail each team’s ongoing efforts to support their respective communities in these strange times and inform fans of useful resources such as educational programs for children that are available on their respective websites.
There’s nothing like the tension at the edge of your playoff hockey seat, but seeing current players skate alongside familiar faces from the past like Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Paul Kariya and other stars should turn Friday’s simulated game into the next best thing to be in an arena and dream of hitting the Stanley Cup.
“When you get into these arguments or conversations and talk about who was the best and everyone says,” You can’t compare eras “, in this technological way, we were able to do it, and it was fun, “Said Ahlers. “We were able to see some of the legends playing with the current players and in an interesting form. At the same time, it was fun to say these names calling a match. “
The collaboration was started by the Ducks, although Tim Smith, a Kings game presentation staff member, started making simulated games on his Twitter feed and via Twitch after the season ended.
The Kings’ digital staff intensified these efforts and added Faust, Fox and sideline reporter Carrlyn Bathe to the mix. A solid sequel has developed, said Kings senior vice president Mike Altieri, leaving the Kings receptive when the Ducks contacted them about ideas the teams could produce if they worked together.
Five or six brainstorming sessions and Fox Sports’ willingness to do something different led to the release of the simulated game that viewers will see on Friday. “The concept of making classic teams really excited us because it is different from the other simulations that were underway. The other simulations were the current teams, “said Altieri.
He also praised the quality of the technology. “It’s like watching a game, it’s so realistic,” said Altieri. “Players skate like real players, they tend like real players.”
Ahlers is not a video game player but was struck by the realistic details of the simulation. “What attracted me was the realism of the fans,” he said. “You look in the crowd and you see fans wearing different versions of Kings jerseys over the years, duck accessories over the years, different things with logo. It was very specific in this regard and I was very impressed.
“The gaming action itself was very high tech and it sounds like a hockey game at the Staples Center between the Kings and the Ducks and it just warms your heart, if nothing else.”
The artistic license was taken in at least one area, at the request of the wingman of the Kariya Hall of Fame. “His only request was that he does not grow a very good beard in general, in real life, so it was an opportunity for him to have a full beard,” said Merit Tully, vice president of marketing for the Ducks. “So you may notice that he has a little more facial hair than he can grow. It also presents opportunities. “
If all goes well, the broadcast on Saturday could lead to additional joint efforts between the Kings and the Ducks. “For us,” said Altieri, “our main initiatives are how can we help in this current situation? How can we have an impact? But also, how can we keep people engaged? And we’ve had these conversations at the NHL level, with all our partner teams in the league, with the Ducks on this initiative.
“Everyone is in the same boat. We all try to do the same things, which really makes things easier. “
If the Ducks and the Kings can come together in a time when we were all forced to stay apart, anything is possible. “A lot has been taken away from our society at the moment,” said Tully. Recovering hockey, even in simulated and abbreviated form, is something to celebrate.